Terrorism threats against the United States are diverse and evolving, requiring the country to evolve in response, USC Trustee and former U.S. Rep. Jane Harman said as the featured guest of the Distinguished Speaker Series overseen by the USC National Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE) on Oct. 1.
Harman, who currently serves as president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, was the 11th speaker in the series since it began in 2010. During her tenure in Congress, Harman served on several major security committees, including homeland security, intelligence and armed services.
USC Price School of Public Policy Dean Jack H. Knott introduced Harman, who represented California for 17 years in the U.S. House of Representatives. Knott brought up a recent issue of The Economist that warned of “The New Face of Terror” on the cover.
“There’s no more important subject and no more important person to talk to us about this subject than Jane Harman,” Knott said. “She’s had an incredible record of leadership and involvement in national intelligence and homeland security issues in service of our country.”
Harman agreed with the article that, though the core of al-Qaida in Pakistan is mostly decimated, there are new threats from a loosely affiliated set of groups around the world, plus lone-wolf actors who radicalize on the Internet.
“The old responses won’t work against the new threats,” Harman said. “We have to be smarter and better than they are. We have to understand that they attack us asymmetrically.
“They’re looking for where we’re vulnerable,” she added. “They only have to be right once. We have to be right 100 percent of the time.”
Harman praised the country’s improvement in sharing information horizontally at the federal level, but she still thinks a lot of information is over-classified. She sees cybersecurity as an enormous challenge that needs more cooperation between the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the private sector.
She warned that we’re not going to win the war on terror merely through collecting better information and taking out the perpetrators. There needs to be progress at the root of the issue.
“The strategy has to be to win the argument,” Harman said. “We have to project our values. We have to show that kid [who is] trying to decide whether to strap on a suicide vest that he has better options, which include getting educated in a way that is relevant to getting a job.”
“Congresswoman Harman knows more about counterterrorism and intelligence than most practitioners,” said Erroll Southers, CREATE associate director and USC Price adjunct professor, who coordinates the speaker series. “She understands the need for our security agencies to continue to consider the next threat and that it may originate here at home.
“Her support of CREATE and the numerous impressive positions she holds in the national security arena and policy institutions,” he added, “are demonstrative of her continued passion for the security of our nation and the world.”
Housed within the USC Price and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, CREATE was established in 2004 with funding from the Department of Homeland Security to prioritize countermeasures to terrorism, compute relative risks of potential terrorist events and estimate societal consequences of terrorism.