A Look Back … Murder at CIA’s Front Gate
For many CIA employees, waiting for the left turn light at the main entrance of the compound brings to mind the day when terror came to CIA’s doorstep. On January 25, 1993, at 10 minutes before 8 a.m., a man named Aimal Kasi used an AK-47 assault rifle to fire into the cars waiting in the two left turn lanes, killing two CIA employees: Lansing Bennett, a medical doctor in the Directorate of Administration (now Directorate of Support), and Frank Darling, a communications engineer. Their stars are on the Agency’s Memorial Wall. Three other CIA employees were wounded. The shooting started a manhunt that lasted for four years.
A Devastating Attack
For his attack, Kasi used an assault rifle he purchased locally. After firing at several cars, he calmly drove off. Surprised that he was not immediately apprehended, Kasi returned to his apartment, packed, and flew back to his family home in Quetta, Pakistan. His family bought protection for their son from an Afghan warlord and smuggled him across the border into Afghanistan.
At the time of the shootings, U.S. officials knew nothing of Kasi's identity or affiliations. Authorities identified Kasi as the shooter several days later, after his roommate filed a missing person's report with local police. Soon after, the FBI placed Kasi on the Most Wanted List, while the State Department posted a $2 million dollar reward for his capture: it was later increased to $3.5 million. Yet, for four years, various plans to locate, track, and capture Kasi failed.
As the years passed, Kasi assumed the United States had forgotten about him and began leaving Afghanistan to visit friends in Pakistan. On June 15, 1997, acting on an informant's tip, a combined FBI and CIA team lured Kasi to a meeting in the Dera Ghazi Khan District of Punjab, Pakistan to work out details of a supposed business venture involving smuggled arms and electronics. As the plan unfolded, CIA headquarters established radio contact with a Chevy Suburban containing a joint CIA-FBI team sitting outside of a Chinese restaurant and hotel where Kasi waited to meet his alleged new business partners.
The appointed 4 p.m. meeting time came and went, as Acting DCI George Tenet anxiously awaited word. At 4:30, according to one account, the radio cracked "Base, base, this is Red Rover. The package is aloft, the package is aloft." Kasi was in American hands. Within moments, Tenet phoned the families of Kasi's victims.
Tenet made a public announcement of the arrest two days later praising the four-year effort—and ultimate success—of the CIA, FBI, and State Department.
Justice and Closure
The Justice Department decided that local authorities in Fairfax County should try Kasi on capital murder charges since federal law did not then provide for the death penalty for terrorist acts. In court, Kasi acknowledged his role in the shootings, but pleaded not guilty. Convicted after a jury trial, Kasi received the death penalty, carried out by lethal injection at the Virginia State Penitentiary in Jarratt on November 14, 2002.
A permanent memorial to Frank Darling and Lansing Bennett was erected in May 2002 near the site of the shootings on Route 123.