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Ed Norris, The “Anti-Terrorist”

December 8, 2011

That Ed Norris’s talents may be under-used in his radio gig is not controversial. The former Baltimore Police Commissioner, cashiered from his job at Maryland State Police Chief amid a corruption scandal a decade ago, is one of the region’s tragic figures. He also seems like a really nice guy—smart, plain-spoken, and true. For the past six years or so he’s done much to rehabilitate his reputation.

Now comes “The Anti-Terrorist,” a 6,000-word profile by Kevin Fontaine.

Fontaine is a Johns Hopkins rheumatologist. The piece came to City Paper’s attention this week via Fontaine himself, who pitched it as an e-book, available for download at 99 cents a pop. Those who read it will find a well-constructed bit of prose that, at first, might not look out of place in this newspaper. Here’s the nut:

Twenty years ago, Ed Norris got a firsthand glimpse of the dawning of Islamic terrorism in the United States. He tried to set off the alarm but was ignored. Then, after September 11, 2001, he hammered at the FBI during two congressional testimonies; the bloated system’s not working, interagency rivalries compromise security, we need radical change, we’ve got to get more proactive. Many believe he was burned for it, career ruined, talent squandered, money gone, marriage destroyed.

If “many believe” that Norris got “burned”—i.e., federally charged with corruption and mortgage fraud violations, forced to plead out, and then imprisoned for six months—for criticizing the FBI about terrorism, they are not quoted as such in this story.

But that conspiracy is not at the center of this piece. The conspiracy that really matters here is the one against Jewish Defense League founder Rabbi Mier Kahan, the Zionist firebrand shot to death in 1990. Norris investigated that while with the New York Police Department, and quickly deduced that two men who were near the gunman in that case were part of something larger. There were 47 boxes of documents taken from the apartment they shared, and those were later taken by the FBI from Norris’s office. Supposedly, those boxes held the keys to the 1993 truck bombing of the World Trade Center and, according to Fontaine, “if you dug deep, hard, and long enough, the September 11, 2001 attack.”

The most support for that claim that the author can muster from the boxes: “audiotapes by . . . Omar Abdel-Rahman, better known as ‘The Blind Sheik,’ calling for the killing of infidels and for the destruction of the ‘tall buildings of which the Americans are so proud.’ ”

That Norris was railroaded into prison is assumed by many who know the outline of his case. He spoke at length about it in City Paper in 2005. At the time, Norris said little about terrorism or his congressional testimony lambasting federal law enforcement’s lack of urgency and efficiency in terror cases.

That he is choosing to do so now marks a new chapter in his mercurial career. In an afterward to the story, Norris himself comes out swinging. The federal prosecutors office, he says, “is destroying America. . . .What is truly frightening about my story is that it could happen to anyone. It routinely does.”

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