January 25, 1993 | Shootings at CIA HQ

Security strikes many as onerous but it is in place for a reason: terrorists do plan and execute attacks.

Security strikes many as onerous but it is in place for a reason: terrorists do plan and execute attacks.

As someone who worked in security intelligence in Canada for 32 years I got used to security. Still, I did see significant changes in how security changed over the decades. When I started at CSE – Communications Security Establishment, Canada’s SIGINT agency – in 1983 the staff at the guard post was fairly lax. I’ll never forget ‘Art’, the commissionaire who would greet me every morning with ‘Hey Phil, how’s it hanging?’

As the years passed security got tougher. There was an especially significant shift after 9/11. Everyone has experienced this increase at airports: flying stopped being ‘fun’ a long time ago.

Tilley Building.JPG
The beloved Sir Leonard Tilley Building, the original CSE HQ (Photo: By P199 – Own work, Public Domain)
Some assailants are successful

As much as security is seen as a pain in the ass it is there for a reason. On occasion important or sensitive venues are attacked by armed assailants: some are successful. We in Canada will never forget the attempt to breach the Centre Block of Parliament by Islamist terrorist Michael Zehaf-Bibeau on October 22, 2014, minutes after he had killed Corporal Nathan Cirillo, who was standing honour guard at the National War Memorial.

Two decades prior to this attempted penetration, on January 25, 1993, a gunman named Aimal Kasi used an AK-47 assault rifle to fire into cars waiting in the two left turn lanes at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, killing two employees. Somewhat surprisingly the shooter escaped, flew back to his native Pakistan, was smuggled by his family into Afghanistan and was not captured by the US until 1997. He was put on trial, acknowledged his role in the attack but pleaded not guilty. He was convicted by a jury and executed by lethal injection at a Virginia State Penitentiary on November 14, 2002.

The new normal

Kasi’s motive was apparently linked to US attacks on Iraq, Israeli killings of Palestinians, and CIA involvement in Muslim countries. This is a very common rationale offered by Islamist extremists.

So while most of us really do not like the inconvenience of security checkpoints it is there for a reason. This is the ‘new normal’.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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