The names of hundreds of current and former military personnel, elected officials and police were included in a leaked membership list belonging to the far-right extremist group known as the Oath Keepers, according to a report by the Anti-Defamation League.
The ADL examined roughly 38,000 names from the leaked database, which was first published in September 2021 by the non-profit whistleblower Distributed Denial of Secrets. In total, 117 troops currently serving in the military, 11 serving in the reserves and another 31 military contractors and affiliated civilians were identified in the report.
“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,” the ADL report stated. “It is also possible that members could steal police or military equipment, either to arm themselves or to sell.”
Those named in the report, which once more ignites concerns about extremists holding positions of power, ranged from junior personnel to officers and senior enlisted. One individual was reportedly identified as the current division command sergeant major with the Tennessee National Guard.
Statements by current and former military personnel, many of which include individual ranks and affiliated branches, were also featured in the leak. In numerous comments, prospective personnel pledge support and advertise unique skills, such as proficiency with combat tactics, military medicine, and large operational strategies.
“I am a small arms instructor in the Navy,” a Navy master at arms wrote. “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.”
One Army sergeant, who called himself a “highly skilled Horizontal Construction Engineer,” told Oath Keepers members that his services “may be a necessary talent to help rebuild one day.”
Another, writing the far-right group from an Army-affiliated email address, said, “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.”
In addition to those with military affiliations cited in the report, the ADL estimates that one in every 10 individuals in the leaked database once served in the military in some capacity.
“The Oath Keepers have access to people who have previously served in combat zones ... and have developed skills that could be redeployed in other contexts,” the report stated. “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.”
Additionally, the report identified more than 370 personnel belonging to law enforcement agencies across the U.S., including 10 chiefs of police and 11 sheriffs. Also on the list were more than 80 individuals holding or running for public office as of August 2022.
And while the list raises red flags throughout the military and first responder communities, ADL officials noted that 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.”
“Some may have even ‘misunderstood’ the nature of the far-right anti-government militia,” the reported noted.
The Oath Keepers group was founded in 2009 by Stewart Rhodes. He has been charged, along with other members, for his role in the Jan. 6 attack at the Capitol.
Yesterday, Rhodes fired his attorneys in his case, according to Politico, just weeks ahead of his scheduled Sept. 26 trial.
Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media
Jon Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.