The Daily Breeze

Friday, January 10, 2003 

Rep. Harman gets key intelligence post 

By Toby Eckert

WASHINGTON — South Bay Rep. Jane Harman was named the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday, a post that will significantly raise her profile on two of the most pressing issues facing the nation, terrorism and homeland security.

“It’s a high honor,” Harman said. “These are issues I’ve been thinking about for years. This will be my focus in this Congress. I’m trying to clear the decks so I have enough time to make the biggest contribution I can.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, made the
appointment. Pelosi was the ranking Democrat on the committee before becoming minority leader.

Rep. Porter Goss, R-Fla., is chairman of the panel, which typically works in a more bipartisan fashion than other House committees. The committee oversees the CIA and other intelligence agencies, and much of its work is done behind closed doors, where members have access to highly sensitive information.

Harman, D-El Segundo, has worked on intelligence and national security issues for years and has been particularly active since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. She was the top Democrat on the terrorism and homeland security subcommittee set up after the attacks and was an early advocate of the Homeland Security Department that is now being established.

Her district is home to satellite manufacturers and other companies that make intelligence and defense hardware.

“She’s a terrific choice. She brings a lot of experience,” said L. Paul Bremmer, a top counterterrorism official during the Reagan

Bremmer headed a national commission that in 1999 and 2000 examined the nation’s vulnerability to terrorism. Harman was a member of the commission.

Harman said her top priority is the “systemic reform of the intelligence community” that the House and Senate Intelligence committees called for after joint hearings on the 9-11 attacks. The hearings exposed glaring shortcomings at the CIA, FBI and other agencies that allowed several clues to the attacks to go unnoticed.

“Small steps won’t be adequate,” Harman said, quoting former Colorado Sen. Gary Hart, who recently briefed Democrats on the issue. Hart was co-chair of another commission that warned of the nation’s susceptibility to a major terrorist strike.

One of the key proposals that arose from the House-Senate hearings was the creation of a Cabinet-level intelligence director to oversee the government’s far-flung intelligence operations.

Harman said she was also interested in pursuing the idea of a new domestic intelligence gathering agency akin to Britain’s MI5. The committee got a classified briefing about the British agency on Thursday.

“I want to ensure that we are figuring out whether there are other models that will work well here. I’m trying to learn everything I can about it,” she said.

Harman said her other priorities include improving the nation’s ability to detect and deter chemical, biological and nuclear attacks; improving information sharing between intelligence agencies; and getting more federal support for emergency workers who are the first to respond to terrorist strikes.

Harman’s way to the top Democratic post on the committee was cleared when another Democrat who outranked her in seniority, Rep. Sanford Bishop Jr. of Georgia, moved to the House Appropriations Committee.