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Governor testifies about homeland security

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A U.S. House committee looking into combating terrorism should deal with the issue of security clearances for governors, mayors and other local officials, Gov. Frank Keating says.

In testimony Tuesday, Keating recalled that after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he could not be briefed about one terrorism warning because he did not have the proper security clearance.

``It does no good to tell state officials that something bad might happen and refuse to tell them what, where or when,'' Keating told the House Government Reform subcommittee that oversees national security issues.

A lack of security clearance also kept the information from Public Safety Commissioner Bob Ricks, chairman of a state team that is charged with taking the lead on such matters, Keating said.

``General (Stephen) Cortright came to the two of us and said `I've got some information I have to share, but I can't share it with the two of you because you're not cleared,' '' Keating testified, describing a ``level of discomfort and embarrassment over this.''

``I was his boss.''

Cortright is Oklahoma's adjutant general.

Keating said the federal government should share intelligence and money to fight terrorism, but states should have the authority to develop response plans.

``The lesson is clear: The war on terrorism is a military and intelligence battle best fought at the federal level, but the front lines of homeland security remain local,'' Keating said.

``The lesson of Oklahoma City _ and of Sept. 11 _ is to allow the experts to do what they each do best and to resist the urge to federalize everything.''

Keating said in the event of a biological attack, states would need to know immediately what vaccination were necessary so medical personnel could be inoculated quickly.

He said he was heartened by efforts to send money to states for internal security efforts. But he said the funds shouldn't be diluted by parceling them out among several local agencies. He suggested federal money be sent to the states in block grants.

Keating said the lack of a common radio system to let local and state agencies communicate was the ``Achilles heel'' of the response following the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

``That's Oklahoma's greatest immediate need, to create such a system, and it will cost about $50 million. We won't build it if federal funds flow piecemeal to a hundred local agencies,'' he said.
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