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Former US Rep. Jane Harman.

REUTERS/Larry Downing

Former Congresswoman Jane Harman on combating distrust in governance

With the WEF focused on Rebuilding Trust this year, GZERO wanted to talk with someone who knows a thing or two about restoring faith in institutions. So before she set off for the Swiss Alps, we sat down with nine-term former Congresswoman and President of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Jane Harman to get her take on the challenges facing delegates at Davos.

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Too many people have US security clearance: former House Intelligence Committee member
Too many people have US security clearance: former House Intelligence Committee member | GZERO Media

Too many people have US security clearance: former House Intelligence Committee member

The US government has an over-classification problem. Too many documents are marked "secret" that shouldn't be. And according to this week's guest, the over-classification problem has also created an over-clearance problem. Jane Harman, a former nine-term Congresswoman who led high-level intelligence committees, says that the two problems are closely related. "We over-classify, we over-clear. Our clearance problem is very cumbersome" Harman tells Ian. As a result, many people with clearance tend to err on the side of classifying information rather than risking their position by making public the wrong document.

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US Government information: What's the threshold for "classified"?
US Government information: What's the threshold for "classified"? | GZERO World

US Government information: What's the threshold for "classified"?

There are many reasons for a government to classify information. The US does not want Vladimir Putin getting his hands on our nuclear codes, for example. An estimated 50 million documents are classified every year, though the exact number is unknown—not because it’s classified, but because the government just can’t keep track of it all. But in the words of the former US Solicitor General Erwin Griswold, some “secrets are not worth keeping.”

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Is it time for the US government to rethink how it keeps its secrets?
Is it time for the US government to rethink how it keeps its secrets? | GZERO World

Is it time for the US government to rethink how it keeps its secrets?

Here’s one of the United States' worst-kept secrets: its flawed classification process. Whether it’s the unnecessary classification of material or the storage of top-secret documents behind a flimsy shower curtain in a Mar-a-Lago bathroom, it’s crucial to address our approach to confidentiality. Joining GZERO World to discuss all things classified, including those documents in Trump’s bathroom, is former Congresswoman Jane Harman. As the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee after 9/11, the nine-term congresswoman has insider knowledge of the matter.

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Podcast: How to fix the US government's classified information problem with Jane Harman

Transcript

Listen: Maintaining secrecy can be invigorating, whether you're a child with hidden treasures or a CIA agent safeguarding classified information. However, the more secrets you bear, the heavier the burden becomes. This week’s guest, Jane Harman, who served nine terms in Congress and was a ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee after 9/11, understands the weight of secrecy firsthand.

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Jane Harman: Trump trial a distraction away from urgent global crises
Jane Harman: Trump trial a distraction away from urgent global crises | GZERO Media | GZERO Media

Jane Harman: Trump trial a distraction away from urgent global crises

GZERO caught up with former US Rep. Jane Harman at the US-Canada Summit in Toronto, hosted by the Eurasia Group and BMO Financial Group.

She shares her thoughts on why Donald Trump's trial in New York helps the former US president politically, and why Finland joining NATO is good for the Finns — and the West.

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Joe Biden's presidency: biggest surprises, successes and mistakes so far
Biggest Surprises, Successes & Mistakes of Joe Biden's Presidency So Far | GZERO World

Joe Biden's presidency: biggest surprises, successes and mistakes so far

What surprised Jane Harman, former US Congresswoman (D-CA), most about Joe Biden's presidency? "Number one, he's much more hands-on as a leader than I fully understood. It's coming out now how he runs his meetings and what he does. But number two, and I love this, he's really enjoying the job." Harman, a nine-term member of Congress who served for decades on the major security committees in the House of Representatives, notes that Biden's stint as Vice President was no guarantee of how he would perform. "I think sitting behind that desk, and having the buck stop with him is very different. And I think he fills out the job very well."

In an interview with Ian Bremmer, Harman says Biden has a dimension that none of his four predecessors had, because of his experience in Congress and in foreign policy. She also shares her perspective on Biden's biggest successes as well as some mistakes he's made.

Biden’s foreign policy approach: “Take the foreign out of foreign policy”
Take the "Foreign" Out of "Foreign Policy” | Jane Harman Explains Biden’s Approach | GZERO World

Biden’s foreign policy approach: “Take the foreign out of foreign policy”

Jane Harman, who served nine terms as a US Democratic Congresswoman from California, explains that the Biden administration's approach is "to take the foreign out of foreign policy." Biden's foreign policy strategy starts with restoring alliances, promoting democracy, and making the world safer, prioritizing issues that connect what the US does abroad to concerns at home, says Harman. That means finding a solution to the pandemic both in the US and globally; addressing terrorism abroad and domestically; and climate, which Harman notes, "is a huge part of our security at home and security in the world. Think about it. Half the refugees in the world are climate refugees. They're not terrorism refugees."

Harman, author of the new book, "Insanity Defense: Why Our Failure to Confront Hard National Security Problems Make Us Less Safe," spoke in an interview with Ian Bremmer.

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