Jane Harman

Defeat Terrorism and Increase Homeland Security - April 16, 2005

Jane Harman
April 16, 2005— Los Angeles, California
Town Hall Los Angeles
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Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-CA), Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee, delivered this speech to Town Hall Los Angeles, a non-profit educational organization that provides a forum for leaders and opinion makers.

Thank you Jim [Albaugh] for that warm introduction. You and I have worked on some tough problems over the years, and I'm grateful for the extraordinary work that Boeing does here in Los Angeles and around the nation. Boeing's commercial aircraft are the best in the world, and your defense sector work is critical to our national security.

It's been my high honor to represent the 36th Congressional District over the past 12 years.

When I first ran for Congress, I knew I had to focus intensively on national security issues because the district I wanted to represent was 'the aerospace center of the universe' and remains home to many of our space systems.

I had worked in the Senate, the White House and the Pentagon in the 1970s, and I made it my mission to become an expert on intelligence, military affairs, and foreign policy - in a way that could serve the district and the country.

I came to Congress in 1992, the so-called Year of the Woman.

And I think I've been unique among members of that class - men or women - in that I've served on almost all of the national security committees: Armed Services, Science, Homeland Security, and for seven years now on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the past three as the Ranking Member.

As a woman and a Democrat, I often call myself a member of the oppressed minority. But I've found a way, during my six terms, to get a number of things done … mostly by working in a bipartisan fashion.

The Intelligence Committee is an island of sanity in a sea of partisanship. And we have accomplished real reform.

Last year, all nine Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee introduced HR 4104, a bill to reorganize the US Intelligence Community and create a Director of National Intelligence.

Our bill became the basis for the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission and the landmark Intelligence reform legislation that passed Congress last fall and was signed into law by the President in December.

Though I spend a huge amount of time in Washington, LA is home and always on my mind.

Los Angeles is literally the crossroads for many of the pressing national security issues of our time - There is a constant stream of terrorist threats against our city, which I monitor very closely.

The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach comprise the largest port complex in the United States - with more than 40% of the containerized goods in the entire country. Over 13 million containers a year pass in and out of the complex.

LAX, through which thousands of people enter our country every day, has been the intended target of at least three terrorist attacks.

The Space and Missiles Command at Los Angeles Air Force Base develops and procures our intelligence technical systems.

Most of California's aerospace industry is located in the South Bay. Its workers literally won the Cold War.

And Los Angeles has a large and diverse population, whom we must protect - and whose privacy and civil liberties we must be sure to maintain.

So, you literally cannot represent key parts of Los Angeles without focusing on national security.

I want to spend some time talking about where we are in our efforts to defeat terrorism and strengthen homeland defense … because, I believe we have truly entered a new era.

In just a few weeks, we will observe the fourth anniversary of 9/11. Lots of people ask me if we are safer.

In some ways we are. We have reorganized our homeland security agencies into a new department, which, despite a slow start, is now on the right track.

I am impressed by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, a seasoned prosecutor, former judge and systems thinker.

He came to Los Angeles earlier this year to see our ports, airport, and an elementary school under the LAX flight path where impressive preparedness planning goes on.

Congress has also, as I mentioned, reformed the U.S. Intelligence Community. The Intelligence Community we had on 9/11 was created by the National Security Act of 1947. We were operating on a 1947 business model designed to face an enemy - the Soviet Union - that no longer existed!

The new law brings 15 agencies under the direction of a single unified commander - Ambassador John Negroponte. I am closely monitoring the work of Ambassador Negroponte and his deputy Gen. Michael Hayden to ensure that our intelligence agencies work jointly to collect, analyze, and disseminate the critical intelligence to prevent and disrupt terrorist plots.

So, in some critical ways, we have made progress.

But, in a more fundamental way, I am deeply concerned that we do not yet have effective strategies in place to deal with the growing jihadist threat.

I do not agree with Vice President Cheney that the Iraqi insurgency is in its 'last throes.'

We do not have intelligence dominance in Iraq. Iraqi borders remain porous and we too often fail to discover IEDs - improvised explosive devices - until our troops are harmed. We have just ended the bloodiest month since the military action began!

And the terror attacks in London on 7/7 and 7/22 and the triple bombing in Sharm el-Sheik are the latest indications that the global terrorism continues.

The terrorist threat we faced on 9/11 has changed dramatically. It has morphed from a centralized, top-down command structure led by Bin Ladin, operating out of Afghanistan … sort of a classic corporate model with a CEO (think IBM) … to a diffuse, network of cells that are inspired by Bin Ladin but that don't necessarily seek his permission. These cells operate as franchises. Think McDonalds.

These franchise cells are very, very difficult to detect.

Think for a moment about the men who attacked the trains in London. For the most part, they were homegrown. Several had some contacts with outside facilitators. But they appear to have planned and executed the attacks on their own. It is extremely difficult to stop the terrorist who is the boy (or girl) next door and is prepared to die.

We have also been slow to recognize just how vital the internet has become to the terrorists. The internet serves many purposes for them.

First, it is a fairly secure communications tool. Many of them still rely on cell phones, but they have realized that emailing and uploading files helps them remain anonymous and obscures their location.

But the internet is more than just a communications device. It is also a way to broadcast their message, their propaganda, their training manuals, and their recruitment pitches.

The Washington Post ran an excellent series last week about how al Qaeda has become the first guerilla movement in history to migrate from physical space to cyberspace. On 9/11, there were about 10 jihadist websites. Today, there are more than 4,000.

When U.S. and Iraqi forces nearly nabbed Zarqawi in Iraq earlier this year, he left behind his best weapon. It wasn't a rifle or a bomb. It was a laptop computer … that served as his mobile office from which he was directing the insurgency.

According to reports, al Qaeda-affiliated cells in Qatar, Egypt, and Europe have recently carried out or planned bombings relying heavily on the internet, such as the attacks in Sharm el-Sheik.

If you examine their websites, it makes your hair stand on end. They have on-line manuals explaining how to mix chemical weapons, make bombs, sneak across borders, and carry out suicide bombings.

They also target kids, the next generation of suicide bombers.

Bin Ladin and Zawahiri understand the value of video. And they succeeded in making recordings of themselves and then getting those videos to Arab media outlets such as al Jazeera, as well as the internet.

On June 29, Zarqawi released a 46-minute video of live-action war in Iraq, made directly for the Internet. It gave viewers options - you could choose Windows Media or Real Player. It could be accessed by broadband or dialup. This was a very slick recruiting tool.

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the President was right to call this a "war on terror."

In the initial assault on Afghanistan, it certainly resembled a traditional war.

But it is no longer a traditional war, with a finite battlefield and a finite enemy.

We live in an 'era of terror.' The battlefield is not merely physical, and the enemy is 'virtually' everywhere.

So, what does it take to win in an era of terror?

First, I think we need better tactical intelligence about where the terrorist leaders are, how they communicate, and how they operate. We need to penetrate these cells and their internet sites to disrupt their attacks before they happen.

This is not going to happen overnight. We need intelligence officers who can speak the languages of the enemy and blend in. Here at home, we need to accelerate the FBI's efforts to become a true intelligence agency, and to mesh that role with its culture that properly respects the rule of law.

Second, we need to harden our targets … because we should assume that the terrorist are either here or will be here soon. And here, I want to focus for a moment on Los Angeles.

9 out of 10 dollars of the transportation security budget goes to aviation, leaving gaping holes in port security. I call it our country's 'Achilles heel.'

Our ports are critical to the country's economic vitality. An attack on the U.S. maritime transportation system could devastate our economy. Some 95% of American trade, worth nearly $1 trillion, enters the U.S. through one of 361 seaports on board over 8,500 foreign vessels per year.

As I mentioned, the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach move more than 42% of the nation's containerized goods. Yet unlike airports, there is no dedicated, multi-year funding for port security.

Senator Susan Collins, whom I call her my 'Senate Sister,' chairs the Homeland Security and Governmental Reform Committee. She and I have introduced legislation to use custom duties collected at ports to provide multi-year grant funding for security improvements.

The bill would also encourage the integration of port-wide security; information and intelligence sharing.

When Secretary Chertoff was here in May, he announced the installation of equipment for detection of nuclear and radiation materials. These radiation portals, while welcome, have limitations and cannot detect shielded highly enriched uranium. So, there is much more that needs to be done.

We also need a greater emphasis on rail security, as we now see from the events in London. Any notion that fighting the terrorists in Iraq means we won't have to fight them at home was dispelled by those tragic attacks.

Currently both public transportation and rail security are severely under-funded. Estimated to cost $3 billion dollars annually, they received $150 million from the Federal government in '05!

Later this week, I'll be meeting with local MTA officials for briefings on their security efforts.

But third and finally, to beat terrorism, we must win the argument with the next generation of potential terrorist recruits.

Secretary Rumsfeld asked in an internal memo two years ago, 'Are we capturing, killing, or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and radical clerics are recruiting, training, and deploying against us?'

I think the answer is no.

I don't think we can rehabilitate the current crop of hard-core haters. They must be killed or captured. But we need to win the hearts and minds of the next generation in the Arab and Muslim world.

But winning the argument is not just a US responsibility - it is the responsibility of moderate Muslims around the world. As Tom Friedman has noted, this is also a war within Islam.

I've been very impressed, for example, by the work of the LA-based Muslim Public Affairs Council and will be meeting with its leadership later today. The Council is adamant that Muslims in the United States be robust participants in politics and the community, and has offered its assistance to the FBI and other agencies focused on thwarting the terrorists.

Over the next several years, the Middle East is going to have to create 80 million jobs. If we don't work together with the countries in the region to accomplish this goal, we are going to have 80 million disaffected young people who have no stake in the system.

Winning the argument also requires that we stand firm for our values of liberty and freedom. The terrorists have successfully recruited people to fight us because they have argued that our promises of liberty are a façade … and that our true nature is to dominate and exploit. We need to show them that our commitment to freedom and the rule of law is not a façade - it is our most cherished value.

That is why I have been so disturbed about the allegations of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. We need to interrogate high-value targets to obtain good tactical intelligence. But we must avoid a moral black-eye for America.

When I get back to Washington in September I plan to restart an effort I began earlier this year - to craft legislation to set clear rules for detentions and interrogations.

This is not about protecting terrorists' rights. It's about protecting the values that our brave men and women are fighting for - and protecting our troops if they are captured.

Military might alone won't permit us to compete with a networked, internet-savvy enemy bent on exploiting the disaffection of millions of Arabs and Muslims who are suspicious of America.

We must use all of the tools in our toolbox - our economic power, our diplomacy, and the power of our example - to defend America's interests in an era of terror.

In the internet age, we are all interconnected as never before…

From LA to London, to Mosul to Marrakech, from Baghdad to Beirut to Jerusalem and Ramallah - we share a common fate. We must build a future of hope, prosperity and security together, or we who have known these things will lose them.

I often say I'm an optimist - or I would never stay in politics. The challenges we face are, in my view, an opportunity - for the world's superpower which harbors no wish to aggrandize territory, to, instead, help shape a world free of tyranny, hopelessness and inequality.

Will we do it?