Leaked records indicate more than 300 people who were members of the right-leaning extremist group the Oath Keepers identified as current or former Department of Homeland Security employees, an investigation by the Project on Government Oversight and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project found.
The report, published Dec. 12 by the nonpartisan independent watchdog, found hundreds of members between 2009 through 2015 who had been employed by the DHS’ Border Patrol, Coast Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Secret Service. OCCRP, an investigative reporting platform, reported 21 individuals said they were working for the agency when their names were added to the roster. Many of the others had been retired.
The data comes as the Department of Justice and Congress are working through investigations on the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. So far, two two leaders of the Oath Keepers have been found guilty of seditious conspiracy for their involvement in the breach of the Capitol building and four more face trials.
“Law enforcement agents who have associations with groups that seek to undermine democratic governance pose a heightened threat because they can compromise probes, misdirecting investigations or leaking confidential investigative information to those groups,” POGO’s report said. “And they can use the skills, knowledge, and access they developed in their jobs against the government and the public they swore to protect.”
The agency did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Some members on the the Oath Keepers list had worked in sensitive roles at the department, including special agents within the Secret Service who worked on presidential details, POGO’s investigation found. Others on the list included supervisors and those who worked in IT at Transportation Security Administration’s headquarters.
“Taken alone, however, inclusion on the list is not proof that the individuals on it believed in all or even most of the group’s causes or actions,” POGO said. “And, over time, numerous people who have signed up as Oath Keepers members have distanced themselves from the group.”
Overall, DHS employs roughly 240,000 people.
The Justice Department defines the Oath Keepers as a large, loosely organized group of members with some associated with militias.
The group rose to notoriety after the 2020 presidential election. Just before Joe Biden’s seat was certified, several Oath Keepers communicated among themselves to travel to Washington D.C. in January 2021 and plotted to “oppose by force the lawful transfer of presidential power” from then-President Donald Trump, according to DOJ.
While certain Oath Keepers members and affiliates breached the Capitol grounds and building, others were stationed outside of the city to transport weapons, the department said.
In the 22 months since the attack, more than 900 individuals have been arrested in nearly all 50 states for crimes related to the breach of the U.S. Capitol, including over 275 individuals charged with assaulting or impeding law enforcement.
The investigation is ongoing.
Molly Weisner is a staff reporter for Federal Times where she covers labor, policy and contracting pertaining to the government workforce. She made previous stops at USA Today and McClatchy as a digital producer, and worked at The New York Times as a copy editor. Molly majored in journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.