Director Michael Greenberger talks about legal changes that have taken place since 9/11

Michael Greenberger is the founder and director of the Center for Health and Homeland Security at the University of Maryland and a professor at the university’s Francis King Carey School of Law, where he teaches “Homeland Security and the Law of Counter-Terrorism” and a “Law and Policy of Emergency Public Health” seminar.

“There are two areas that in my teaching I’ve focused on. One is the whole area of Guantanamo Bay, enemy combatants, wire-tapping law, probable cause for arrests, racial profiling. Those are more sort of civil liberties issues, presidential power and things of that sort … and the Patriot Act was thrown into that as well,” he said.

But in the work of our center — which is composed of about 80 percent lawyers, about 90 percent of whom are graduates of the University of Maryland School of Law — we started to be repeatedly asked about the powers of the Executive to respond to catastrophic health emergencies. The one thing I tell people is, from Sept. 12 [2001] until that day in August [2005] that the levees broke in New Orleans, the principal focus in this homeland security and terrorism area was counter-terrorism.

After Katrina, to especially looking at what happened last [month] with the earthquake and Hurricane Irene, you’re seeing that the homeland security infrastructure is called to the fore almost repeatedly to deal with the catastrophic consequences of natural disasters. …

That’s the mantra after Katrina: ‘We respond to terror and we respond to natural catastrophes.’ Often the tools that are used are the same for both areas. With that, people are now saying, ‘Wow, suppose there’s an aerosolized spray of smallpox by a terrorist over the city of Baltimore. What can the governor do, what can the mayor do, what special powers are called into play for isolation, quarantine, commandeering private property, commandeering medicine, organizing evacuations, compelling medical treatment, compelling licensed medical professionals to give care during emergencies?’”

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