Former U.S. Representative Jane Harman discussed national security issues on Tuesday as a part of the USC National Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE) distinguished speaker series.
Harman currently serves as the director, president and CEO of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. She was appointed president of the center in February of 2011 and said the new position has allowed her a perch to work effectively on the issues she cares about.
“Being in a nonpartisan place where the goal is to connect scholarship to policymaking is great,” Harman said.
From 1993 to 1999, and for a short period in 2011, Harman represented California’s 36th congressional district, which includes part of the Inland Empire.
“What happens in L.A. has a huge impact on what happens in our country,” Harman said.
She emphasized that though al-Qaeda’s power is waning, new loosely affiliated terrorist groups and radicalized individuals are utilizing the Internet to become the face of terror.
“They are evolving,” Harman said. “And we must evolve too. They attack us where we’re vulnerable. We have to be right 100 percent of the time. They have to be right once.”
Harman said the United States can win this fight against terrorism by projecting its values onto other less prosperous countries.
“Failing states are ripe for terrorism,” Harman said. “We have to show people that they have better prospects, that living in this society is fair, the rule of law is here. Opportunity should be out there. Being unemployed at 22 is not good. Some focused help in these failing states on education, on police and on unemployment could help and shows the best of America. We have to live our values.”
In order to do this, Harman said the U.S. must close institutions such as Guantanamo Bay, which she called a “black eye” on the country. She also believed that the U.S. must look internally to identify homegrown individual terrorists, people who are a looming threat to national security.
“In our country, these are lost kids,” she said. “If you are undereducated or alienated, you are susceptible to this trash.”
Harman also said that though the U.S. has improved on sharing information between government agencies — due in part to an intelligence reform bill she helped pass — the current challenge for the country is cyberterrorism.
“We aren’t good enough, and we aren’t creative enough,” Harman said of the nation’s technological capabilities.
But Harman also added that security should not come at the cost of liberty. She contended that drones have no place in the civilian sphere because they have the capacity to destroy Fourth Amendment rights, which protects against unwarranted searches and seizures.
“Security and liberty are not a zero sum game,” Harman said. “You get either more of both or less of both.”
Harman is also a member of the USC Board of Trustees. Her husband, who died in April 2011, founded the USC Sidney Harman Academy of Polymathic Study. The academy seeks to bring awareness to integrated interdisciplinary study through conversational encounters.
USC President C. L. Max Nikias surprised Harman by making an appearance at the end of her discussion.
“How could I not show up?” he said. “She’s been a wonderful trustee and we are all proud of her.”
CREATE is an interdisciplinary national research center based out of the USC Price School of Public Policy and Viterbi School of Engineering, and funded by the Department of Homeland Security. The center focuses on research and development of counterterrorism methods to inform and support decisions made by elected officials. Dean of the USC Price School of Public Policy Jack Knott emphasized not only how key the subject is, but also how knowledgeable about it Harman is.
“There is no more important subject and no more important person to tell us about the subject,” Knott said.
Many students enjoyed the event because they said it informed them about a subject they weren’t previously aware of.
“I didn’t really know about it,” said Aliza Aitchison, a sophomore majoring in international relations and an intern at USC CREATE. “It was helpful to hear about homegrown terrorism and cyberterrorism from such an expert.”
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