WASHINGTON – Republican Rep. Katherine Harris (search) said Wednesday she regrets concerns caused by her claim that a plot existed to blow up the power grid in Carmel, Ind (search). City officials disputed the claims of a plot.
"I was told in an open, group setting that a recent situation threatened a Midwestern community and that it had been diffused," Harris said Wednesday. "I regret that I had no knowledge of the sensitive nature of this situation and any undue concern this may have caused."
But the Florida lawmaker stands by her statement that the United States has thwarted more than 100 potential terrorist attacks.
Harris, who was at the center of the political storm over the disputed 2000 presidential election, made the comments about terrorism and the plot on Monday at a rally for President Bush (search) in Venice, Fla., and a subsequent interview with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
She told the audience that while in the Midwest recently, a mayor told her about a plot in Carmel and how a man of Middle Eastern heritage had been arrested and hundreds of pounds of explosives were found in his home.
"He had plans to blow up the area's entire power grid," she said, according to the newspaper.
City officials in Carmel said they know of no such plot.
"We're aware of the comments we read in the paper," said Tim Green, assistant chief of police in Carmel, a town about 10 miles north of Indianapolis. "We're not aware of any plans to blow up Carmel's power grid."
But Harris stood by her comments to the newspaper that the United States has thwarted potential attacks in the last three years.
"Actually, it's been more than 100," she told the newspaper. "It's classified ... obviously not classified to me ... but things I can't go into details about."
Jessica Furst, a spokeswoman for Harris, said that quote was incorrect and the congresswoman never said the information about the 100 thwarted attacks was classified. The information came from statements by Attorney General John Ashcroft (search), she said.
Harris said Wednesday in a statement that her comments underscore the need "for each of us to remain alert and vigilant in fighting terrorism."
Harris serves on the House Financial Services Committee and the International Relations Committee, which often gets briefed on terrorism. She does not serve on the House Intelligence Committee.
Disclosure of classified information is forbidden by law and by the rules of Congress, which require members to take an oath. However, prosecutions or sanctions of members for revealing secret information are rare.