In late September of this year, a hacker group announced it had broken into the servers of the militant, anti-government organization known as the Oath Keepers. After its break in, the hackers helpfully passed the piles of information they had acquired to a non-profit journalism collective known as Distributed Denial of Secrets — which, in turn, made the approximately five gigabytes of emails, chat logs, lists of members, donors, and wannabes, plus other related files, available to any reporters who wanted them.
Since then, bits and pieces of the information found tucked away in the gigantic piles of data from the hack have been appearing in news stories as journalists continue to engage in the daunting task of analyzing the mounds of data pertaining to those associated with the far-right, heavily armed, conspiracy-spouting group,(18 members of which have been charged in a single federal indictment on counts that include conspiracy and aiding and abetting the obstruction of Congress, all having to do their involvement in the January 6, attack on the U.S. Capital).
As it happens, the trove of hacked information includes — among other things — a file that provides the names and personal information for nearly 40,000 Oath Keeper members.
When USA Today did a search of the 40,000-name list, they uncovered more than 200 people who had ID’d themselves as active or retired law enforcement officers when signing up. USA Today was also able to confirm that at least 21 of the 200 appear to still be serving in police agencies across the nation.
Meanwhile, in California, one of the first stories to break related to information gained from the hack was the news that, in 2014, Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco had paid for a year-long membership in the Oath Keepers — which describes itself as a “non-partisan association of current and formerly serving military, police, and first responders, who pledge to fulfill the oath all military and police take to ‘defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.'”
(For more on Sheriff Bianco and the Oath Keepers read this story by LAist’s Frank Stoltze.)
Now, as of Friday, NPR and WNYC/Gothamist have released a couple of their own deep dive investigative stories based on what their joint team of reporters found when they compared the names on the group’s membership roster to lists of law enforcement officers working in departments in the nation’s three largest cities, namely members of the Chicago Police Department, the New York Police Department and, “Los Angeles-area departments.”
The NPR and WNYC/Gothamist reporters learned that the Chicago PD had the most names of working officers that appeared to match those on the leaked list, with 13 match-ups. The NYPD had two active department members whose names matched.
The LAPD had zero matches.
When it came to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, however, NPR journalists found at least three current employees whose information appeared to correspond with names on the Oath Keepers list.
When asked for a comment on the new information, Los Angeles County Inspector General Max Huntsman told NPR’s Tom Dreisbach, that “the Sheriff’s department in Los Angeles has extremist organizations within its ranks.”
Dreisbach also reached out to Priscilla Ocen, chair of the Los Angeles County Civilian Oversight Commission, who backed up Huntsman’s conclusion.
“We have a problem with white supremacy in the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department,” Ocen said, adding that the Los Angeles County Sheriff, “has looked the other way.”
On Monday evening, as more attention began to focus on this issue, Eric Strong, an LA Sheriff’s Department lieutenant, who also has thrown his hat in the ring to run against Sheriff Villanueva in 2022, had this to say via Twitter.
“NPR reports that 3 members of the ‘Oath Keepers,’ a far-right extremist group, work for LASD,” Strong wrote. “That is 3 too many. If you align yourself w/ individuals & organizations that prey on marginalized groups, you can’t be trusted to enforce the law equally.”
Strong, who positions himself as a reform candidate, has also expressed in detail what he would do to solve the LASD’s half-century-long problem with deputy gangs, a topic that both IG Max Huntsman and COC chair, Priscilla Ocen brought up as relevant when responding to the news that the nation’s largest sheriff’s department appears to have several Oath Keepers on their list of sworn employees.
More on this and related issues soon!