Hundreds of Oath Keepers have worked for DHS in recent years: report

Hundreds of Oath Keepers have worked for DHS in recent years: report
Members of the Oath Keepers at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017, Wikimedia Commons

Hundreds of Oath Keepers said they are or were employed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, a report published Monday found—a revelation that comes about two weeks after two leaders of the far-right militia were convicted of seditious conspiracy in connection with the January 6 insurrection.

In a joint investigation with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) found that more than 300 people on a leaked Oath Keepers membership list described themselves as current or former employees of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agencies including the Border Patrol, Coast Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Secret Service.

Experts voiced alarm over far-right extremists—who according to DHS pose the greatest domestic terrorism threat—working at a federal agency responsible for combating extremism.

"One active law enforcement official joining a militia group is one too many," Mike German, a former undercover FBI agent who has infiltrated white supremacist and far-right extremist groups, told POGO. "This probably represents that the tip of the iceberg as far as federal law enforcement officers that have been involved in or supported the activities of far-right, militant groups like the Oath Keepers."

According to the report:

Despite its rhetoric opposing government oppression, [Oath Keepers] is seen by many as hostile to civil liberties and rights. It has deployed armed groups in response to protests against police brutality against Black people, such as in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014 and 2015 and at Black Lives Matter protests in 2020. Many protesters and observers saw the Oath Keepers presence as intimidating and in opposition to calls for police accountability. Several members have left the group because they felt it was too extreme, according to several on the leaked list contacted by OCCRP and POGO. At least one prominent ex-member has decried racism within its ranks, even though the group's bylaws bar members from “discrimination, violence, or hatred toward any person based upon their race, nationality, creed, or color.

The new report follows the November 29 conviction of two Oath Keepers—founder Stewart Rhodes and Florida chapter leader Kelly Meggs—on seditious conspiracy charges for their roles in the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump and his "Big Lie" that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

"It's men like this on the inside who can and do provide information to expose what's going on," Rhodes once wrote about infiltrating government agencies.

Rhodes also boasted that "now we can add a DHS patch to our display of patches that shows that there are Oath Keepers among them. That ought to get a few panties in a wad. Good fun!"

Previous reports have detailed infiltration by right-wing extremists and white supremacists of the U.S. military and law enforcement agencies.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who chairs both the House Homeland Security Committee and the congressional panel investigating the January 6 attack, responded to the new report by saying that "extremism within our government is always alarming, but even more so in a department with a law enforcement and national security nexus like DHS."

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