Former congresswoman Harman speaks on domestic and abroad drone use


Jane Harman is the director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Democrat Iraq war supporter


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Jane Harman, director of Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars — a think tank in DC — called on Congress last night to construct a new legal framework to address the changing “threat landscape” in modern warfare.

Photo by Sam Sherman


Jane Harman was one of the few Democrats who supported the Iraq war, but her support was not without reservations.

Last night, Harman, who is director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and former U.S. representative from California, gave a presentation at the Law School on the “extrajudicial” use of drones.

Harman — who started her political career as one of the co-leaders of Campus Democrats at Smith College, — went on to witness the nation’s most strategic development in counter-terrorism and national security as an active player in the intelligence community.

Known as a “defense hawk” and famous for her pro-national security position, Harman admitted that she gave herself mixed marks looking back at her early experience on the House Intelligence Committee from 2002 to 2006.

“It became clear after 9/11 that Iraq had no weapon of massive destruction, and our intelligence capability was deeply flawed,” she admitted. “It was wrong, and I was wrong.”

Harman said she had been working to reform the intelligence-gathering process ever since, co-authoring the Intelligence Reform Law of 2004.

Believing that the “threat landscape” has changed with the advent remote-control warfare and cyber-attacks, Harman called for a long-term legal framework for Congress to address terrorist threats.

“We need a comprehensive counter-terrorist strategy across the U.S. government,” Harman argued.

“If we continue to operate without a comprehensive legal framework behind our actions, we may end up creating more enemies,” she added.

Harman started out discussing the international and military use of drones and transitioned to its domestic and commerical implications.

While 65 percent of Americans support the use of drones abroad, Harman said, 25 percent support the use of drones for commerical and law enforcement purposes.

Harman also questioned the regulation of drone use today and its ability to acquire information without a warrant.

“Drones are silent, intrusive and massive,” she said. “They’re posing a much more serious intrusion on our privacy.”

However, “can information gathering be without an individualized warrant of the law?” Harman asked. “I think the Fourth Amendment said [this is] not the case.”

2004 Penn Law graduate Joseph Gordon considered the lecture incredibly impressive and compelling. “I was expecting a topical speech but [was] totally blown away by how involved she was in the decision-making process.”

“Before this lecture, my understanding of drones was mainly about its overseas use,” third-year Penn Law student Ayodeji Perrin said. “She changed my conception on its impact on U.S. privacy and civil liberty.”

However, Perrin was not optimistic about any substantial action the government will take on this issue.

Second-year Penn Law student Zac Byer, on the other hand, thinks that “fortunately, on issues of national security and civil liberty, it’s easier for two parties to reach an agreement.”

Harman ended her speech with a quote from Ben Franklin.

“Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither,” she said. “Congress should and has the capacity to take the lead to lay down the legal framework. It’s you, the new crowd of smart lawyers, who can make the difference.”

A previous version of the photo caption incorrectly reported Harman as the director of Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. In fact, she is the director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a think tank in D.C.

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