Daily Breeze

April 28, 2004

Harman offers new plan against terrorism

SECURITY: Ideas by congresswoman and colleague include intelligence overhaul and funding quality-of-life programs for Muslims.

By OTTO KREISHER
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON -- Trying to open debate on an issue considered one of President Bush's political strengths, Rep. Jane Harman and a Texas colleague Tuesday released a sweeping proposal they said offers the comprehensive strategy for winning the global war on terrorism that has been missing in the administration's policies.

The strategy presented by Harman and Rep. Jim Turner of Texas, the top Democrats on the House Intelligence and Homeland Security committees, offered more than 100 proposals for fighting terrorism worldwide, for protecting the United States and working to keep more Muslims from becoming terrorists.

Although the nation has been waging an aggressive, military war against terrorism, "up to now we have had a rather limited view on what it would take to prevail," Turner said.

"This addresses winning the war on terror, not just fighting it," added Harman, D-El Segundo.

The plan could cost hundreds of billions of dollars to expand the armed forces, the Coast Guard, the FBI and U.S. border security agencies, to reform and improve intelligence operations, to tighten security of harbors and airports and to launch a massive effort on the scale of the post-World War II Marshall Plan to improve living conditions, and America's image, in the Muslim world.

Turner said he believed the entire plan could be paid for with one-tenth of the estimated $4.4 trillion that the president's tax cuts would cost over 10 years.

A key component of the Democrats' strategy is a major overhaul of the nation's intelligence operations, which was introduced last month by Harman and all the Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee. Among other reforms, it would create a director of national intelligence to coordinate the operations of the CIA, the Defense Department's multiple intelligence entities and the FBI's domestic intelligence collection.

"To win this war we need the best, the most accurate, timely, actionable intelligence," said Harman, who is the senior Democrat on the Intelligence Committee and a member of the Homeland Security panel.

The Republican chairman of the Intelligence Committee has dismissed the idea of enacting such sweeping legislation this year.

The Homeland Security Committee chairman, Rep. Christopher Cox, R-Newport Beach, did not immediately react to the Democrats' plan.

To fight the war on terrorism, the strategy proposes doubling the size of the Special Operations Command, which includes the Navy SEALs, the Army Special Forces and Air Force commandos. It also calls for training 25,000 Marines to perform special operations missions, adding 60,000 soldiers to the Army and creating a military unit trained and equipped to do the post-conflict reconstruction work like that being done in Iraq.

To protect the nation, the Democrats proposed adding 3,000 Border Patrol agents and buying technical means to monitor all the U.S. borders 24 hours a day, expanding the Coast Guard and bolstering port security, including gaining the ability to screen all maritime cargo for weapons of mass destruction. It also advocates increased security for passenger rail and public transit services, protecting airliners from shoulder-fired missiles and screening all air cargo and baggage.

Perhaps the most revolutionary parts of the strategy are the proposals to dry up the pool of future terrorists by funding programs to improve living conditions in Muslim nations by encouraging economic growth, better secular education and democratic governments.

Those efforts would be reinforced by other programs to improve America's image in the Muslim world, where recent polls indicate a high-level of animosity.

Turner said the Marshall Plan-style effort to develop Muslim nations could cost $100 billion over 10 years.

Although Turner and Harman presented their strategy at a forum held by the nonpartisan Center for Strategic and International Studies, it was cheered by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, in a statement that had a distinct partisan edge.

"The clear and present danger to the security of the United States is international terrorism," Pelosi said. "Unfortunately, that fact is often lost as the Bush administration diverts resources and attention to Iraq.

"The American people -- and American interests -- will not be safe until we have a comprehensive strategy that makes combating the terrorist threat our top national priority," the Democratic leader said.