Sep 8, 2022 - News

Leaked Oath Keepers list includes Virginia officials

A pickup tuck that says "oath keeper" on the back
The pickup truck of an Oath Keeper from Idaho. Photo by William Campbell/Corbis via Getty Images

​​Twenty-five Virginia law enforcement officers, military members, first responders and elected officials appear on leaked membership lists of the far-right Oath Keepers militia, per a new report published Wednesday by the Anti-Defamation League.

Why it matters: The Oath Keepers have risen to national prominence for their alleged role in the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot, writes Axios' Ivana Saric.

  • The events of Jan. 6 also highlighted fresh concerns about domestic extremism in the military after several former and current military members were charged for their involvement in the riot.

State of play: The leaked membership list was published by the journalism collective Distributed Denial of Secrets (DDoSecrets) in September 2021. The ADL's Center on Extremism went through the 38,000 names on the lists to identify those who held "sensitive positions," the group said in the report.

  • The ADL identified 15 members of the group from Virginia actively serving in the military, more than any other state.
  • The group also identified six law enforcement officers, three first responders and one elected official in the state.
  • ADL's report cites a deputy sheriff in Chesterfield County as among members who offered up their professional expertise to the group.

What they’re saying: Chesterfield County Sheriff Karl Leonard said in a statement that he considers membership in the organization “a protected First Amendment right.”

  • “If at any time the line is crossed to violence, any criminal act, or any actions discriminatory in any fashion, swift action will be taken,” he said.

Worth noting: An ADL spokesman told Axios the organization is not identifying rank-and-file police officers or other public employees, but has alerted those members' employers.

  • "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," the ADL's report stated.

The only Virginia member of the group the ADL would publicly identify is Appomattox County Supervisor John Frederick Hinkle, the sole elected official from Virginia identified on the militia's membership rolls.

  • Reached by phone, Hinkle told Axios he recalled attempting to join the group but didn't believe he was successful because his "dues never went through."
  • Hinkle has not tried to hide his interest in the group. In 2020, he explored starting an Appomattox chapter of the Virginia Oath Keepers, per the Times Virginian.
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