A few weeks ago, Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was convicted of seditious conspiracy for his role in the January 6th riot. Now, just weeks after the conviction, documents have been leaked that suggest members of the Oath Keepers have been able to successfully infiltrate the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
A History of Extremism
The Oath Keepers were founded in 2009 and immediately tried to recruit members from law enforcement and the military. Their overarching goal is to uphold the United States Constitution, which to them means refusing unlawful orders.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled them “extremists.” The group has managed to recruit at least 306 members in the last decade who say they are current or former employees of the DHS. Many of the members claim to be retired, but one reported that he is a current member of the Secret Service, and another is an active-duty Border Patrol officer.
In September, Insider reported on the full membership list, which included around 38,000 individuals.
Hiding in Plain Sight
The revelation of the extent of the Oath Keepers’ infiltration of law enforcement follows on the heels of the Department of Defense issuing a report last year discussing its efforts to fight extremist activity in its own ranks.
The FBI has also warned that white supremacists pose a “primary threat” of “lethal domestic terrorism.” White supremacists allegedly make up more than 50% of all the politically motivated deaths in the last decade.
Rachel Carroll Rivas is the deputy director of research, reporting, and analysis at the SPLC Intelligence Project. She says that the Oath Keepers are successful at presenting themselves to the public as a constitutionalist group but that, at their core, they are far-right extremists.
She alleges that they recruit from law enforcement and the military to give themselves credibility instead of being labeled as a fringe organization. She also claims that they target police and veterans because of their skillset should an armed struggle become necessary.
“That’s a real manipulation tactic, to target people for a particular skill and then bring them into a violent and ideological movement,” she said in an interview. She says that it isn’t surprising that the group has found success within the ranks of DHS.
She pointed out that a top Border Patrol agent promoted far-right “replacement theory” in an interview. Replacement theory is the idea that Democrats allow “open borders” so that immigrants will come into the country and change the demographics of the nation. The idea is known as a conspiracy theory and also subscribes to the idea that white Americans are being systematically “replaced” by immigrants from non-white countries.
She also noted that the ICE union endorsed Donald Trump. She continued, saying that the nature of the Oath Keepers’ work, combined with the “overt sympathies” of some of its members, has made it a more credible and receptive target for extremist recruiting.
“It was flawed from the get-go and it continues to be flawed,” she said.