Sep 14


New York’s Oath Keepers

New report tracking the far-right militia confirms more Oath Keepers in law enforcement in New York than in any other state.

New York has more law enforcement officers who are members of Oath Keepers than any other state in the country.

That’s according to a study released last week by the Anti-Defamation League, whose analysts examined a list of 38,000 purported members of the militant far-right group, looking for elected officials, law enforcement and military personnel among its ranks.

The list was first published last September by the nonprofit journalist collective Distributed Denial of Secrets, along with Oath Keepers emails and other data obtained by hackers. 

By cross-referencing the names on the list with public databases, ADL confirmed the identities of 81 elected officials, 128 current members of the military, and 373 current members of law enforcement agencies across the country, “including at least ten chiefs of police and eleven sheriffs.”

ADL’s analysts found New York State’s Oath Keepers included:

  • 1,996 members, fourth most behind Texas, California and Florida. 
  • 45 active members of law enforcement agencies, more than any other state. Texas came in second, with 33 law enforcement officers.
  • 5 elected officials.

The Oath Keepers are a militia formed in 2009 by Stewart Rhodes, a former U.S Army paratrooper and Yale Law School graduate who once worked for former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. Armed members of the group have taken part in standoffs with federal agents in Nevada in 2014 and Montana in 2015. In 2016, a writer for the group’s now-defunct website warned that if Hillary Clinton were elected president “the result would probably be an outright civil war.” 

Armed Oath Keepers patrolled street protests that erupted in Ferguson, Missouri after the police killing of Michael Brown in 2014. They were among the militia groups who described themselves as “security” for the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, during which a counter-protestor was run down by a driver and killed. 

During the summer of 2020, members in combat gear attended demonstrations across the country protesting police brutality.

This January, federal prosecutors charged 11 members, including Rhodes, with seditious conspiracy for their roles in the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Three have since pleaded guilty. Rhodes is currently in a federal detention center in Oklahoma, awaiting trial.

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ADL has declined to name the individuals it identified as Oath Keepers, unless the individual’s membership was already public record. Instead, according to a statement released last week, ADL “is informing law enforcement agencies (with appropriate caveats) across the country that a person with a name matching one of their employees was found in the Oath Keepers database.”

Those caveats include noting “that an individual’s 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 agencies have been responsive, but others did not respond, or responded without confirmation,” ADL said.

New York State’s Oath Keepers

While there are few names, the ADL’s report did include anonymized quotes from Oath Keepers in the database, including two from New York:

  • One town justice in New York state wrote, “I am currently traveling our nation…educating people on the constitution and our founding fathers idea of gov. We meet alot [sic] of vets and police who feel the way we do. I’ll pass the word [sic].”
  • A corrections officer in New York wrote, “As I am not sure what specific areas you are looking for, I am not sue [sic] how to answer.  However, I have firearms training, first responder, CPR/AED, and the usual training g [sic] associated with being a Corrections Officer.”

Leaked Oath Keepers emails — also published last September by DDoSecrets and made available to Investigative Post by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project — included correspondence from Western New Yorkers who were, or wished to be, members.

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The emails do not convey the impression of the New York State Oath Keepers as a well-oiled recruitment machine.

On March 9, 2021, a retired prison guard from Cheektowaga wrote (errors unedited): 

I see I have been activated! Been LONG TIME! How do I send PAYMENT? Should I got to the site I saved before the election? Do you have a New York chapter? I’m in upstate NY , BUFFALO. All my co workers ( Correction Officers , retired) are tired of all the bullshit and I’m SURE will want to get on board!! Let me know of my status . Wrote to you guys while back and kinda gave up . Thought I was being ignored , but I still want in ! We are all STRONG SUPPORTERS OF THE CONSTITUTION ! IF THERE IS NO CHAPTER HERE IN UPSTATE NY , WE NEED ONE!! I’ll let ya go on that note. Better late then never. Every person I know that want to join , I PERSONALLY KNOW for the past 30 years . I’m 61 and in great shape , wanna let you know we’re not geriatric yet lol. We’re all in that age bracket. I have lots of prior Police also .

On Jan. 31, 2021, a Monroe County Water Authority worker wrote the New York chapter of Oath Keepers, “interested in info about upstate ny groups. Buffalo area.” 

The day before that, a Syracuse man who identified himself as “a Navy vet” asked to be put in touch with “members in this area.” Neither received a reply, according to the database of leaked emails.

None of the three responded to emails Investigative Post sent to the addresses they used to correspond with Oath Keepers. An inquiry to the email addresses to which they wrote — “” and “” — bounced back as undeliverable.

While those three were sanguine to join Oath Keepers just weeks after the attack on the U.S. Capitol, another New Yorker took the occasion to resign. 

In this email, sent six weeks after the attack, the Southern Tier resident disavowed Rhodes, the group’s founder: 

I have been a member of Oath Keepers for several years.  I joined because I am faithful to my oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, both foreign and domestic.  However, I am now put in a position where I am opposed to the actions and comments of Stewart Rhodes.  I respect that he also holds his oath as unbreakable, but I do not support his activities and comments … At this time I want to cancel my membership in the Oath Keepers organization, and I request that my name be removed from its membership roles.  I do this after very long and careful consideration, and I trust that you will respect my decision and comply with my request.  

The former member emailed his resignation on Feb. 16, 2021. 

Three weeks later, he received an email saying, “Your account was activated.”

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“You got that wrong,” the former member replied, attaching a copy of his earlier resignation. “I want that account deactivated immediately.”  

Six months later, Oath Keepers emailed him again, asking him for a donation “to help organize all patriots at the county level.”

“I keep telling you to remove me from your mailing list,” he replied. “I have done this several times. If I keep getting these messages I will take legal action. I am not kidding.”

He did not take legal action, according to state and federal court records.

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