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Transcript: Jane Harman on 'FOX News Sunday'

The following is a transcribed excerpt from 'FOX News Sunday,' August 8, 2004:

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS: Joining us now for another perspective, we turn to Congresswoman Jane Harman, ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. She joins us from Aspen, Colorado. Lucky her.

Good morning.

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE JANE HARMAN, D-CA: Good morning, Brit.

HUME: Nice to have you.

Let me ask you first off about — just pick up where I was talking with Fran Townsend here, about the 9/11 Commission report. Everybody's rushed to embrace it. The Kerry camp says the Bush campaign has been too slow to embrace it.

Should it be embraced and accepted wholesale, as John Kerry recommends?

HARMAN: I think it should be embraced. I wouldn't...

HUME: Wholesale?

HARMAN: ... say "wholesale."

It builds on so much good work that's been done before. Let's remember that Brent Scowcroft, former Republican national security advisor, first recommended a national intelligence director. Then 37 members of Congress, on a bicameral, bipartisan basis, held 23 hearings over a year, and we recommended it two years ago.

Then there was the Senate Intelligence Committee, and now there is the bipartisan 9/11 Commission. These issues have been considered for years. There are two pieces of legislation in the House Intelligence Committee, one of which is mine, and it recommends this. And it's been there for four months.

So I think we're ready to go. And I think the country wants action, not just a lot more talk.

HUME: Can you think of any recommendation of the 9/11 Commission report that, had it been enacted ahead of time, would have stopped the 9/11 attacks?

HARMAN: I do, and I think Fran Townsend said that as well.

If we'd had a national counterterrorism center before 9/11, even if we'd had TTIC, this Terrorist Threat Integration Center that the president set up, we might have been able to fuse the intelligence about what was going on in the flight schools, where these two guys, two of the hijackers who we were trying to find, were in San Diego, et cetera, and been able to find a few of these people, and perhaps unravel the plot pre-9/11.

We'll never know that for sure. I don't want anyone to think we could have prevented it, but we certainly might have gotten closer.

HUME: Does it seem to you, though, that the recommendations, which are rather heavily focused on reorganization of the way things are operating here in Washington, and I guess down through the ranks as well as a result of that, has really very much to do with the kind of human intelligence, for example, and cooperation we're getting from Pakistan, which seems to be, as Fran Townsend put it, that relationship now seems to be the linchpin of these recent successes?

HARMAN: Well, let me commend our intelligence agencies for doing some very good work recently.

And let me say that it's not just this president, though I commend him, but it's the members of Congress who've been supporting our human intelligence capability over years. We've voted together to increase human intelligence, and it was the last administration that began to beef up our HUMINT capability as well.

But my point is, HUMINT matters, but organization matters too. We have a 1947 business model for our intelligence agencies. They've way outgrown it. No business in the world could operate that way. And we need a revamped intelligence capability for the 21st-century threats.

We should have done it in 1989, when the Cold War came down. Instead, we started disinvesting in intelligence. This was in the first Bush administration. And we haven't caught up yet. We started ramping up again in the mid to late '90s.

And I think these threats are enormous. I do congratulate our intelligence services for what they've unraveled, but let me just say about that, it's a very dangerous country.

I agree with Fran Townsend, and I'm glad we're protecting five buildings, but we better anticipate that these asymmetric threats could attack us elsewhere, now that they know we're protecting these particular five sites. And we have to be ready in a much bigger way than we have been.

And our threat warning system has to be improved. People still don't know what to look for and what to do. And if we're going to warn the public, we have to give them specific information about what to do.

HUME: Well, how, for example, would you have warned the people — what would you have warned the people that work in those buildings where there was an alert last week, what would you have warned them to do?

HARMAN: Well, it's not just the people who work in the buildings. I think that they've got pretty good information, and I think that — I commend our officials for giving them that information and for the level of protection.

But what are the other folks in New York supposed to do? What are the people about to head to New York for the convention supposed to do?

This is a hard thing to be doing, but I think that we ought to find a way to do these threat warnings that is more specific and more informative, or we ought not do them.

HUME: Let me ask you this about this question that I asked Fran Townsend. It looks like, to the naked eye, it looks like a turning point. You have three major arrests. You have this treasure trove of information turning up on three computers, plus a stack of, what, 51 floppy disks, and so on. Is that how it looks to you?

HARMAN: Well, I think we've said "mission accomplished" in the past, and I remember Porter Goss, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, saying we'd turned the corner about a year and a half ago.

I'm weary of saying that. I think the terrorist threat is going to be with us for the entire 21st century, unfortunately, and so is the proliferation threat.

I think that we should feel encouraged by what we've been able to do. I really commend those who did it. But I also think now is time to reorganize, put strong leadership in charge.

Ad I think voters are going to measure us, that is, the elected officials in Congress and this president and the Kerry-Edwards team, by whether we're ready to admit mistakes and step up and fix the problems on a bipartisan basis or whether we're just going to point fingers.

HUME: Well, what appears to you to be happening, with regard to the 9/11 Commission report? You know, everybody's embraced it. The president seems to be putting a part of it in place. John Kerry says he would do the whole thing, apparently with almost no reservations about it. That sounds pretty bipartisan to me.

HARMAN: Well, I think the president's press conference last Monday was not adequate. He made some general endorsements, but then he didn't offer any specific proposal, nor did he call the Republican leadership in either house of Congress and say, "Let's move it."

In fact, in the House, what's happening is, on a unilateral basis, the Republican leadership is slowing this down. The committee leaders are slowing this down.

On the Senate side, it's more encouraging. On a bipartisan basis, the leadership has designated the Government Affairs Committee to take the lead, and on a bipartisan basis Susan Collins and Joe Lieberman are doing that. I commend them for that. And they're working with the 9/11 Commission on a package of bills that will get the blessing of the commission.

So, hopefully, if this president is more forward-leaning on the Republican leadership, we can get some real action. I think that would be a great victory for the 9/11 families and the American people. If he doesn't do it, I think voters will measure that.

HUME: Well, what about the idea of having a special session of Congress? Would you want to be heading back to Washington from Aspen, Colorado, where — and I envy you, by the way.

HARMAN: I'm going anyway.

HUME: You're coming back here, are you?

HARMAN: I'm coming back...

HUME: Well, would you like to come back for a special session?

HARMAN: I'm ready to do that. I think...

HUME: Well, would you like to see the nominee of your party, who suggested the idea, summoned back to Washington for a special session of Congress to deal with the 9/11 recommendations?

HARMAN: I'm sure he's prepared to do it. I'm coming back on Monday. On Tuesday, Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House, has called all Democrats together. She's asked for a special session of Congress. We're ready to go.

I think the committees, which are holding these random hearings — my committee is holding one hearing each Wednesday for the month of August; I went last Wednesday, and I'll be there next Wednesday — should be holding legislative mark-up hearings to move legislation that's been in our committee for four months.

We have all the information we need to deal with some of these tough issues, like, do we place the national intelligence director inside the White House or outside?

HUME: Got you.

HARMAN: Do we give this person budget execution or budget reprogramming (ph) authority?

Let's make the decisions and act.

HUME: All right. Jane Harman, always a pleasure to have you. Thank you very much. Enjoy your day out there.

HARMAN: Thank you, Brit.