ASKED & ANSWERED: Brig. Gen. Michael McDaniel

By Jo Mathis

Legal News

Brig.Gen. Michael McDaniel was Jennifer Granholm's Homeland Security Advisor from 2003 to 2009, serving as the liaison between the governor's office and all federal, state and local agencies on homeland security.

He most recently served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Homeland Defense Strategy, Prevention and Mission Assurance and is now a professor at Cooley Law School's Auburn Hills campus. McDaniel is leading Cooley's efforts to offer courses in homeland security. The first course in homeland security is being offered this fall at all four Cooley Law School campuses.

We talked to McDaniel on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Mathis: Can you describe the moment you realized we were under a terrorist attack?

McDaniel: After the second tower was hit, there was no question that we as a nation were under attack. As Secretary Rumsfeld tried to describe some years later, it was the unknown unknown. The primary concern was: Will there be more attacks? It wasn't a matter of fear so much as how do we respond, and who do we respond against? Al -Qaida was a group that was known based on previous attacks. We were familiar with it, but there were just a few voices in the wilderness that were talking about the threat of Al-Qaida at that point.

Mathis: Are you surprised there hasn't been another successful terrorist attack here since Sept. 11?

McDaniel: There may not have been an attack the size of Sept. 11, but it's kind of like the common law definition of assault. I view any attempt as an attack. They may be unsuccessful attacks, but they are still attacks. And there have been smaller attacks against the United States. The November 2010 shooting in Fort Hood by Major Nidal Hasan was a terrorist attack. We don't necessarily call it that, but that's what it was.

And I'm frankly more concerned about the ability for using social media, social networks, the Internet to do indirect recruiting ... Everybody talks about the high consequence, low risk scenario. I think the focus with indirect recruiting and radicalization of our youth should be on the idea of higher probability and lower consequence. That's not just me being paranoid. Let's not forget that there have been U.S. youths who left to join El Shabab, and at least one if not more have been confirmed suicide bombers over there.

Mathis: Do you support racial profiling at airports?

McDaniel: No! It's a false indicator. Using Israel as an example: One of their greatest intel success stories was an early middle aged Irish woman who was trying to carry a bomb onto an airplane. A Palestinian who promised to marry her when she arrived in Israel had befriended her. So racial profiling in my mind is anathema to our constitutional beliefs and protections. And tactically unnecessary because it doesn't add anything.

You don't want to segregate everybody who doesn't look like you. You want to segregate everybody who's acting nervous and who has an inability to answer certain questions, which is a much, much, much smaller percentage.

If we're willing to spend the money to train the individuals correctly, behavioral profiling can be done with some success and without infringing on personal liberties.

Mathis: How would you rate Michigan's homeland security?

McDaniel: We've done a great job in terms of connectivity between state agencies in terms of communication and planning, with the state police taking the lead.

One of the reasons I think it's worked out very well is because the Michigan Emergency Management Act, which existed prior to September 11, was amended significantly as a result of that task force. So there was already a structure in place for natural disasters. It was only a matter of amending that to make it clear that that would apply to manmade disasters as well.

We are doing a great job at intelligence collection. I'm not sure we're doing such a great job at intelligence distribution. I think there's a lot more we can do to increase our information sharing and planning as well as our response between the state and the cities, and between the state and the federal agencies.

Mathis: Is there any way to gauge how safe Michigan is compared to other states?

McDaniel: I don't think so, for two reasons. First of all, it's trying to measure an event that hasn't happened. And it's focused on the wrong issue. To the degree that we have public debate about this - and I wish we had more - I think it focuses the debate in the wrong direction. We're been talking about safety and protecting from another attack for the last 10 years. And I've always thought the focus should be on our ability to be resilient. Instead of trying to create these defense mechanisms against any attack, we should instead take a page from the Israeli handbook and focus more on our resilience to absorb an attack and to continue not only our economy, but our national psyche. I think the extent to which people try to guarantee there will never be another attack in the United States is very shortsighted.

I think the issue should be how prepared we are as opposed to how safe we are. And I can certainly say in the 10 years that we have ratcheted up our preparedness within Michigan tenfold. There's certainly a lot still to be done, but we've made huge, huge strides in preparedness of the state in any unforeseen event, whether it's natural or manmade.

Mathis: What can you tell us about the homeland security law course you've begun at Cooley?

McDaniel: This fall we'll have our first course in homeland security law offered on all four campuses. I'm very excited about it. The idea is simple. It's a program that of course because of its youth, it's not really recognized as a separate discipline yet and does not have separate accrediting. So we need to assure through the Community of Scholars and scholar practitioners that we have minimum standards.

Everyone has a course in intelligence or intelligence operations. And that makes sense because if there's a common theme, it's how do we share information from agency to agency? But when we do that, we have to make sure that the laws that are in place for the protection of individual's privacy are recognized as well.

So I see a real need to educate and train lawyers to represent those agencies that these practitioners who are going to go out there and grow this discipline to assure they have a strong legal framework as well.

Published: Thu, Sep 8, 2011