2022 Outside Investigation Uncovered More than 300 Oath Keepers Who Described Themselves as “Current or Former Employees of the Department of Homeland Security”

March 2022, DHS Reported Significant Gaps in its Ability to Comprehensively “Prevent, Detect, and Respond to Potential Threats Related to Domestic Violent Extremism”

65 Members Joined Senator Markey and Representatives Goldman and Garcia in Requesting an Update to DHS Policies and Procedures to Address Potential Collaboration Between Officers and Militias and Paramilitary Groups

Letter Text (PDF)

Washington (July 17, 2023) - Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Representatives Dan Goldman (NY-10) and Robert Garcia (CA-42) today led 63 fellow members of Congress in sending a letter to Secretary Mayorkas of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in requesting an update on actions the Department has taken to address the threat of domestic violent extremism within the DHS. It has become widely known that violent extremist groups including white supremacists and anti-government groups explicitly attempt to recruit current and former law enforcement personnel to further ideological goals and increase their tactical knowledge in the use of force. 

By their own admission as recently as March 2022, DHS has been unable to effectively and comprehensively addresses potential domestic terrorism threats, including within their own department. According to another March 2022 DHS report, the Department lacked an “authoritative definition of ‘domestic violent extremism’” that could be used in forming staff policies and guidance.

Representative Goldman and his fellow members of Congress have asked DHS whether they now having an authoritative definition of ‘domestic violence extremism,’ what DHS policies or protocols exist for agents’ interactions with vigilantes, militia, or paramilitary groups, how does DHS ensure that agents are not collaborating with actors engaged in extremist activities, as well as other questions aimed at understanding what capabilities DHS has to root out and address potential domestic terrorism threats within the department.

“In the wake of the January 6th attack on the Capitol we have uncovered existential threats facing our most sensitive federal agencies and departments,” said Representative Goldman. “The knowledge that the Department of Homeland Security has potentially been infiltrated by violent domestic extremism is an issue of utmost urgency. Members of the Oath Keepers have planned and attempted to violently overthrow the government and these individuals have no place in our federal agencies, especially not in our Department of Homeland Security. It is imperative that DHS conduct a full investigation into these internal threats as well as update Congress regarding the departments policies to address these growing concerns.”

“Domestic violent extremism poses the most lethal and persistent threat to communities in our country. It is critical that the Department of Homeland Security acts quickly to address internal threats of violent extremism, root out bigotry and xenophobia among its ranks, and send a clear message that violent extremism has no place in America – let alone among federal agents who are duty-bound to be fair, trusted enforcers of the law," said Senator Markey. 

“Far-right militia groups operating on our Southern border pose a significant threat to our national security. The Department of Homeland Security needs to come forward and explain their protocol for dealing with these extremist groups. Congress needs to know what steps are being taken to make sure that Federal agents are not collaborating with violent extremists who pose a danger to our country," said Representative Garcia. 

“Policymakers and communities deserve to know how the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is working to prevent and investigate any collaboration between the government and groups engaged in harassment campaigns targeting immigrants, Black and Brown people, and other historically oppressed communities. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), with its long history exposing white supremacist anti-immigrant militia activity on the Southern border, applauds Representatives Goldman and Garcia calling for greater transparency from DHS. The lack of transparency from DHS and the activities of these vigilante groups has been well documented. DHS must make public how they are addressing hiring, promotion and retention of personnel who are sympathetic to or supportive of white supremacist causes, paramilitary militias or racist organizations. There is no place for collaboration with these groups in public institutions," said Susan Corke, Director of Intelligence Project at Southern Poverty Law Center. 

"This letter makes clear that the federal government must send the message that unauthorized paramilitary organizations and other bigoted and anti-democracy groups operating on the border will not be tolerated. It is imperative that federal agencies like the Department of Homeland Security have transparent policies to track anti-democracy affiliations within their workforces and ensure that their agents are not cooperating with unauthorized paramilitary organizations," said Lindsay Schubiner, Western States Center Director of Programs. 

“We thank the Representatives and Senators for raising these crucial questions about extremism within CBP, and urge agency leadership to answer promptly and take overdue steps address the problem," said Katherine Hawkins, Senior Legal Analyst for Project on Government Oversight.

Following the January 6th insurrection, it was revealed that the far-right militia group, the Oath Keepers, played a large role in the planning and execution of the attack and attempted overthrow of the U.S. government. In December 2022, an investigation by the Project on Government Oversight and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project found that more than 300 individuals of the far-right militia group, the Oath Keepers, “described themselves as current or former employees of the Department of Homeland Security.

Earlier that year, in March of 2022, the Chief Security Officer of DHS issued a report in March 2022 finding that “the Department has significant gaps that have impeded its ability to comprehensively prevent, detect, and respond to potential threats related to domestic violent extremism within DHS. While DHS recognizes and acknowledges the fact that domestic violent extremism poses the most lethal and persistent terrorism-related threat to our country, policies to address internal threats are still unclear.