The Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism examined leaked Oath Keepers membership lists and identified over 38,000 names, including over 100 individuals who are currently serving in the military, as well as over 370 people who hold positions such as police chiefs and sheriffs in law enforcement agencies.
The transparency collective, Distributed Denial of Secrets, released a database created from the membership details, which also revealed the identities of over 80 individuals who were either running for or had held public office by the beginning of August.
As per the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), there were 476 individuals who signed up with the Oath Keepers in Connecticut.
The breakdown was:
Politicians who have been chosen: 0.
Armed Forces: 5.
Emergency personnel: 5.
The total number of individuals in these occupations is 15.
The presence of extremists in the military and law enforcement raises fresh concerns about protecting the U.S and enforcing laws, especially when it comes to public servants associated with threats of violence against lawmakers and institutions during the 2020 election.
The report states that it was not sufficient enough to discourage individuals from signing up, and it is important to remember that the Oath Keepers have embraced extremism since their establishment. Even for those who claimed to have left the organization in 2014, it is important to note that the organization started employing more aggressive tactics.
According to the AP, some people on the contacted list were briefly members years ago, but they are no longer affiliated with the group. Being a dues-paying member does not necessarily indicate active membership or sharing the group’s ideology, as the appearance in the Keepers’ Oath database does not prove this.
In an email to the AP, Shawn Mobley, sheriff of Otero County, Colorado, stated, “Their perspectives are excessively radical for me.” Mobley distanced himself from the Oath Keepers years ago due to apprehensions regarding its participation in the confrontation with the federal government at Bundy Ranch in Bunkerville, Nevada, among other issues.
The Oath Keepers, established in 2009 by Stewart Rhodes, is a loosely organized conspiracy theory-driven group that recruits current and former military, police, and first responders. It promotes the belief that the federal government is attempting to deprive citizens of their civil liberties and portrays its followers as defenders against tyranny, as stated in the Constitution which calls for protection against all enemies, both foreign and domestic.
There was no plan to attack the Capitol, and they claim to be innocent, according to other Oath Keepers and Rhodes. Prosecutors have described the charges of seditious conspiracy against four other Oath Keepers and Rhodes, who are heading to trial this month, as a weeks-long plot to keep Donald Trump as President. More than a dozen people associated with the Oath Keepers have been charged in connection with the January 6th attack.
According to Rachel Carroll Rivas, who serves as the temporary deputy director of research for the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, the organization has faced challenges in retaining its members following the events of January 6th and the subsequent arrest of Rhodes. The Oath Keepers has experienced rapid growth alongside the larger anti-government movement, utilizing online platforms to disseminate their ideology throughout Barack Obama’s presidency.
Many individuals who desired to be regarded as respectable in their communities often associated themselves with the group, as they recognized the significant influence of the central figure’s removal, which was strongly linked to Rhodes and partly to the Keepers Oath.
“The association with January 6 was overwhelming for many of those individuals,” she stated.
Among the elected officials, Phil Jensen, a South Dakota State Representative who won the Republican primary in June for his reelection bid, appears on the membership lists. However, he never received any literature or attended any meetings, and his membership was never renewed. He only paid for one membership year in 2014, as told by AP.
Today, Jensen said that he no longer believes in the Oath Keepers group, which he joined because he felt compelled to defend the U.S. Constitution against domestic and foreign adversaries. He now claims that he doesn’t have sufficient information about the group.
“In 2014, they seemed to be a fairly stable conservative organization, I cannot comment on their current status,” he stated.
ADL discovered the identities of a minimum of 10 individuals currently serving as police chiefs, as well as 11 sheriffs. As per the statements provided by these law enforcement officials, all of them have completely severed any connections with the organization.
“I never pay anything for membership fees or dues,” said Mike Hollinshead, the sheriff of Elmore County, Idaho. “I never get any updates. I don’t even know what they’re posting.”
Hollinshead, a Republican, said that he wanted to learn more about the group and recalls by paying to access content on the Keepers’ Oath website, but he also mentioned that his level of involvement depended on how familiar he was with it when voters asked him about it several years ago while he was campaigning for sheriff.
Benjamin Boeke, the police chief in Oskaloosa, Iowa, remembered receiving emails from a while back and mentioned that he suspects a friend might have enrolled him. However, he clarified that he never made any payments to join and possesses no knowledge about the group.
“Awful in every manner,” expressed Eric Williams, the police superintendent in Idalou, Texas, who additionally indicated in an email that he hasn’t been affiliated or had any engagement with the Oath Keepers in more than a decade.
“I hope that this nation regains its path towards civility and tranquility in conversations among its citizens,” he expressed.