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CNN Late Edition - Transcript

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CNN Late Edition - Transcript
Sunday, September 18, 2005


BLITZER: Welcome back to our special "LATE EDITION" -- "Are you ready?"

A note to our viewers first, though, please remember CNN will continually show you missing children's pictures nonstop until 11 p.m. Eastern tonight.

If you have any information, please call this number, 1-800-843- 5678. That's 1-800-THE-LOST.

We now turn to a major city in the Northeast. That would be Boston, Massachusetts.

Just last year, in preparation for the Democratic National Convention, the city practiced evacuating one million people in a giant exercise called Operation Exodus.

Is that enough? Or must the city go back and look at its overall emergency plans, now in the wake of Hurricane Katrina?

Joining us, the governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney. Governor Romney, thanks very much for joining us. Welcome to "LATE EDITION."


BLITZER: Let's take a look at Boston, a beautiful city. It has a population of nearly 600,000. But when the commuters come in to work every day, it brings that population up to a million.

According to Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, the major risks that Boston faces include flooding, hurricanes - yes, hurricanes - blizzards, wildfires, terrorism.

Question: Are you ready?

ROMNEY: Well, I believe we've all thought we were ready until we saw what happened with Hurricane Katrina.

And I think governors in every state, and probably mayors, as well, are going to go back and look at their plans and say, what have we learned from Katrina? How can we take advantage of the lessons learned there to improve our evacuation procedures, as well as our general policies relating to the protection of our citizens?

BLITZER: Have you ordered such a reassessment in the aftermath of Katrina?

ROMNEY: Yes, I have.

I've asked MEMA, which is our emergency management agency, to work with our agencies throughout the state, and our cities and towns, and to review area-by-area - we're going to go through a monthly review - all of the plans for evacuation, as well as response to other crises that may exist within our state, and see just to what extent they need to be updated, given the lessons of Katrina.

BLITZER: Here's what the "Boston Globe" wrote on September 12th of this year, just a few days ago. I suspect you read the article.

"[State and local leaders] say they have no firm plans to house thousands of evacuees; there is spotty police radio coverage deep in the subways; there are few outreach plans to help the poor leave the city; and there are many deficient dams across the state that might fail to prevent serious flooding."

Let's go through it one by one.

No firm plans to house thousands of evacuees. Is that right?

ROMNEY: Well, what we found this week, for instance, or this month, is that with the thousands of people who were getting - be coming out of Louisiana, we were able to open our state and welcome 2,500.

I indicated that we could take twice that number. Actually, we could take four times that number, and accommodate them in military facilities. So, we do have the ability to house evacuees.

But our threat is not so much evacuating. We're not a city under water or below sea level, like New Orleans.

We, instead, have to think much more about caring for people who are in their homes in a time of crisis, like a snow emergency, or even worse, a terrorist act.

BLITZER: Well, if there were a terrorist act, a radiological or crude dirty bomb, as it's called, that was detonated in Boston Harbor, you presumably would have to evacuate a lot of people, and do so very quickly.

Are you ready for that?

ROMNEY: Well, the answer is yes, to a degree. Which is, you lay out the principles of evacuation, but you don't know what you'd have to evacuate and where you'd be evacuating to.

I mean, you say, what happens if it occurs in Boston Harbor? Of course, it could happen in the western part of the state, the central part of the state or right downtown Boston.

So, knowing what has to be evacuated and where people are going is something you'd only learn at the time of the attack.

And in that case, you have to have leadership in place that knows what the assets are, an ability to communicate, both within the state and regionally and nationally, and then the will to follow a plan to get people to safety.

BLITZER: The Boston Globe said there was only spotty police radio coverage deep in the subways. Is that right?

ROMNEY: Well, of course. Well below grade, down to the center of the earth where our subways run, you're not going to have the same kind of radio coverage that we're able to have across the commonwealth.

But the major investment we made as a state, was when the federal government gave us homeland security funds and said, you should use these for response.

We looked at our communications system and said, look, the police can't talk to the fire; the fire can't talk to EMS. None of them can speak directly to the National Guard. And of course, if the federal authorities come, we can't speak with them either.

So we got together with the folks at Raytheon that built the system that's now widely available that allows radios and frequencies of different nature to come together in one major system and communicate with one another. That's the way we're able to link our entire system.

But of course there are going to be spots deep inside a subway system where there won't be radio contact.

But overall our communication system is pretty darn good.

BLITZER: Do you think that the Big Dig -- the huge tunnel that you have, do you think that there should be cell phone use allowed in those kinds of tunnels, given the fear that a cell phone could trigger a bomb?

ROMNEY: Oh, I think you have to have cell phones, and we should have cell phones in the Big Dig and in our tunnel system. The idea that that's the only way you trigger a bomb is ridiculous.

Frankly, the right way to protect our homeland is not just through response vehicles and, if you will, protective devices, but instead, prevention efforts.

And prevention is the key. You got to be able to stop the bad guys before they attack us. That of course means intelligence work and counterterrorism. That's the heart of an effective plan, to protect a city like Boston or any other major potential terrorist target.

BLITZER: Here's what the Massachusetts state Senate concluded in a report on homeland security preparedness in Massachusetts last year. "Since the September 11 attacks, 93 percent of police departments and 87 percent of fire departments have in the commonwealth have either decreased staff or remained the same. Eighty-three percent of police departments and 92 percent of fire departments are not prepared for a homeland security attack."

That's a disturbing number.

ROMNEY: Well, as you can imagine, that comes from a public safety committee that wants us to raise taxes to send more money to local police departments.

And I understand we've had a reduction in some of our municipal employees. We've had some tough financial times. And we have the kind of sharing agreement between communities and between our state police as well that allows us to deal with our needs in the commonwealth.

Just hiring more policemen does not make a community safer.

Of course we have to have a very strong first response capability and we do, but we also have to have an effort to protect ourselves through effective intelligence. And, in my opinion, that's the heart of an effective plan.

BLITZER: You made some news in the past few days when you delivered a speech here in Washington at the Heritage Foundation. I'll play a little excerpt of what you said.


ROMNEY: We have 120 colleges and universities in Massachusetts, roughly. How many individuals are coming to our state and going to those institutions who come from terror sponsored states? Do we know where they are? Are we tracking them? How about people who are in settings, mosques, for instance that may be teaching doctrines of hate and terror, are we monitoring that? Are we wire tapping? Are we following what's going on? Are we seeing who's coming in, who's coming out?


BLITZER: The reference to the mosques -- wire tapping mosques, wire tapping students who study, as all of us know, in Boston, the greater Boston area, a lot of universities there. That's caused somewhat of a stir not only in Boston, Massachusetts but throughout the country. What do you say? ROMNEY: Well, I'm not talking about doing anything unconstitutional, and you don't wire tap unless you have probable cause and a court order to do so.

But monitoring and understanding what is happening in a setting where people are talking about attacking the United States with teachings of hate and terror, that's something we do and something we should do more of because if we're going to protect our homeland, we have to focus on where the risk is coming from and make sure we're understanding it and we're keeping up with it. And if people's visas are overdue we send them back home.

We don't want to have our nation exposed to terror activity. And if this means being serious about following those who have interest in attacking us.

BLITZER: So based on probably cause, whether it's a mosque, a church or a synagogue, if necessary you say, go ahead and wire tap to try to protect the population. Is that what you're saying?

ROMNEY: There's nothing new about wire tapping. Wire tapping is not the key here.

The key is do we spend enough resources as a society, monitoring, not with wire tap but just monitoring with attention and vigilance, those individuals who are coming from terrorist sponsored states, those individuals who are teaching doctrines of hate and terror. Are we following them, keeping up with them? And if they commit crimes or if they do something which suggests probable cause to wire tap, we'd wire tap them as well.

But that's something we should be doing seriously. And instead of just focusing on how to respond after a bomb goes off, we've got to spend a lot more resources preventing the bomb from going off in the first place.

BLITZER: Governor Romney, thanks very much for joining us. Good luck to you. Good luck to everyone in Massachusetts.

ROMNEY: Thanks, Wolf.


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