By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Senior National
Hundreds of law enforcement officers, a host of elected officials, and more than 100 military personnel are members of the Oath Keepers, the far-right extremist group accused of playing a significant role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
The Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism researched more than 38,000 names on Oath Keepers membership lists, releasing its findings on Wednesday, Sept. 7.
The list included 370 individuals believed to still work in law enforcement, including sheriffs and police chiefs.
It includes more than 100 active military members and at least 80 individuals who either ran for or served in public office last month.
ADL officials said they pulled together membership information from a database published by the transparency collective Distributed Denial of Secrets.
“The Oath Keepers are a virulently anti-government, violent extremist group, whose members have been arrested in connection with a wide range of criminal activities, including seditious conspiracy and other charges related to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, and including various firearms violations, conspiracy to impede federal workers, possession of explosives and threatening public officials,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a news release.
“To know that members of this group have permeated key aspects of civil society should serve as a wake-up call to people of all political persuasions that extremists hell-bent on destroying our democratic norms are making in-roads across the country.”
The Associated Press cautioned that appearing in the Oath Keepers’ database doesn’t mean an individual was active in the group or shared its ideology.
The news service contacted some on the list who described themselves as having a brief membership years ago but no longer affiliated with the Oath Keepers.
Some told the AP that they were never dues-paying members.
“Their views are far too extreme for me,” said Shawn Mobley, sheriff of Otero County, Colorado.
Mobley told the AP that he distanced himself from the Oath Keepers years ago over concerns about its involvement in the standoff against the federal government at the Bundy Ranch in Bunkerville, Nevada, among other things.
“The Oath Keepers, founded in 2009 by Stewart Rhodes, is a loosely organized conspiracy theory-fueled group that recruits current and former military, police and first responders,” The AP reported.
“It asks its members to vow to defend the Constitution ‘against all enemies, foreign and domestic,’ promotes the belief that the federal government is out to strip citizens of their civil liberties and paints its followers as defenders against tyranny.”
More than two dozen people associated with the Oath Keepers – including Rhodes – have been charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack.
Among the key findings in the ADL report:
• As of Aug. 8, the Center on Extremism has identified 373 individuals we believe are currently serving in law enforcement agencies across the country. This number is far higher than any previously identified number of extremists within law enforcement; for comparison, an ADL report released in 2021 identified 76 cases – 73 of which were unique – in which extremists were found serving in law enforcement.
• ADL identified individuals it believes are currently holding senior leadership positions within their respective agencies, including at least ten chiefs of police and eleven sheriffs.
• In addition to those actively serving in law enforcement, ADL identified more than 1,000 individuals who it believes previously served in law enforcement.
• ADL’s Center on Extremism analysis identified 81 individuals across the country currently holding or running for public office in 2022. These individuals run the gamut from local office – mayors, town councilmembers, and school board members – to state representatives and senators.
• Before this year’s primary season, ADL confirmed 42 Oath Keepers-aligned individuals who were up for election for public office in 2022, consisting of 22 incumbents and 20 candidates.
• As of August 8, 21 of these candidates have advanced to the general election either by winning their primary or having their primary cancelled. 13 of the candidates have lost their primary race. Even more concerning, four individuals have already won their general election.
• ADL identified 117 individuals it believes currently serve in the U.S. military, 11 people who serve in the reserves, and 31 individuals who hold civilian positions or are military contractors.
• In addition to those currently serving in the military, ADL estimates that one in ten individuals in the database previously served in the military in some capacity.
• The ADL identified 86 individuals it believes are active firefighters – including several fire chiefs – as well as 19 active paramedics and 31 emergency technicians in the database. In addition, the Oath Keepers have used disaster relief to garner positive attention for their group, and these professionals have skills that can bolster these efforts.
According to the report, the Oath Keepers did not just draw supporters from the professions they explicitly targeted.
Members include religious figures, teachers, civil engineers, and government employees.
Some individuals reported holding top secret clearances or having jobs that gave them access to critical infrastructure such as nuclear facilities.