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The Honorable

Jane Harman

Former nine-term congresswoman from California, chair of the Commission on the National Defense Stratetgy, author of "Insanity Defense," and President Emerita of The Wilson Center

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Jane Harman is a former nine-term congresswoman from California and former ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, a position she held for four years after 9/11. 


She is currently the chair of the bipartisan, congressionally-mandated Commission on the National Defense Strategy. She also serves as co-chair of the Freedom House Board of Trustees and was previously president and CEO of the nonpartisan Wilson Center, where she is now president emerita and distinguished fellow.


Harman is recognized as a national expert at the nexus of security and public policy issues, and has received numerous awards for distinguished service. She has served on advisory boards for the CIA, the Director of National Intelligence, and the departments of Defense, Homeland Security and State.  

She is a member of the NASA Advisory Council, the Homeland Security Advisory Council, the Aspen Institute Board of Trustees, the Aspen Strategy Group, the National Council on Election Integrity, the advisory board of the Munich Security Conference, the Eisenhower Fellowships Board of Trustees, the Executive Committee of the Trilateral Commission and co-chairs the Homeland Security Experts Group with former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.


Harman’s book, “Insanity Defense: Why Our Failure to Confront Hard National Security Problems Makes Us Less Safe,” was published by St. Martin’s Press in 2021.

Insanity Defense

Insanity Defense: Why Our Failure to Confront Hard National Security Problems Makes Us Less Safe is an insider's account of America's ineffectual approach to some of the hardest defense and intelligence issues in the three decades since the Cold War ended.

Insanity can be defined as doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result. As a nation, America has cycled through the same defense and intelligence issues since the end of the Cold War. In Insanity Defense, Congresswoman Jane Harman chronicles how four administrations have failed to confront some of the toughest national security policy issues and suggests achievable fixes that can move us toward a safer future.

The reasons for these inadequacies are varied and complex, in some cases going back generations. American leaders didn’t realize soon enough that the institutions and habits formed during the Cold War were no longer effective in an increasingly multi-power world transformed by digital technology and riven by ethno-sectarian conflict. Nations freed from the fear of the Soviets no longer deferred to America as before. Yet the United States settled into a comfortable, at times arrogant, position as the lone superpower. At the same time our governing institutions, which had stayed resilient, however imperfectly, through multiple crises, began their own unraveling.

Congresswoman Harman was there—as witness, legislator, exhorter, enabler, dissident and, eventually, outside advisor and commentator. Insanity Defense is an insider’s account of decades of American national security—of its failures and omissions—and a roadmap to making significant progress on solving these perennially difficult issues.

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