The other beltway shooter

Posted: Oct 16, 2002 12:00 AM
He struck during morning rush hour. He used an AK-47 rifle. He killed two people and wounded three outside the CIA headquarters in Langley, Va. Then, he slipped out of the country and eluded authorities for four, long years. He was the other Beltway shooting spree killer: Mir Aimal Kasi. On Jan. 25, 1993, the Pakistan-born Kasi opened fire on commuters as they sat in their cars waiting at a stoplight outside the CIA complex. He gunned down Frank A. Darling, 28, an officer in covert operations, and Lansing H. Bennett, 66, an intelligence analyst. Darling's wife, a CIA logistics officer who was in the car with her husband during the monstrous rampage, described diving to the floorboard when the shooting began. Judith Darling looked up to see her husband shot in the head, with "skin hanging everywhere." Kasi (who also went by the surname "Kansi") later said he committed the capital murders in response to America's "wrong policy" toward Muslim countries. He said he didn't know his victims. And he wasn't interested in claiming credit or glory. He said he simply wanted to punish the United States for its role in bombing Iraq, its involvement in the killing of Palestinians, and the meddling of the CIA in the internal affairs of Muslim nations. Next month, Kasi is scheduled to die by injection in Virginia for the brutal killings. As law enforcement officials search for the unknown sniper or snipers responsible for the latest shooting spree in the Beltway area, it's worth remembering the Kasi case for the motive and means. We cannot afford to ignore the role that lax immigration policies have played in abetting bloody terrorist acts against innocent Americans on American soil. Despite his history as a known Pakistani militant who had participated in anti-American demonstrations, Kasi entered the United States with a phony business visa in 1991 and overstayed. Next, he invoked the magic words -- "political asylum" -- based on his status as an ethnic Pakistani minority, and was granted a stay and work authorization. While his asylum claim was pending in a system that remains backlogged and fraud-ridden, Kasi found a job as a courier, obtained a driver's license in Virginia, secured Social Security documents, purchased an AK-47, and then murdered the two CIA agents and wounded several others in broad daylight. The day after the shooting spree, Kasi fled to Pakistan from Washington, D.C.'s National Airport. In an interview with a Pakistani newspaper, The News, he said: "I knew the area well and had surveyed it before and that's why it was easy for me to slip out after the killing." The manhunt for Kasi, who took refuge in Pakistan and Afghanistan, lasted four years. He was finally taken into custody along the Pakistan-Afghan border in the summer of 1997 and brought back for trial. At least one crazed Middle Eastern gunman has sought revenge on behalf of Muslims by gunning down Americans near the nation's capital and slipping in and out of our country with murderous ease. Could it be happening again? Why not? The entry and exit doors remain wide open to Kasi's fellow travelers. Correction: In my last column, I misstated the caliber of the bullets used by the unknown Beltway-area sniper(s). They are .223-caliber, not .22-caliber. Thanks to all my readers who quickly spotted the error.