|Deputy Assistant to the President|
January 20, 2017
|Born||Sebastian Lukács Gorka
October 22, 1970
London, England, UK
|Education||University of London (BA)
Corvinus University (MA, PhD)
Sebastian Lukács Gorka (Hungarian: Gorka Sebestyén Lukács; born October 22, 1970) is a Hungarian and American military and intelligence analyst and member of the national security advisory staff. He currently serves as a deputy assistant to President Donald Trump. Gorka was born in the United Kingdom to Hungarian parents, lived in Hungary, from 1992 to 2008 and in 2012, became a naturalized American citizen.
Gorka has written for a variety of publications and is generally considered politically conservative. Gorka has been characterized as a fringe figure in academic and policy-making circles. Critics have challenged his academic credentials; his views on Islam and radicalization; and his ties to the Order of Vitéz.
Gorka was born in Hammersmith, London on 22 October 1970 to Zsuzsa Biro and Pál (Paul) Gorka. They had fled to the United Kingdom from Hungary after the failed 1956 uprising. He attended St Benedict's School in west London, and received a lower second-class honours (2:2) Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy and theology from Heythrop College, of the University of London. While at university, he joined the British Territorial Army, serving for three years in the 22 Intelligence Company of the Intelligence and Security Group (Volunteers), an interrogation unit with a NATO role specializing in Russian and other languages supporting 1 (BR) Corps until the latter was disbanded in 1992, at the end of the Cold War.
In 1992, he moved to Hungary, where he worked for the Hungarian Ministry of Defence while studying for a master's degree in international relations and diplomacy at the Budapest University of Economic Sciences and Public Administration, now known as the Corvinus University, which he completed in 1997. In 1997, he was a Partnership for Peace International research fellow at the NATO Defense College in Rome. Gorka was a Kokkalis Fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University during the 1998–1999 academic year.
After returning to Hungary, in 1998, Gorka served as an adviser to Viktor Orbán. In 2002, he entered into the PhD in political science at Corvinus University, completing his dissertation in 2007. Gorka is a naturalized American citizen.
Following the September 11 attacks, Gorka became a public figure in Hungary as a television counterterrorism expert. This led to his being asked in 2002 to serve as an official expert on the parliamentary investigatory committee created to uncover the Communist background of the new Hungarian Prime Minister Péter Medgyessy. Medgyessy had been an undercover officer in the Secret Police, the organization which had maintained the previous dictatorship and helped crush the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Gorka rejected Medgyessy's claims of having not spied on people when he was a secret policeman. Gorka failed to obtain the necessary security clearance from the Constitution Protection Office to serve on the committee, apparently because he was widely regarded as a spy working for British counterintelligence. Gorka defended himself against the charge by saying his service in the British army was merely as a uniformed member of its counterterrorist unit, tasked with assessing threats from groups such as the IRA.
In 2004, Gorka became an adjunct to the faculty of the new US initiative for the Program for Terrorism and Security Studies (PTSS), a Defense Department-funded program based in the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. At the same time Gorka became an adjunct to USSOCOM's Joint Special Operations University, MacDill Air Force Base. He and his family relocated to the United States in 2008. He was hired as administrative dean at the National Defense University, Fort McNair, Washington D.C. Two years later, he began to lecture part-time for the ASD(SOLIC)-funded Masters Program in Irregular Warfare and Counterterrorism as part of the Combating Terrorism Fellowship Program but remained in a largely administrative role. In 2014 Gorka assumed the privately-endowed Major General Horner Distinguished Chair of Military Theory at the Marine Corps University Foundation. In August 2016, he joined The Institute of World Politics, a private institution, on a full-time basis as Professor of Strategy and Irregular Warfare and Vice President for National Security Support. He is on the advisory board of the Council for Emerging National Security Affairs (CENSA).
Between 2009 and 2011 Gorka wrote for the Hudson Institute of New York (now Gatestone Institute). Between 2011 and 2013, Gorka was an adjunct faculty member at Georgetown University's McCourt School of Public Policy. From 2014 to 2016, Gorka was an editor for national security affairs for the Breitbart News Network, where he worked for Stephen K. Bannon.
In January 2017, Gorka assumed the position of deputy assistant to the president in the Trump administration. He was a member of a White House team known as the Strategic Initiatives Group, which was set up by Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner. According to an Associated Press report, by February 2017, Gorka did not have appropriate security clearance. Questions were raised as to what the precise roles and duties of Gorka were within the Trump administration.
Gorka has been characterized as a fringe figure in academic and policy-making circles. Business Insider has described Gorka as being "widely disdained within his own field," while a number of academics and policy-makers question Gorka's knowledge of foreign policy issues, his academic credentials and his professional behavior. Andrew Reynolds, political science professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, questioned the validity of Gorka's PhD, noting discrepancies between how doctorates are awarded and how Gorka's was awarded. Reynolds said that the evaluations of each referee on Gorka's PhD committee was "a page of generalized comments – completely at odds with the detailed substantive and methodological evaluations that I’ve seen at every Ph.D defence I’ve been on over the last twenty years." According to Reynolds, that two of the three referees only had BA degrees, and one of the referees had published with Gorka previously breached conventional academic practices. The only individual possessing a PhD on the committee was György Schöpflin, whom Reynolds described as "an extreme right wing Hungarian Member of the European Parliament who recently advocated putting pigs heads on a fence on the Hungarian border to keep out Muslims." The journal Terrorism and Political Violence has never used Gorka as a reviewer because, according to the associate editor, he "is not considered a terrorism expert by the academic or policy community.” Responding to his academic critics, Gorka stated that there was a "proxy war" going on and that others were attacking him as a way to attack President Trump.
Gorka has been defended by James Carafano, former US ambassador Alberto Fernandez, Ilan Berman, and Zuhdi Jasser. Congressman Robert Pittenger defended Gorka, stating that Gorka "is a friend and trusted adviser on efforts to combat radical Islamic terrorism." Retired Army Lt. Gen. Charles T. Cleveland said of Gorka that: "his instruction was crisp, relevant, and a useful part of their education on how to think about today’s threats, especially terrorism."
According to BuzzFeed News, Gorka was unable to obtain a security clearance to work in the Hungarian Parliament. The same article describes him as being viewed in Hungary as a peddler of snake oil and a self-promoter. 
Gorka's view on Islam and radicalization have drawn controversy. Gorka sees Islamic terrorism as essentially ideologically motivated and rooted in a totalitarian religious mindset. In his view, violence is an instrinic part of Islam. He rejects other scholars' assessment that poverty, poor governance and war contribute to Islamic militancy. He vigourously backs President Trump's executive order which temporarily banned immigration to the United States from seven predominantly Muslim countries, and Trump's usage of the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism." According to the Washington Post, "Most counterterrorism experts dismiss Gorka’s ideas as a dangerous oversimplification that could alienate Muslim allies and boost support for terrorist groups... Religious scholars are equally withering." According to the Washington Post, Gorka’s views “signal a radical break” from the discourse “defined by the city’s Republican and Democratic foreign policy elite” of the last 16 years. For Gorka, "the terrorism problem has nothing to do with repression, alienation, torture, tribalism, poverty, or America’s foreign policy blunders and a messy and complex Middle East", but is rooted in Islam and the teachings of the Koran.
Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon take issue with Gorka’s claim that the Obama and Bush 43 administrations failed to understand the importance of ideology and they give a number of examples of how government analysts “going back nearly 40 years have examined ideology's role in Islamic militancy.” They argue that by jettisoning the role of “poor governance, repression, poverty and war” and failing to realize that “religious doctrine is not their sole or even primary driver,” Gorka has adopted an Islamophobic approach of finding “Islam as the problem, rather than the uses to which Islam has been put by violent extremists.” Others have noted a distinction in Gorka's views about Islam: Richard Miniter attests that Gorka "has been emphatic that the enemy is not Islam" and that "there is an ideological war among Muslims, a small fraction of which side with al Qaeda and its ilk against the vast majority of Muslims, who are among the terrorists’ most numerous victims." Andrew C. McCarthy says "The notion that he is racist, 'Islamophobic' (as opposed to anti-jihadist), or uninformed is absurd." Andrew C. McCarthy, a columnist for the National Review, describes Gorka’s Defeating Jihad as a good "primer on the Islamic doctrinal and scholarly roots of jihadist terror," particularly "takfiri jihad" targeting fellow Muslims. Gorka believes that the jihadi threat is ideological that has to be addressed in manners similar to past totalitarian ideologies of the Cold War. According to him, it is crucial to empower Muslim allies, as this is a battle within Islam.
The Order of Vitéz was a Hungarian order of merit founded in 1920 to reward heroic soldiers. It entitled the bearer to the title vitéz, as well as a grant of land. The title was inheritable, passing from father to son. Like all such Orders in Hungary, it was disbanded at the end of World War II. Since then a number of private associations have worked to restore the Order. The most notable of these is the Historical Order of Vitéz. This Order granted Gorka's father, Paul Gorka, their title in 1979 in recognition of his resistance to the post-war Soviet occupation of Hungary.
Paul Gorka's memoir Budapest elárulva ("Budapest betrayed") identifies him on its cover as "v. Gorka Pál", where the "v" is an abbreviation for the title vitéz. Sebastian Gorka has adopted the title in this way in a number of his publications, notably his PhD thesis and his writings for the Gatestone Institute. He also used the title in his June 2011 testimony before the House Armed Services Committee.
In 2017 Gorka appeared on Fox News on the evening of the U.S. presidential inauguration wearing a badge, tunic, and ring associated with Order of Vitéz. According to some sources, Gorka was a member of the Order of Vitéz by inheritance, a group the US State Department lists as a Nazi-linked group. This has given rise to claims that Gorka himself carries sympathy for the Nazis.
His father, Paul Gorka, was never a member of this Order and received a "Vitéz" (literally: "Valiant") medal from Hungarian exiles "for his resistance to dictatorship" in 1979. Gorka himself stated that he wears this medal in remembrance of his father, who was awarded the decoration for his efforts to create an anti-Communist, pro-democracy organization at the university he attended in Hungary. Robert Kerepeszki, Hungarian expert of the Order of Vitéz, has confirmed that there were ruptures in the organization of the Order of Vitéz on the question of Nazism during the war, many of them died fighting against Hungarian Nazis, and Gorka's medal had nothing to do with the war period, but was awarded "for his resistance to dictatorship." The tunic that Gorka wore was a traditional Hungarian jacket, known as a bocskai.[note 1]
Some people who have worked with Sebastian Gorka have said that he is not anti-semitic. In February 2017 congressman Trent Franks called him "the staunchest friend of Israel and the Jewish people." Nathan Guttman responded in The Forward to Franks' remarks, stating that he "did not offer any evidence to refute the reports on Gorka’s ties with the Hungarian groups". Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute has also denied that Gorka was anti-Semitic. Tibor Navracsics, an EU commissioner, member of the Hungarian Fidesz political party and former colleague of Gorka, also defended Gorka, stating that Gorka "has spent his life battling fascists and anti-Semites of all sorts" Writing in the Jerusalem Post, Bruce Abramson and Jeff Ballabon argue that the Forward's articles are partisan attacks with no merit. Sarah N. Stern, of the Endowment for Middle East Truth says Gorka is not antisemitic. Peter Beinart, writing in the Forward, says the evidence doesn't support the magazine's charges of antisemitism.
On March 16, 2017, leaders of one of two successor organisations of the Vitézi Rend stated that Gorka was an official member of the Historical Vitézi Rend faction, to which he is said to have taken a lifelong oath of loyalty. Gorka denied the allegations. The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, the National Jewish Democratic Council, and the Interfaith Alliance have called for Gorka's resignation over his ties to Hungarian far-right groups. The Anti-Defamation League has asked Gorka to disavow the Hungarian far-right groups that he has been associated with. Democratic Senators Ben Cardin, Dick Durbin and Richard Blumenthal sent a letter to the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security requesting that the DHS look into whether Gorka "illegally procured his citizenship" by omitting membership in Historical Vitézi Rend, which could have been grounds for keeping him out of the country.
In a 2007 video, Gorka declared his support for the Magyar Gárda (Hungarian Guard), a paramilitary group widely described as neo-fascist. The Guard was later banned by the European Court of Human Rights as a threat to racial minorities.
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