The 5 Worst Attacks on U.S. Bases

With Monday morning's shooting spree at the Washington, D.C. Navy Yard, the military installation on the Anacostia River joins the long list of U.S. bases that have been targeted by gunmen to deadly effect. With 13 people dead and at least 12 wounded, the shooting ranks as the deadliest such attack since the 2009 shooting at Ft. Hood, Texas.

Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old man from Fort Worth, Texas who served a nearly four-year stint as a Navy reservist, has been identified as the gunman. He was reportedly killed in a shootout with police after opening fire on staff at a Navy Yard building that houses some 3,000 people. Police are still searching for a person of interest in the case, and no motive has been discovered.

In recent decades, American servicemen -- and their counterparts in the intelligence and diplomatic community-- have repeatedly learned the hard way that even within the protective confines of their outposts, calamity can strike at any moment. Here are five of the most horrific attacks.

CIA headquarters, Virginia, 1993

On a January morning in 1993, a line of cars waited at a left-turn light to enter CIA headquarters at Langley when a man named Mir Aimal Kansi opened fire with an AK-47, killing a CIA doctor and a communications engineer and wounding three other employees. Walking down the line of cars trapped in the morning rush-hour, Kansi calmly fired into car windows, letting off some 70 rounds before fleeing the scene. Astoundingly, Kansi was able to flee the country before the FBI launched a nationwide manhunt, and was able to secure protection from his extended family in Quetta, Pakistan. While his motives remain shrouded in mystery, he is said to have told a friend prior to the attack that he was angered at American indifference toward the slaughter of Muslims in Bosnia and hoped to "make a big statement" by opening fire on the CIA, White House, or Israeli embassy. In 1997, the FBI and CIA finally apprehended Kansi during a covert operation in Pakistan, sending him back to the United States to face murder charges. Kansi was executed in November 2002.

Ft. Dix, New Jersey, 2001

Just a month after the attacks of 9/11, on Oct. 12, 2001, Specialist Loren Janeczko went on a shooting spree Ft. Dix, a base just south of Trenton, New Jersey, wounding two soldiers and two police officers as he led authorities on a wild chase. Janeczko, a military police reservist, had been relieved of duty pending a psychological evaluation, and officials described Janeczko as behaving erratically prior to the shooting. The reservist was being escorted off the base when he opened fire on his fellow soldiers using a .38-caliber revolver that he had brought onto the military installation. After a tussle with another soldier, whom he shot in the chest and soldier, Janeczko fled the base, speeding off in a stolen car and leading local police on a chase through the nearby township. Janeczko eventually led police to a farmers market, where he took an employee hostage and began firing at police. When Janeczko's gun briefly jammed, the hostage managed to escape, and the reservist was killed in the ensuing shootout.

Camp Pennsylvania, Kuwait, 2003

In the early morning hours of March 23, 2003, as his unit was preparing its push into Iraq from Kuwait, Sgt. Hasan Akbar rolled a couple grenades and fired shots into an officer's tent, killing Air Force Maj. Gregory Stone and Army Capt. Christopher Seifert. Akbar allegedly had a contentious relationship with his senior officers, who had repeatedly reprimanded him for subordination. With degrees in aeronautical and mechanical engineering from the University of California, Davis, Akbar was a smart, mid-level soldier whose career had reached an apparent dead end. With American troops about to roll into Iraq, he sought to halt the killing of fellow Muslims. He was sentenced to death in April 2005.

Camp Liberty, Iraq, 2009

With five combat deployments under his belt, Sgt. John Russell walked into the mental health clinic at Camp Liberty, Baghdad in May of 2009 looking for a way out of the Army. Depressed and worn out by combat, Russell approached an Army doctor about his problems but claims to have been harshly turned away. Denied a discharge, Russell returned to the same clinic later that day and gunned down five of his fellow soldiers. Russell had been so distressed after first leaving the clinic that day that his superior officer stripped him of his weapon, but Russell managed to strip another soldier of his M-16, which he used with brutal efficiency as he made his way through the tent. At Russell's court marshal, prosecutors told a different story and alleged that the veteran Army sergeant had been seeking a phony discharge in order to protect his benefits from the consequences of a sexual harassment charge. In May, a military judge rejected arguments that Russell had been deeply depressed prior to the shooting and was suffering from post-combat stress when he carried out the killings to which he pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to life without parole.

Ft. Hood, Texas, 2009

In November 2009, Maj. Nidal Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, opened fire on a crowd of soldiers in a medical deployment center at Ft. Hood. Using a laser sight, Hasan methodically made his way through the room, singling out service members and shooting several as they lay on the ground futilely covering their faces with their arms. Hasan killed 13 people and wounded another 42, expressing no remorse for his actions -- only regret that he had not been killed in the attack and achieved martyrdom. Radicalized at least in part by the American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in an American drone strike in 2011, Hasan saw the shooting as an act of jihad to protect his "Muslim brothers" from American soldiers about to deploy to Afghanistan. He was convicted and sentenced to death in August.

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Navy Yard Shooting Highlights Military's Security Flaws

Key details of the massacre at Washington's Navy Yard are just beginning to emerge, but the attack offers an unsettling reminder that many military facilities have soft underbellies when it comes to security.

Visitors to the Pentagon walk past guards armed with assault rifles and then pass through an outside building equipped with state-of-the-art metal detectors. Once they enter the Pentagon itself, the first thing they see is another booth manned by heavily armed security personnel.

The Pentagon is very much the exception, however. Washington, Maryland, and Virginia are dotted with dozens of military bases and Defense Department office buildings, and both types of facilities have significant potential security gaps, according to experts in the field.

At military posts like the sprawling Marine base in Quantico, Virginia, for instance, virtually anyone with one of the Common Access Cards (CAC) issued to troops, civilian Defense Department employees, and government contractors can enter the facility without being patted down or made to go through a metal detector.

Aaron Alexis, the primary suspect in the Navy Yard shootings, was a Navy information technology contractor, but it's not yet clear whether he had a CAC card of his own or made his way onto the Navy Yard by stealing one from a colleague. Figuring out how Alexis managed to enter the compound with at least one semiautomatic weapon is a top priority for the FBI agents leading the investigation into the shootings.

"The primary element of security is limiting access for people who don't have the need to be in a given place," said Ian Kanski, a former Marine Corps force protection officer who also worked as a private security contractor overseas. "We have an overabundance of universal access in the military. I've been out of the Marines since 2006. Should I still have a card that allows me to get onto almost any base?"

The hundreds of thousands of people with CAC cards aren't the only ones who have a relatively easy time making their way onto military posts. Many bases also allow veterans with valid military retiree ID cards to enter the posts so they can receive medical care at the facilities' hospitals and medical clinics, or shop at subsidized supermarkets.

Some bases search the veterans' cars, but the retired troops themselves are almost never patted down or asked to go through metal detectors. That would theoretically make it easy for a potential assailant to smuggle a firearm onto the base.

The Defense Department's office buildings in and around Washington present a different kind of risk. Unlike military posts, the buildings are generally protected by private security guards who are either unarmed or equipped solely with a sidearm. The entrances have metal detectors, but government employees or contractors with ID cards for the buildings are often allowed to bypass them, according to personnel who work at three of the DoD facilities.

Fred Burton, the vice president for intelligence at Stratfor and a former State Department counterterrorism agent, said human nature made it even harder to guard against insider attacks like the one that appears to have taken place at the Navy Yard. Alexis was a subcontractor for Hewlett-Packard, but it wasn't clear Monday if he had been working at the Navy Yard full-time or was simply an occasional visitor.

"Guards, even good ones, can have familiarity fatigue where they see the same guy every day and decide to just wave him through," he said.

Kanski said that preventing that type of complacency is the biggest challenge facing the security personnel charged with preventing people like Alexis from taking the lives of their friends and colleagues.

"Security is only as good as the human element implementing it," he said. "If that falls short, all the security measures in the world won't be enough to keep something like this from happening again."