White House National Security Official Cleared of Gun Charge

Counterterror specialist faced death threats

Dr. Sebastian Gorka
Dr. Sebastian Gorka
• February 3, 2017 12:41 pm


A White House national security official who was cleared Friday of a charge of carrying an unloaded gun at an airport had faced death threats that were investigated by the FBI.

Sebastian Gorka, a former Marine Corps University counterterrorism specialist who recently joined the White House staff, had the misdemeanor gun charge dropped during a brief court proceeding at Arlington County Circuit Court.

The firearm charge stemmed from an incident at Reagan National Airport Jan. 31, 2015, when Gorka was traveling at the request of the Pentagon to the Special Operations Command to give troops a briefing on the Islamic State terror group.

From his Virginia home, he had mistakenly picked up a carry-on bag used recently at a gun range and learned the bag contained an unloaded handgun during airport security screening.

The gun was detected by TSA screeners and confiscated. Gorka, after showing his Defense Department identification, was permitted to board his plane for the flight to Tampa, Fla.

Last August, as part of a court arrangement, Gorka was fined $150 and a judge ruled the charges would be dropped in six months if no further incidents took place.

According to people close to the case, Gorka and his family came under threats after the November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks.

The death threats included calls on both mobile and home phones at all hours, and were reported to local police and the FBI.

Gorka was told by the FBI to take the threats seriously and that the bureau was investigating.

"Although we cannot disclose the nature and extent of the Bureau's investigation, the Bureau takes these death threats very seriously and has been actively investigating the matter since learning of them," FBI counterterrorism agent Rafael Riviere told Gorka in a letter.

The death threats were later traced to the leftist radical hacker group Anonymous.

The threats prompted Gorka and his family to increase their personal security. His wife sought a concealed handgun permit and Gorka stepped up firearms training at a local gun range.

Gorka, whose title is deputy assistant to the president, did not appear during Friday's proceeding.

The charge was dismissed by Circuit Court Judge William Newman.

"The judge acknowledged that he had fulfilled all aspects of the suspended sentence and the Commonwealth's Attorney said they agreed to dismiss the charge," Gorka's attorney Christopher Oprison said, adding that the charges were dismissed, no sentence was imposed, and thus there was no conviction.

"Dr. Gorka made a mistake. He started carrying a licensed, concealed weapon after he got death threats against his family," Oprison said in a meeting with reporters after the hearing.

"He regrets that mistake. Dr. Gorka wants to put this matter behind him and get back to the very important national security work he's doing," Oprison said.

Published under: White House