In the wake of the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol, significant public and legal scrutiny was focused on the Oath Keepers, a large anti-government extremist group associated with the militia movement. Despite the group’s national profile, few specifics were known about its membership.
That changed in September 2021, when the non-profit journalist collective Distributed Denial of Secrets (DDoSecrets) published – among other data – more than 38,000 names on the Oath Keepers’ membership list. The membership data provides unique insight into the people who signed up and paid dues to the organization over the years and helps illuminate the extent to which the group’s anti-government ideology has permeated mainstream society.
Traditionally, militias have largely eschewed engaging with civic institutions on an organizational level. However, in some ways, the Oath Keepers’ tactics presaged a shift across the far right. The group places a focus on seeking institutional power by specifically targeting current and former law enforcement, military, and emergency services personnel with their messaging and recruitment in the hopes that they will be able to utilize these unique skillsets to advance their cause and that the presence of group members in these institutions will obstruct any order, law, or action that the organization deems unconstitutional.
A review of these membership lists revealed that while there are many members of law enforcement, military, and first responders in the membership rolls, there are also elected officials, government employees, teachers, religious figures, and businessmen, among others. It's important to acknowledge that some individuals in the Oath Keepers database may have initially joined because they were sold a watered-down version of the group, and some may have disavowed the group since signing up. That said, the range of individuals represented in the Oath Keepers leak shows the extent to which this extremist ideology has gained acceptance. Even for those who claimed to have left the organization when it began to employ more aggressive tactics in 2014, it is important to remember that the Oath Keepers have espoused extremism since their founding, and this fact was not enough to deter these individuals from signing up.
This report uses the leaked data to highlight the number of one-time and/or current Oath Keepers members or supporters in key areas: elected office, law enforcement and the military, and in the general population. Though there is no evidence that the Oath Keepers pursued any plans to “infiltrate” these institutions, the fact that they succeeded in recruiting numerous individuals within these domains to join or support their organization means their extremist ideology has a foothold in mainstream seats of power.
The Oath Keepers
The Oath Keepers was founded in April 2009 by Stewart Rhodes, and from its inception it displayed an extremist anti-government ideology. Much like the rest of the anti-government militia movement, the group’s members believe that a shadowy conspiracy — often referred to as the New World Order — has co-opted the federal government to strip Americans of their rights and ultimately enslave them.
However, the Oath Keepers differentiate themselves from other groups in the militia movement by explicitly targeting current and former members of the military, law enforcement, and emergency services personnel with their recruitment and messaging. Oath Keepers explain that if the federal government issues an unconstitutional order — often illustrated by extreme hypotheticals such as mass gun confiscation or illegally mass detaining Americans in concentration camps — it is up to the military and law enforcement to enforce these edicts. For this reason, the group tries to reach service members first, so they are prepared to refuse and resist such orders. Though Oath Keepers frame their objections in the language of constitutionality, these interpretations are typically not grounded in any legal basis and are warped by conspiratorial thinking; as a result, their objections typically boil down to simple opposition to particular laws or regulations.
Members of the Oath Keepers have been arrested in connection with a wide range of criminal activities, including various firearms violations, conspiracy to impede federal workers, possession of explosives, and threatening public officials. The Oath Keepers first garnered national attention in 2014 and 2015 for their armed participation in disputes between ranchers or miners and federal agencies, most famously in Nevada where they joined the 2014 Bundy Ranch armed standoff against the Bureau of Land Management. Armed Oath Keepers also participated in a 2015 standoff in Lincoln, Montana, between the White Hope Mine and the U.S. Forest Service, as well as a 2015 armed confrontation in Josephine County, Oregon, between the Sugar Pine Mine and the Bureau of Land Management.
Most recently and notably, at least 26 Oath Keepers have been arrested in connection with the January 6 Capitol attack. Of these, twelve – including founder Stewart Rhodes – have been charged with seditious conspiracy for their role in the insurrection. The indictment alleges Rhodes conspired with co-defendants and others to oppose, by force, the execution of the laws enabling the transfer of presidential power. While some Oath Keepers have pleaded guilty to various charges – including three who admitted to sedition – the rest are still awaiting trial.
On September 27, 2021, DDoSecrets uploaded a cache of data allegedly linked to the Oath Keepers that included chat records from the group’s private chatroom hosted on Rocketchat from June 22 to June 26, 2020, and February 5 to September 19, 2021; emails from January 13 to September 19, 2021; and purported membership information for more than 38,000 individuals.
The database includes full names, addresses, e-mail addresses, phone numbers, membership type, and a space for comments (frequently left empty). To identify those individuals in the Oath Keepers database who hold sensitive positions, ADL Center on Extremism (COE) researchers compared the names found in the data with information found in public databases, media reports, and social media platforms.
Important: an individual’s inclusion in the Oath Keeper database is not proof that they were or are still an Oath Keeper, that they hold or held all or some of Oath Keeper ideology or viewpoints, or that they ever actively participated in Oath Keeper activities. When reviewing this information, you should bear in mind the possibility that the individual misunderstood the nature of the Oath Keepers. Before taking any action based on this information, an individualized assessment of the individual must take place.
Though Oath Keepers do not explicitly target elected officials with their messaging and recruitment, a COE analysis identified 81 individuals across the country who, as of August 8, 2022, are currently holding or running for public office in 2022. These individuals run the gamut from local office – mayors, town councilmembers, school board members – to state representatives and senators.
This number is deeply concerning. When anti-government extremists hold elected office, it creates a dangerous opportunity for them to use their power to advance their ideology in ways that can dramatically affect their constituents and undermine democracy. Moreover, elected officials hold influential and trusted positions within society; as such, their support for anti-government extremist movements and ideologies lends a veneer of legitimacy that can be used to further advance their agendas. Finally, their presence within these institutions can inhibit the proper functioning of government, negatively impacting their constituents.
Most of the individuals in the database who hold public office do so at the local level, including through positions on town councils, in sheriff’s offices, on school boards, and in mayoral offices. This is unsurprising, given that these races and candidates typically attract lower levels of public scrutiny. Some of these individuals even felt comfortable enough to identify themselves as elected officials in the membership list:
- Sanders County Sheriff Thomas E. Rummel identified himself as a sheriff, writing, “Currently serving as the Sanders County Sheriff, Sanders County Montana.” Rummel is still the sheriff in Sanders County.
- Joe Wright, a constable in Collin County, Texas, signed up for the organization before taking office, writing, “Constable elect for Collin County Pct. 4 Constable’s office. Currently a Collin County deputy sheriff [sic].” Wright remains Constable in Collin County.
- Bradley Rogers, who currently serves as a county commissioner in Elkhart County, Indiana, listed that he was the “Elected Sheriff of Elkhart County, Indiana.” Rogers previously served as Sheriff in Elkhart County.
There are some notable exceptions. While COE did not find anyone currently holding office at the federal level, there were several individuals on the membership list who hold state positions, including:
- Arizona State Senator Wendy Rogers, a self-proclaimed member of the Oath Keepers, who has remained a supporter despite the group’s alleged participation in the January 6 attack. In March 2021 – just two months after the insurrection – Rogers met with the Cottonwood Oath Keepers and praised the group for their “dedication to our Constitution and to our country.” According to the database, she signed up for an annual membership.
- South Dakota State Representative Phil Jensen, who identified himself as state senator (a previous position he held) in the database itself and provided his state email address to the organization. Following the data leak, Jensen spoke with Rolling Stone and while he claims he was not active within the group, the magazine characterizes his stance as seeing “nothing to be ashamed of in the affiliation” and “believe[ing] the group has been unfairly maligned.” Jensen is listed as having purchased an annual membership. Despite his association with the Oath Keepers, Jensen won his primary on June 7, 2022 and will be a candidate in the November 2022 general election.
- New Hampshire State Senator Bob Giuda, who signed up for an annual membership with the organization, though he claimed to have left the group following its participation in the 2014 Bundy ranch armed standoff. Said Giuda: “I left that group years ago. I wasn’t comfortable with the way the group was being run.” While he rejected the leadership style, he said nothing about its ideology. Giuda is not running for reelection in 2022.
- Idaho State Representative Chad Christensen, who appears in the Oath Keepers database as having a “Liberty Tree” membership, a $10 a month membership that gives the user discounts to Oath Keepers merchandise. His listing in the database is unsurprising given that he named himself as an Oath Keeper in his official legislative bio. Christensen lost his primary race in 2022.
- Alaska State Representative David Eastman, who attended the rally in Washington, D.C., prior to the January 6 Capitol attack, is listed as a lifetime member of the group. Though Eastman claimed that he joined the group more than a dozen years ago and never attended a meeting, he also asserted that the indictments against Rhodes and the other Oath Keepers are “politically driven.”
Though none of these elected officials explicitly offered to use the powers of their office to aid the Oath Keepers, their support for the Oath Keepers – demonstrated by their willingness to sign up for the group – raises questions about how the group’s ideology may influence their thinking and how they wield the power afforded to them.
That said, some elected officials did offer to help the Oath Keepers in other ways:
- A county commissioner in Nevada wrote, “Trainer I could spread message / application as I travel to teach outdoor ethics [sic].”
- One town justice in New York state wrote, “I am currently traveling our nation…educating people on the constitution and our founding fathers idea of gov. We meet alot [sic] of vets and police who feel the way we do. I’ll pass the word [sic].”
- A Wisconsin town councilperson highlighted her experience in the following areas: “Electronic controls troubleshoot and repair, municipal court clerking, city government, surgical assistance (dental and medical), public works infrastructure (engineering and street division), project management.”
- A county board member in Illinois also offered up a variety of skills: “Military training, knowledge and enforcement of the UCMJ. Knowledge and enforcement of State and local laws. Graduate of FBI basic SWAT, and FBI advanced SWAT schools. Graduate of Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command.”
While many of the elected officials identified on the membership list are not up for re-election this year, there are some whose names are on the ballot in 2022. Prior to this year’s primary season, COE identified 42 individuals who were up for election across all levels of government in 2022, consisting of 22 incumbents and 20 candidates. With each passing primary, these numbers have been adjusted. As of August 8, 2022, of the 42 candidates COE identified, 21 had advanced to the general election either by winning their primary or having their primary cancelled. 13 of the candidates, most notably Idaho State Representative Chad Christensen, lost their primary race. Of particular concern, four individuals have already won their general election.
Law Enforcement and Military
According to research by COE, the Oath Keepers’ efforts to recruit current or former members of law enforcement and military members has had some success. As detailed in previous ADL reports discussing the issue of extremists within law enforcement and the military, the presence of anti-government extremists like the Oath Keepers within these institutions creates several challenges and conflicts of interest that can impede how these entities function.
First and foremost, the presence of anti-government extremists in these institutions represents a potential security threat. Members of law enforcement and the military are frequently privy to sensitive or classified information, and it is possible that members affiliated with groups like the Oath Keepers could use this information to advance their anti-government agenda or even disrupt an investigation. It is also possible that members could steal police or military equipment, either to arm themselves or to sell. Furthermore, their presence can diminish institutional effectiveness by weakening morale, alienating coworkers, and potentially affecting personnel retention – all of which can undermine each institution’s credibility.
Law enforcement and military personnel also receive specialized training in a variety of areas that enable them to effectively deploy force. These same skills could be used to advance violent activity engaged in by the Oath Keepers, such as armed standoffs with the federal government or violent attacks on a seat of government.
Law enforcement and the military also face problems unique to each institution. A law enforcement officer who engages in this type of extremist activity clearly violates their oath of office. We believe that they are behaving in a way that directly contradicts their oaths to serve and protect their communities, thereby undermining community safety. In many cases, they may also be in violation of their department’s codes of conduct or procedures. Other detrimental impacts include the real potential for an erosion of trust between law enforcement and the public – and between officers individually – which ultimately affects the public and members alike. As for the military, the presence of anti-government extremists could have a detrimental effect on the success of a mission or could become fodder for foreign propagandists to undermine global opinion of the United States.
As of August 8, 2022, COE has identified 373 individuals in the Oath Keepers database who 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, a COE report released in 2021 identified 76 cases – 73 of which were unique – in which extremists were found to be serving in law enforcement.
Among these 373 law enforcement employees, COE identified individuals holding a variety of positions, including officers, detectives, sergeants, lieutenants and captains. However, COE also identified individuals who we believe are currently holding senior leadership positions within their respective agencies, including at least ten chiefs of police and eleven sheriffs.
In written comments provided to the Oath Keepers, some of those with ties to police agencies – including some who self-identified as members of law enforcement – offered to use their access or training to aid the Oath Keepers in a variety of ways. For example, some individuals offered to use their position to introduce fellow members of law enforcement to Oath Keepers ideology to ultimately recruit them:
- Major Eben Bratcher, who works for the Yuma County Sheriff’s Office, wrote, “I am currently the Patrol Bureau Commander for the Yuma County Sheriff’s Office in Arizona. We have 85 sworn officers and Border Mexico on the South and California on the West. I’ve already introduced your web site to dozens of my Deputies.” Bratcher claims he left the organization several years ago because of the number of emails it sent.
- Lieutenant Philip Mercurio, who works for the city of Pittsburgh’s public safety department, described himself as a firearms instructor who would “spread the word to my students.” In the wake of the Oath Keepers data leak, the lieutenant was reassigned to an administrative position pending an investigation.
- A member of the Idalou Police Department in Texas wrote that he was “assisting and encouraging fellow officersw [sic] to keep their oath via presentations information.”
- A member of the Cookeville Police Department wrote in a comment: “Recruitment of local police officers.”
Others advertised their backgrounds and skillsets in the written comments, highlighting the numerous ways in which members of police agencies could be of use to the Oath Keepers:
- Anaheim Police Department Sergeant Michael Lynch wrote that he has “a wide variety of law enforcement experience, including undercover operations, surveillance and SWAT. I am also a member of the executive board for my police labor association.” Lynch claims that he did not renew his membership because there was no local chapter and he “didn’t get anything out of it.”
- A corrections officer in New York wrote, “As I am not sure what specific areas you are looking for, I am not sue [sic] how to answer. However, I have firearms training, first responder, CPR/AED, and the usual training g [sic] associated with being a Corrections Officer.”
- A sergeant for the Maumee Police Division in Ohio told the group that he is “interested in local rallies. As far as talents, I am a trained gunsmith and certifed [sic] armored on a few weapon systems. But I also have computer skills for above average web applications.”
- A Missouri-based Corrections Officer wrote, “Certified Corrections Officer through the state of Missouri.Knowledge [sic] of ham radio along with other and most frequency ranges. Knowledge of programing radio equipment for Communications.”
- A correctional officer for the Iowa Department of Corrections wrote, “I have been a IDOC firearms instructor for the last sixteen years.”
- A member of the Greenville Police Department in South Carolina wrote, “I am a certified firearms and patrol rifle instructor with the Greenville Police Department. I don’t have many talent [sic] but I do believe I have the skill of public speaking.”
Even if they did not offer a particular skill, some still offered to help the organization in nonspecific ways:
- One individual associated with the Department of Corrections in Michigan wrote, “I am interested in spreading the message in any way possible; electronic, grassroots, etc. I am a trained general/civil mediator and I work with youthful sexual offenders. For [sic] a local government agency. I don’t know if that would be helpful :-).”
- In Virginia, a deputy sheriff with the Chesterfield County Sheriff's Office wrote, “I'm not sure that I have any talents that aren't already available or really useful. Outside of the military, I'm a graphic designer (AAS - Visual Communications) and self-storage assistant. I've worked for education publishing, newspapers, magazines, etc., doing image creation, ad layouts, flyers, brochures, design, and so forth…I am happy to assist with whatever I can though, whether it's with people, events, promotions, whatever.”
- A former member of the Gilbert Police Department in Arizona wrote, “NOT SURE WHAT YOU’RE LOOKING FOR. ALWAYS WILLING TO HELP IF I CAN. RECON MARINE, POLICE TRAINER / SUPERVISOR.” (emphasis in original text)
In addition to those actively serving in law enforcement, COE identified an estimated 1,100 individuals who previously served in law enforcement. While these individuals no longer have access to police resources, or are now deceased, some may still have connections to current law enforcement, and/or may have received training that could be deployed to advance the Oath Keepers’ extremist agenda.
In its review of the Oath Keepers database, COE identified 117 individuals who we believe currently serve in the U.S. military, an additional 11 people who serve in the reserves, and 31 individuals who hold civilian positions or are military contractors. Separately, many individuals provided the group with military base addresses, entered military email addresses, or identified themselves on social media as being service members; however, COE could not locate additional information to confirm with high confidence that these individuals remain active, so they were not included in the overall total. The individuals COE identified hold a variety of combat, support, and civilian positions, including as servicepeople in each military branch, as civil engineers, mechanics, or military police, and as recruiters. Individuals at various ranks signed up for the Oath Keepers, including privates, sergeants, lieutenants, captains, and majors, among others.
In addition to those currently serving in the military, COE estimates that one in ten of the individuals in the database served in the military in some prior capacity. While many of these individuals are now deceased, a significant number likely have training that could be applied to a potential plot or attack. The January 6th insurrection demonstrated how effective veterans can be at training and organizing, as several of the arrested Oath Keepers were former military personnel.
In many of the comments, members currently or previously associated with the military expressed strong support for Oath Keepers’ beliefs. These comments are deeply disturbing – many embrace conspiracy theories, demonstrate a disregard for the chain of command, and/or reference or allude to violence.
- An individual who self-identified as a member of the Army, wrote, “First and foremost I believe the oath i [sic] took when i [sic] enlisted in the Army should always be held as a high standard. The constitution supercedes [sic] all law enforcement and even the president. I can shoot a weapon and hit my target. I can help when the federal government tries to enact martial law upon us citizens.”
- An executive officer in the Army, whose current employment status could not be verified, told the Oath Keepers that he is “surrounded by well meaning Soldiers [sic] who are totally ignorant of the Oath, the Constitution, and the concept of natural liberty. Intuition and training guide them generally well, but they lack the education to recognize and resist unlawful orders.”
- One individual who listed an address on an Air Force base described himself as a “[v]ocal advocate of instilling among junior officers and NCOs their allegiance to the Constitution and the American people, NOT the government, especially the President. We are apolitical with a charge to defend inalienable rights.”
- An individual who identified himself as a sergeant in his email address wrote, “I do not think there is a chapter in Saint Louis, however i [sic] think there should be. I know of several soldiers in the area that i [sic] think would be interested.”
- Though his continued employment could not be verified, one individual who provided a Coast Guard email address wrote, “I feel very strongly in the Oathkeepers [sic] message and I would be willing to do anything that is legal to help the cause.”
- An individual who identified himself as having worked for military police informed the organization, “I love America and all that it stands for and am not willing to sit back and watch our freedoms disappear from us. I have approx. 22 years of experience as a Police Officer (military & civilian) to include security & being a private investigator.”
- One individual who only identified as having served in the past wrote, “Fight to the death to uphold the Constitution of Our Great country just as I did when I was on active duty. Zebras don't change their stripes and neither do I.”
- A staff sergeant in the Army wrote, “I am still active and do not like the direction America has been going the last decade. I know it is up to men like me to make a brighter future for our nation.” Though the sergeant writes that he is active, it is unknown whether that is still the case.
These comments make clear that many of those associated with the military did not view their involvement with the Oath Keepers as a passive membership, but rather one where they would lend their contacts, skills, and combat experience to advancing the Oath Keepers’ cause.
In some cases, individuals offered to use their position in the military to spread the Oath Keepers’ message to those around them:
- One Staff Sergeant in the Mississippi National Guard wrote, “I would like to help in the outreach. I'm a trainer for the MSNG. I'm AGR for the state of Mississippi and work with 56 soldier that need this Info.”
- Though it is unknown whether he remains active, one Air Force Sergeant wrote when he signed up for the organization, “Due to being at an active training base, and as an E-5 i [sic] have been able to influence and inform those new to the service about all opportunities and what their responsibilities are and what their oath actually does mean.”
- A member of the Marine Corps noted, “I currently coordinate ground movements, I have influence on nearly 46,000 Marines and sailors.”
- Another marine pledged to spread the Oath Keepers’ message: “As a [sic] Active Duty Marine I could spread the word of the Oath Keepers to Many [sic] places as a [sic] move from station to station. I would love to attend any event that is close to my current location.” It is unknown whether this individual is still serving.
- A Shift Lead in the Air Force, who provided an Air Force base address upon signing up, informed the group that he’d be willing to “[pass] on the information about the Oath Keepers.”
- A Sergeant, Non-Commissioned Officer in the Army Reserves wrote, “I have held conversations with all sorts of people over the past 3 years, including my 1SG, 1SG Yockell. I've been known to give enough information in a manner that changes peoples [sic] lives in under 1 hour and 30 minutes.”
- A Coast Guard officer informed the Oath Keepers that, “I was born an American citizen abroad, my father is a foreign diplomat and my mother a retired attorney. With the Coast Guard being such a small service, I have contacts throughout the U.S. and with my father as a foreign ambassador my potential international connections are vast.”
- A former member of the National Guard asked for Oath Keepers assistance, writing, “I would like YOUR support in preparing the next generation of National Guard leadership. I teach new recruits about the potential constitutional decisions that they may be forced to make as Guardsmen and would like copies of the constitution to give.”
- A self-identified former Chief Master Sergeant in the Air Force wrote, “I am a true patriot and have many connections to spread the Oath keeper [sic] mission.”
Others openly advertised the skills they could bring to the table (including combat, medical, and engineering skills), and/or the access that they had that could be used to advance Oath Keepers’ efforts. In some cases, individuals offered to train other members as well:
- One Infantry Corpsman in the Navy wrote, “I am a survival specialist in both urban and desert type settings. I know how to grow my own food, find water, and live well with very little. I can teach others to do so too. I love this country so much that I put my life on the line for it.”
- A Master at Arms for the Navy wrote, “I currently already help facilitate CPT classes with the local chapter. I am a small arms instructor in the Navy…I can teach tactical team movements and room clearing. Everything I have learned in the military I am willing to teach and help others with.”
- Ominously, a Sergeant/Team Leader with the 725th Equipment Support Platoon let the Oath Keepers know that he is “highly skilled Horizontal Construction Engineer, this may be a necessary talent to help rebuild one day.”
- A Critical Care Flight Paramedic within the Army informed the Oath Keepers that he had “been trained in the latest forms of combat/emergency medicine, infantry and police tactics, and take[s] a special interest in large-scale war time strategy.”
- One individual wrote, “I am training to be a nuclear electricians [sic] mate onboard [sic] a nuclear submarine or aircraft carrier. I have not seen the fleet yet. But I can’t wait to get out there and start doing something.” According to open-source resources, this individual did end up working with nuclear submarines as an engineer.
- A lieutenant in the Navy wrote, “Marksmanship training. Current member of the US Navy Marksmanship Team.”
- A CBRNE defense specialist with the Air Force informed the Oath Keepers that, “My AFSC is READINESS & EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT, i [sic] am the AF's insurance policy in short. Apart from ensuring my unit prepared to got [sic] to deploy. [sic] I am also a CBRNE weapons defense specialist, will be HAZMAT Technician.”
- A former member of the Army and current Division Command Sergeant Major with the Tennessee National Guard wrote, “ANY! I Served on staff as a Senior Logistics NCO for the last three years of my enlistment. Good recruiter, Weapons fanatic / Range Safety / carry permit [sic] for 15 years. I am completely retired with time on my hands. I lost my night vision in the Army so I do not drive at night.”
- An individual purporting to be a member of the Navy wrote, “u.s.navy [sic] security clearence, [sic] work at center for advance power (c.a.p)at florida, [sic] state university with a securty clearence [sic].”
Between current and former military personnel in the membership list, the Oath Keepers have access to people who have previously served in combat zones in a variety of capacities and have developed skills that could be redeployed in other contexts. Some of these individuals noted that they were serving overseas when they signed up for the Oath Keepers, meaning they were supporting an anti-government extremist cause at home while nominally combatting iterations of extremism overseas:
- Though it is unknown whether they are still serving, an individual with an army email address wrote, “4 years time [sic] in service so far. I’m currently deployed to the middle east [sic] as an air traffic controller and hopefully I will be home soon to defend the Homefront.”
- A former Wheeled Vehicle Operator in the Army and current Department of Defense Security Officer listed that he was a “Gun Truck operator in Afghanistan, protecting supply convoys.Infantry [sic] training( [sic] clearing house, villages, small team tactics.) Gun Smith training. Army Reserve as an 88M( [sic] Wheel Vic Operator).”
- One former member of the Army wrote, “I have a license to drive almost every vehicle in the army. I can refuel helicopters. I have to [sic] army deployments to Iraq under my belt.”
- A former sergeant in the Army wrote, “8 years active duty Army and proud to have served my country. Final 2+ years of service spent training newly commissioned armor officers on the M1-A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank.”
- A self-described Navy emergency physician offered to help the group when he returned from Afghanistan, writing, “Need any medical coverage of events? Will be in Afghanistan until December of this year.”
- One individual who claimed to serve in the Army wrote, “I served in Iraq as operator/combantant [sic] with Army Recon Infantry platoon. ‘Arrested’ 21 enemy insurgents that were threatning [sic] the life of all soilders [sic] on my FOB "FOB WarHorse" Baqubah Iraq [sic].”
- A former marine wrote, “I served in United States Marine Corp from '03 to '07, I was Honorably Discharged and I've been working in the private security sector since then. I've served my country in both Iraq and Afganistan [sic].”
Other Parts of Society
While the numbers above are substantial and concerning, it is important to remember that most of the people within the database are not elected officials, members of law enforcement, or members of the armed services. For example, in addition to recruiting from current and former law enforcement and military, the Oath Keepers try to reach first responders like firefighters, paramedics, and emergency medical technicians. These individuals often play integral roles in shaping communities’ emergency preparedness, and, as part of their work, they can have access to sensitive areas or information, like blueprints or medical records.
In addition, the Oath Keepers have used disaster relief to try to garner positive attention, and being able to draw on the skills of their first responder members bolsters these efforts. COE found that the Oath Keepers had some success in recruiting these individuals, with 86 active firefighters (including several fire chiefs), 19 active paramedics, and 31 active emergency technicians appearing in the membership list. Many more individuals self-identified as emergency services personnel, and others were found using open-source resources; however, they could not be assessed with high confidence as active and so they were not included in these counts.
The Oath Keepers did not just draw supporters from the professions they explicitly targeted. Also included in the membership list were religious figures, teachers, civil engineers, and government employees. Some individuals reported holding top secret clearances or had jobs that gave them access to critical infrastructure such as nuclear facilities. Many of these individuals have roles that make them trusted members of the community who are theoretically in positions to influence people or access sensitive materials or sites. Though this report focuses primarily on elected officials, police, and the military because of the direct power they can wield over their respective communities, the influence of the Oath Keepers extends to many other sectors of society.
Some of the comments made by individuals with these other professions demonstrate the ways they believed their skills and connections could benefit the Oath Keepers. For example, some offered to tell others about the Oath Keepers, acting as missionaries for the group’s extremist ideology:
- One doctor wrote: “Many of my patients are police officers, troopers, FBI agents, CIA and in the military. I have the ability to spread the world of this organization to my patients. I showed 2 troopers this week the web link.”
- A director of public works told the group that he is “able to spread the information with others. Very active in republican party, tea party etc….[sic].”
- An individual who runs a company that advises medical practitioners on how to improve their revenue wrote in the comments that he was “willing to use my marketing expertise to help the organization grow.”
- One Brazil, Indiana resident told the Oath Keepers that he had “written a few articles to our local newspaper concerning many of Oathkeepers [sic] principles. I always stress a fear and reverence to our maker as the basis of law and founding of this nation, Christ is the basis of my beliefs.”
- An educator and pastor based in White Oak, North Carolina, informed the group that his skills include, “Public speaking, membership drives, have current access and interaction with many current and retired servicemembers through church and my current work as quality control director for a [sic] assault weapons manufacturer.”
- A Phoenix, Arizona resident wrote, “~I can recruit others to become Oath Keepers.~ Having produced over 900 Comedy shows for Veterans (in hospitals and homeless shelters, or outings that veterans could attend for free), I am good at producing shows and cheering people up.”
Even if they did not boast the skillsets that the Oath Keepers traditionally look for, the following individuals demonstrated their enthusiasm for the Oath Keepers by offering various ways to support them:
- A government contractor informed the group that he is “a certified Executive Protection Specialist in the State of Florida…I have a [sic] online business…where I sell Body Armors and gears for Police, Military, PMC and government officials. I can help with security and protection when ever need be [sic].”
- One individual provided a list of things he could help with: “Security, Public speaking, Public education, Organizing, Rallies, Raise money and awareness, Lobby, Teach, Pass out information, Anything.”
- An attorney with a law firm based in East Texas told the group that he “may be able to assist in legal matters.”
- A krav maga instructor wrote, “We recognize what your organization represents. My wife and I are both military brats. We agree with what you are doing and to help, I own an audiovisual comp. & anytime [sic] you are in [Albuquerque], you would have audio equip for your meetings free of charge.”
- A recently retired teacher in the Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District in California told the group that she was “willing to help in whatever way necessary to protect our country.”
- One Arizona resident told the group that he has “a fabrication facility in Sandusky with shipping & receiving docks. I have a team experienced with…assembly, packaging, and distribution…I’m willing to provide support with these resources if and when they could be useful.”
- Another Arizona resident wrote, “1. Bitcoin transactions (Buy and sell and train others how to use)., 2. Document digitizing, encryption and secure IP communications (not radio) (this was my former company for 10 years)., 3. Equipment and facilities maintenance (welding, electrical, plumbing etc.) (Mobile) (This was my occupation after the Navy)., 4. Participating or assisting with appropriate and well planned civil disobedience (I have experience with this).”
Though there is no indication that the Oath Keepers followed up on such offers, the totality of the comments illustrate the breadth of skillsets available to the group and the numerous opportunities for the group to spread its extremist ideology throughout different sectors of society. The diversity of the membership list illustrates the success the Oath Keepers experienced in spreading their beliefs, and the thousands of comments offering assistance only underscore the strength of their supporters’ conviction that the Oath Keepers were necessary to fix perceived problems. As one Oklahoma resident wrote, “I am a 42 year old, out of shape, no military experience, dad of 4, construction trash (welder/fitter). I don’t have much to offer, but a strong conviction in trying make [sic] this place better for my kids. We are natural born free people and need to start acting like it. This is my attempt to do just that.”
While the open-source resources used by COE to identify individuals typically provide accurate information, there are some limitations to this methodology, particularly in verifying names within the database that matched the names of law enforcement and military personnel.
First, multiple people in an area may have the same name. To the best of its abilities, COE worked to verify the individuals in question, and common names in high-density population areas were excluded from the final count. In addition, where applicable, COE has informed law enforcement agencies (with appropriate caveats) across the country that a person with a name matching one of their employees was found in the Oath Keepers database. Some agencies have been responsive, but others have not responded, or have responded without confirmation. Every elected official or 2022 candidate included in the final total has been confirmed based on public reporting, public statements made by the individual in question, or by comparing the information provided to the Oath Keepers with the official’s public filings, public records, or online posts containing phone numbers, email addresses, or physical addresses.
Second, it is possible that these numbers do not fully account for individuals who may have moved a significant distance, those who do not have an online presence, and those who do not self-identify their profession on their social media pages. As such, it is possible that the true number could be higher than what is documented in this report.
Third, this report does not include people who only joined local Oath Keepers chapters, or who are Oath Keepers but never officially signed up for the group. Rhodes allowed members currently serving in law enforcement and the military to participate in the organization without formally signing up, knowing that formal association with the organization could endanger their employment.
Finally, it is important to note once more that an individual’s inclusion in the Oath Keeper database is not proof that they were or are still an Oath Keeper, that they hold or held all or some of Oath Keeper ideology or viewpoints, or that they ever actively participated in Oath Keeper activities. When reviewing this information, you should bear in mind the possibility that the individual misunderstood the nature of the Oath Keepers. Before taking any action based on this information, an individualized assessment of the individual must take place.
Ben Sax, Chair, Board of Directors
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and National Director
Adam Neufeld, Senior Vice President and Chief Impact Officer
ADL Center on Extremism
Oren Segal, Vice President, Center on Extremism
Jessica Reaves, Director of Content and Editorial Strategy, Center on Extremism
Alex Friedfeld, Investigative Researcher, Center on Extremism
Elisha Aldrich, Communications and Marketing Specialist, Center on Extremism
With thanks to: