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Welcome Remarks for Insanity Defense: Why Our Failure to Confront Hard National Security Problems Makes Us Less Safe

Greetings from the National Archives’ flagship building in Washington, DC, which sits on the ancestral lands of the Nacotchtank peoples. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and it's my pleasure to welcome you to today’s virtual author lecture with Jane Harrman, author of Insanity Defense.

Before we begin, though, I’d like to invite children aged 9 to 13 and their families to tune into our YouTube channel in a couple of days to “Meet Teddy Roosevelt.”

On Thursday, July 22 at noon, the latest edition of the National Archives Comes Alive! Young Learners Program will bring you the 26th President, as portrayed by actor Joe Wiegand. After a talk about the expansion of national parks during his administration, “Teddy” will answer questions from the audience.

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In a Washington Post interview, Jane Harman was asked to explain the title of her new book, Insanity Defense. She answered, “It is because the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. . . . I have seen how we keep trying the same things and we don't make the country safer.”

Since the end of the Cold War, Congresswoman Harman contends, America has cycled through the same defense and intelligence issues, and its leaders have not realized that those policies no longer fit a transformed world. She examines why our failure to confront hard national security problems makes us less safe, and looks for ways to solve these issues.

In the National Archives, we hold a large amount of National Security records, including those among congressional records and in Presidential Libraries. These encompass records of the National Security Council, the Central Intelligence Agency and its predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services; the National Security Agency; the Department of State; military intelligence agencies; and more.

I turn you over now to Congresswoman Jane Harman and our moderator, Abraham Denmark, to begin this important conversation about national security.

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During her long public career, Jane Harman served nine terms in Congress, including four years after 9/11 as ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, and recently completed a decade at the nonpartisan Wilson Center as its first female president and CEO. She 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, Director of National Intelligence, and the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and State.

Joining Congresswoman Harman today is Abraham Denmark, director of the Asia Program at the Wilson Center. Mr. Denmark leads the Wilson Center’s research on the geopolitical dynamics of the Indo-Pacific and contributes to its industry-leading analysis on U.S.-China relations. In addition to his duties at the Wilson Center, he is an adjunct associate professor at Georgetown University.

Now let’s hear from Jane Harman and Abraham Denmark. Thank you for joining us.