Records hacked from the Oath Keepers show that interest in joining the violent, far-right extremist group surged following the deadly U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6 ― including among law enforcement and the military, according to BuzzFeed News and The Guardian.
Some of the membership records were made available to journalists this week by the group Distributed Denial of Secrets, a nonprofit that makes hacked data available to the press and to researchers.
“I was wondering what was required to become an oath keeper,” wrote one person who said he was an active-duty soldier at Fort Hood, Texas, according to BuzzFeed News. The email, dated Jan. 19, noted that the author was “not liking what the world is coming to” and had “a growing concern for our nation.”
Oath Keepers were among the supporters of former President Donald Trump who stormed the Capitol building in January, leaving several people dead. More than a dozen have been arrested and charged in connection with the violence.
BuzzFeed News’ analysis of email addresses found in the data indicated that as many as 500 people who sought Oath Keeper membership over the past decade may be currently or formerly “employed by the military, state or local police, sheriff’s departments, or federal law enforcement.” The outlet noted that many did not appear to be active members of the group.
Despite a clear conflict of interest between law enforcement work and the anti-government Oath Keepers, some would-be members bragged about their credentials in their messages.
“I have a wide variety of law enforcement experience, including undercover operations, surveillance and SWAT,” one person wrote on a membership application, according to USA Today, although it is not clear when the message was sent. Another person reportedly declared that they were “currently working as a deputy sheriff in Texas” in their message to the group.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday that any New York Police Department officers affiliated with the Oath Keepers should be fired after Gothamist reported that the hacked data included names of multiple active-duty NYPD officers.
“If we confirm that any police officer has pledged allegiance to Oath Keepers and to those values — there’ll be due process of course, they deserve a trial — but if that’s found to be the case, they shouldn’t be a member of the NYPD,” de Blasio said on a local radio show.
Oath Keepers are required to swear an oath to uphold the Constitution as they personally understand it, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which researches extremist groups in America. Members also pledge not to obey certain orders based on perceived threats, such as the idea that one day U.S. leaders will tell them to confiscate all citizens’ guns.