A leaked Oath Keepers membership list contained more that 300 individuals who claimed to have worked in the Department of Homeland Security, with some listing themselves as current employees, according to a new report from the Project on Government Oversight (POGO).
The Oath Keepers are a far-right, anti-government group that purports to defend the Constitution and uphold the oath made by lawmakers and law enforcement to combat enemies both foreign and domestic who they view as posing a threat to constitutional order.
The membership list contains the names of thousands of individuals recruited by the paramilitary group between its founding in 2009 and 2015, and was obtained by the transparency group Denial of Secrets in September of last year. Rolling Stone previously identified individuals on the list who held public office and who served on the NRA’s board of directors, as well as nearly 40 memberships that had been created using government domain emails.
The lists demonstrate how the organization heavily courted members of the military, veterans, and law enforcement officials to bolster their ranks. According to POGO’s review, of the 309 listed members who reported having worked for various DHS agencies, including the Secret Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Border Patrol, and Coast Guard, more than 90 percent had retired.
But the new review identified several members who allegedly held active roles within DHS agencies at the time they joined the group. Organizations that are under the purview of the DHS are tasked with helping identify and combat threats of extremism and terrorism that pose risks to public security. One individual wrote that he was “currently a 20 year Special Agent with the United States Secret Service,” and had “been on President Clinton and President Bush’s protective detail.” Another since retired member wrote that he joined as a “whistleblowing Border Patrol Agent fighting against constitutional violations taking place at our inland border checkpoints.”
Oath Keepers founder and leader Stuart Rhodes indicated in a 2009 blog post that the recruitment of government and law enforcement insiders was a vital component for his vision of the organization. “Men like this on the inside who can and do provide information to expose what’s going on,” Rhodes wrote.
Rhodes was convicted last month on charges of seditious conspiracy in relation to the Oath Keepers participation in the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. The violent riot, which aimed to stop the certification of Electoral College votes that would make Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election official, was a clear indicator of the lengths domestic extremist groups are willing to go to in order to carry out their mission.
Government agencies are struggling to root out extremist ideologies from within their own ranks. A March report by the DHS found that the “department has significant gaps that have impeded its ability to comprehensively prevent, detect, and respond to potential threats related to domestic violent extremism within DHS.” The department went on to say that those shortfalls have likely “impacted DHS officials’ ability to adequately identify and address related threats.”