U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Media figures, politicians among alleged targets of Coast Guard officer indicted for firearm and drug possession

Incident Details

U.S. Attorney's Office Maryland/Handout via REUTERS

A cache of guns and ammunition was uncovered in February by U.S. federal investigators in the home of U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant Christopher Paul Hasson in Silver Spring, Maryland.

— U.S. Attorney's Office Maryland/Handout via REUTERS
January 31, 2020 - Update

Former Coast Guard officer sentenced to 13 years in jail for planned attack that included media

A self-described white nationalist and former Coast Guard lieutenant was sentenced to more than 13 years in jail on Jan. 31, 2020, on federal gun and drug charges, according to The New York Times.

Christopher Paul Hasson was arrested in February 2019 following a search warrant on his Silver Spring, Maryland, home where law enforcement seized firearms, silencers, opioids and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition. Officers also found a list of potential targets, which included journalists and politicians. Suspicious activity on Hasson’s work computer had alerted the authorities.

He pleaded guilty to four federal charges, including possession of unregistered silencers, possession of firearms by a user of a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance on Oct. 3, and has been detained since his arrest.

February 15, 2019

A Coast Guard officer was indicted by a grand jury on Feb. 27, 2019, following a search of his apartment that uncovered a cache of weapons and a hit list of “traitors” that he intended to attack, including prominent politicians and media figures.

Federal authorities said that Christopher Paul Hasson, a Coast Guard lieutenant who has served for more than two decades, was taken into custody at work on Feb. 15. A computer program used to identify insider threats flagged suspicious activity on his work computer last fall, Lieutenant Commander Scott McBride, a service spokesman, told the Baltimore Sun.

McBride said that Hasson was arrested once Federal Bureau of Investigation and Coast Guard investigators were “confident in the strength of the evidence supporting the criminal complaint and warrant,” The Sun reported.

Law enforcement officers executed a search warrant on his basement apartment in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Silver Spring, Maryland, and seized 15 firearms, two silencers, over 100 pills of the opioid painkiller tramadol, and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition. Officers also found a spreadsheet listing potential targets, including MSNBC’s Chris Hayes and Joe Scarborough and CNN’s Don Lemon, Chris Cuomo and Van Jones.

Prosecutors say Hasson used his government computer to plot an assault, researching potential locations to target politicians and studying the writings of domestic terrorists including the Unabomber and the Virginia Tech shooter, The Washington Post reported.

In documents recovered from Hasson’s computer, he described himself as a “long time White Nationalist.” The Post reported that according to court documents, Hasson called for “focused violence” to “establish a white homeland.”

“The sheer number and force of the weapons recovered from Mr. Hasson’s residence in this case, coupled with the disturbing nature of his writing, appear to reflect a very significant threat to the safety of our community,” Robert Hur, U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland, told The Sun, “particularly given the position of trust that Mr. Hasson held with the United States government.”

A grand jury indicted Hasson on Feb. 27 on charges of illegal possession of firearm silencers, possession of firearms by a drug addict and unlawful user, and possession of a controlled substance. His court hearing has not yet been scheduled, but Hasson has been detained since his arrest on Feb. 15.

Prosecutors told The Post that Hasson could face up to 31 years in prison if convicted: 10 years for each of the weapons charges and one year for the possession of tramadol.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].