In the days following the January 6th Capitol Rising, the Oath Keepers became known almost overnight as a symbol of right-wing extremism in America.
Images of members in combat armor breaking into the Capitol went viral, clips of the group’s leader questioning the 2020 presidential election results surfaced, and within a few weeks FBI agents began making members of the Oath Keepers part of the biggest and probably to arrest most of the important conspiracy cases to get out of the uprising.
Some active police officers and members of the US military appeared to like what they saw. In some cases, many ignored the strict guidelines prohibiting their membership in such groups and turned to the organization for information on loud leaked emails from the group.
“I was wondering what it takes to become an Oath Guardian,” one soldier wrote to the group’s main email address on January 19.
“I don’t like what the world is expecting and I have a growing concern for our nation,” added the person. “Please let me know how I can get involved.”
On February 4, barely a week after three members of the Oath Keepers were charged with their roles in the Capitol riot, an email came from someone who identified himself as Scott Langton, “a current Washington State police officer who is looking for information, ”who added that he“ didn’t want to be on any liberal hit list ”.
Records confirm that a Scott Langton is currently serving in the Ferndale, Washington Police Department and that he has been sued at least twice for alleged perpetration of civil rights and use of force in uniform. One of these cases has been settled, the other is currently pending in federal court.
Two weeks later, someone named Benjamin Payne wrote to the Oath Keepers identifying himself as an “active LEO” – or law enforcement officer – and a “lifelong member” of the group. He said he was trying to get in touch with the group’s leadership in Louisiana. Records and social media confirm there is a Benjamin Payne who works for the Denham Springs, Louisiana Police Department; He was sued in federal court last week for alleged human rights abuses. This lawsuit is pending.
Throughout 2021, as federal lawsuits against members of the Oath Keepers continue to mount, some interest in law enforcement or the military does not seem to wane. For example, in June in South Carolina someone called “Active Duty LE” wrote to the organization asking, “How do I join?” And a little over two weeks ago someone who claimed to be a Navy overseer asked who was stationed in Fargo, North Dakota, after joining the group.
“Greetings, I am on active duty in the Navy,” the person wrote under the name Ray Triboulet. “I love what my country is supposed to be and this tyrannical idiocy crushes the freedom out of me and me. Any opportunity you have for me to do something, please let me know. ”Naval records show that a Ray Triboulet is currently stationed in North Dakota.
None of these police officers or service staff responded to requests for comment, and it is unclear what became of their requests or whether they joined the group.
According to spokeswoman Patricia Kreuzberger, the Navy does not tolerate “any predominant or extremist behavior”. All reports of wrongdoing would be investigated, she said, noting that the Department of Defense policy “prohibits military personnel from actively advocating the doctrine, ideology or causes of predominant extremist or criminal gangs”.
An army spokesman said that as part of its policy, “all credible allegations made by soldiers who are actively engaged in any type of extremist activity will be investigated.”
Ferndale Police Chief Kevin Turner said the department banned membership in groups like the Oath Keepers. “Joining or participating in extremist organizations will not be tolerated,” he said.
Denham Springs police did not respond to a question about their policy towards extremist groups.
The emails were received by BuzzFeed News after an anonymous group claimed they had hacked the Oath Keepers’ servers and the records were sent to a group called. had passed on Distributed denial of secretswho published much of the data publicly and shared some additional files with journalists and researchers.
While the Oath Keepers’ hacked data doesn’t seem complete, it provides unprecedented insight into the workings of the secret organization founded in 2009 by former Army Paratrooper Stewart Rhodes and named after the Constitutional Oath on the All police and military personnel are sworn.
Rhodes did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the leak.
He and others in the Oath Keepers leadership have long claimed the group includes members of law enforcement and military personnel, but since the membership lists were not public, the level of such involvement was unknown. In May, BuzzFeed News analyzed data from the Oath Keepers website that suggested that around 3,000 people were added to the membership lists in the last two months of 2020, compared with 1,650 members in the first three months of 2021.
Analysis of the newly leaked data from BuzzFeed News, which includes membership lists, emails, and group chats, revealed more than 500 people associated with the organization who were identified in internal files as military or law enforcement personnel, or whose email Addresses indicated that they could be or were previously employed by the military, state or local police, sheriff’s departments, or federal police. The leaked membership data does not appear to have been updated after mid-2020; many of the memberships appear to have been at least a decade ago, and some appear to have been inactive for years.
The group has previously inserted itself into moments of civil unrest, from disaster relief to Black Lives Matter demonstrations, but the January 6 events have put more of a scrutiny on their activities. Rhodes, who appears frequently on Infowars and other right-wing extremist platforms, encouraged members to go to Washington. He was there in person on Jan. 6, and although he did not enter the Capitol, evidence in federal courts shows that he was in close contact with several members of the Oath Keepers during the siege of the building.
To date, 21 people linked to the group have been charged with alleged crimes in federal court on Jan. 6, including Jeremy Brown, a former Green Beret who was arrested this week. Four pleaded guilty.
The leaked records – including chat logs, member lists, donation receipts, and other information about the Oath Keepers – are largely limited to data for the past 15 months. For example, between March 2019 and July 2020, the Oath Keepers appear to have received just over $ 66,000 in donations, with one donor in Texas donating exactly $ 1,776 – presumably in relation to the date of American independence.
Meanwhile, emails and chats sent after January 6th show hundreds of people are demanding that their memberships be canceled or their names removed from Oath Keepers’ mailing lists. Two members of the Oath Keepers, who oversaw IT for the group during that period, saw their inboxes cluttered with members complaining about being unable to log in or having other technical issues.
Taken together, the records paint a picture of organizational chaos slowed down by technological fallacy, poor communication, and a fragmented, aging membership that, in many cases, is unsure of what the group is up to.
The records also reveal a marked anti-government attitude by members of the Oath Keepers, a reluctance to accept the results of the presidential election, and the continued interest of the active police and military.
A separate investigation by Gothamist revealed “dozens of names” associated with police, court and law enforcement officials in New York State, prompting Mayor Bill de Blasio to open an investigation into the matter.
BuzzFeed News was unable to determine the current status of all identified people. Dozens appear to have earned lifetime memberships with the Oath Keepers, which can cost up to $ 1,000; others appear to have stopped subscriptions and are listed as “expired,” while email messages indicate that some may have died and have asked family members to remove their names from the group’s mailing lists.
When contacted by BuzzFeed News, some in the email roles admitted having been members of the Oath Keepers in the past, but said they have since left the group.
For example, a deputy from the El Dorado County sheriff’s office in Northern California said he joined the Oath Keepers years ago because he liked the idea of endorsing the constitution, but he “started getting some weird things up and letting go “.
He said he “didn’t even think about it” [he] stop getting emails ”and hasn’t heard from anyone associated with the group in years.
An active Defense Department police officer emailed the Oath Keepers just two weeks after Jan. 6, describing himself as “very pro Trump and committed to defending the United States Constitution” and asking for more Information about the group.
But the man who said he was now retired told BuzzFeed News that he decided not to join the group after the person who called him in response to his email found him strange. The man described his decision not to follow this like looking at a product on Amazon and choosing not to buy it.
Jeremy Singer-Vine contributed to this story.