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From law enforcement to a sitting state senator, nearly 300 New Hampshire names appear in Oath Keepers database

A photo of a person from chest down, wearing an Oath Keepers teeshirt. A truck with an Oath Keepers decal on the back is in background.
William Campbell/Corbis via Getty Images
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Corbis Historical
Towns from the Seacoast to the North Country to the Monadnock region are represented in the database. Manchester, Salem, Nashua and Weare are home to the most names on the list.

The names of nearly 300 New Hampshire residents – including members of law enforcement, a sitting Republican state senator, former lawmakers, local elected officials, and military personnel – appear in a database of alleged members of the Oath Keepers militia, though the extent of their ongoing involvement is not detailed.

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The hacked membership list, which NHPR obtained through a whistleblower group, offers a detailed look at how political extremism and calls for political violence have attracted residents of New Hampshire in positions of power, in addition to a range of other citizens.

NHPR has confirmed, after speaking individually with them, that at least two current police officers were at one point involved in the Oath Keepers. Another certified officer whose name and cell phone number appear in the leaked database denied his involvement when contacted by NHPR. Nothing in state law appears to prohibit an officer from joining an extremist group, though an officer’s conduct or actions can lead to a suspension or decertification.

In addition, the names of local lawyers, business owners, a cemetery trustee and a martial arts instructor appear in the database. At least 18 residents whose names appear in the membership data appear to have campaigned for state or federal office in New Hampshire, based on election records.

READ: How NHPR reported on the Oath Keepers

About a dozen residents whose names are in the leaked Oath Keepers dataset appear to have served in local government, including on select boards, according to a review of records by NHPR.

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A “loosely organized militia”

The Oath Keepers are labeled as a “large but loosely organized militia” by the U.S. Department of Justice. The group is rooted in conspiracy theories, including the belief that the federal government could force American citizens into concentration camps. Founded in 2009, the Oath Keepers held one of its first public events in Lexington, Mass.

Since its founding, the Oath Keepers have sought to recruit members of the military and law enforcement, but have also permitted anyone who paid annual dues to formally join the group.

Members have been active in both armed standoffs with the government, as well as an incendiary presence at racial justice protests across the country in recent years.

Stewart Rhodes, the group’s leader, was arrested earlier this year on charges of seditious conspiracy for his role in the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. At least 20 other members of the group have also been charged for their conduct in the riot.

The group’s membership data was hacked by an unknown source and then distributed to media outlets, including NHPR, by DDoSecrets Collective, a whistleblower group. The records do not include details about when many of the members first joined the Oath Keepers, when they may have ended their membership, or how involved they may have been with the organization.

Who are the New Hampshire-related names on the list?
The database contains the names of at least 297 people with ties to New Hampshire, including State Sen. Bob Giuda, a Republican from Warren, who confirmed his previous involvement with the group to NHPR. Deputy Craig Charest of the Rockingham County Sheriff's Office confirmed his previous membership with the Oath Keepers, as did Officer Scott Young, former chief of police in Strafford who now works with the Barrington Police Department. All three said they severed their ties with the Oath Keepers years ago.

A photo of Sen. Guida, wearing a black suit jacket, behind some microphones.
Todd Bookman
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NHPR
“I left that group years ago,” Giuda said in an interview with NHPR about his appearance in the database. “I wasn’t comfortable with the way the group was being run.”

Bob Clegg, a former state Senate majority leader and congressional candidate who now works as a State House lobbyist, also appears in the membership rolls. He told NHPR he was signed up by a former colleague in the New Hampshire Legislature, former Representative Jennifer Coffey, who also paid for his membership dues. He never renewed his membership, Clegg said, or had any other contact with the group. Coffey also told NHPR that she is no longer a member of the Oath Keepers.

Two apparent members of the group from New Hampshire enrolled using their military email addresses. At least two dozen others either reference their past military service in a "notes" section included in the database, or appear to have connections to the military based on publicly available social media profiles, news reports or obituaries.

“Have 20-yrs of firearms, riot control, and tactical training,” wrote an alleged member of the group from Danville in the notes section. “I am [a] strong believer of the Constitution” [sic].

Giuda, the state senator, said he served in the Marine Corps, U.S. Navy and worked for the FBI. He told NHPR he joined the Oath Keepers because he had previously taken oaths to defend the Constitution. But he said he distanced himself from the organization soon after its involvement in the 2014 armed standoff with federal authorities at a Nevada ranch owned by Cliven Bundy.

“I left that group years ago,” Giuda said in an interview. “I wasn’t comfortable with the way the group was being run.”

Online profiles and posts show the group appears to have successfully attracted a range of New Hampshire residents, including a financial planner, auto mechanics, IT professionals, gun brokers and engineers. Some of the people listed in the database also appear to have been involved in other right-wing political movements, including the New Hampshire Minutemen and the 9-12 Project.

Towns from the Seacoast to the North Country to the Monadnock region are represented in the database. Manchester, Salem, Nashua and Weare are home to the most names on the list.

While it isn’t clear what drew residents to join the Oath Keepers, some comments left suggest members were ready and willing to take up arms against the government.

“I could help behind the lines (If need be),” wrote an apparent member from Raymond, “or I know how to handle a weapon (quite well).”

“Tip of the patriotic spear”

Often classified by extremism analysts as part of the ‘Patriot/militia movement,’ the Oath Keepers emerged shortly after the election of President Barack Obama, warning of a globalist takeover and threats of government-run concentration camps in the United States. Members pledge to uphold the U.S. Constitution but also swear to reject a list of potential “orders” that they will not obey, many of which are rooted in allegations about the federal government.

“They really operate around a set of baseless conspiracy theories about the federal government working to destroy the liberties of Americans,” said Rachel Carroll Rivas, a senior research analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights advocacy group that tracks extremist movements.

She said that there were signs from the group’s founding that armed conflict with federal authorities was inevitable, and that “the warning signs were all there.”

The group’s far-right anti-government messaging appealed to tens of thousands of members who joined local or state branches of the Oath Keepers, according to Carroll Rivas, helping it grow into one of the largest militia movements in the country. The group now charges $50 per year, or $1,000 for a lifetime membership.

In New Hampshire, members of the Oath Keepers previously attended county commission meetings to serve as observers, where their presence was reportedly welcomed by local officials. In 2010, state social workers took custody of a baby born to an Oath Keeper in Concord. While supporters of the group contended it was politically motivated, court documents revealed the man had a violent past including previous alleged abuse against children. In 2015, members of the Oath Keepers gathered outside the Armed Forces Career Center in Keene to serve as an ad hoc security force.

Nationally, the organization has garnered headlines not only for its participation in the January 6th riots, but also for its members taking part in armed standoffs at the Bundy Ranch and at federally owned properties in Oregon. In recent years members of the Oath Keepers have also turned up at racial justice protests, including in Ferguson, Missouri, often dressed in fatigues and carrying rifles. While claiming their presence was intended to ensure law and order, the militia members, who appear to have been largely white, were seen barreling into crowds of protestors, inflaming an already tense scene.

For activist Grace Kindeke with the American Friends Service Committee in Concord, participation in a group like the Oath Keepers by members of law enforcement further erodes trust in communities who have been harmed by racial bias.

“It speaks to a level of hypocrisy because I don’t think it is possible to serve the community and uphold the law…if you are specifically working with people who are subverting that, who do not believe that the law applies to them,” Kindeke said.

No policies prevent police from joining group, but departments can act

“I am the Chief of Police of a small town in New Hampshire,” wrote Scott Young, then the chief of Strafford’s police department, in his membership note when he joined the Oath Keepers, according to the database obtained by NHPR. “I love the Second Amendment and I pass on to all of the citizens the importance of a arms citizenry” [sic].

Young, who is now employed as a part-time officer in Barrington after retiring from Strafford, said in an interview that when the Oath Keepers “first came out, I think their motives were good,” but then the group “started to go off the rails.”

He said he backed away from the group “a long, long time ago.”

When NHPR reached Rockingham County Deputy Sheriff Craig Charest, whose name appears in the Oath Keepers database, he said he couldn’t recall why he became a member.

“It’s been so long, I don’t even remember,” he told NHPR. “That was a long, long time ago.” Charest said he is no longer involved with the group.

The database doesn’t clarify when every alleged member joined the Oath Keepers, or whether they are still affiliated with the group. Some appear to have paid for lifetime memberships, while others paid dues on an annual basis.

In New Hampshire, there is no explicit prohibition on certified law enforcement officers joining a militia or extremist group, according to John Scippa, director of the New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Council. The accrediting body “does not have a rule or list that identifies any specific groups or organizations by name that officers are prohibited to have membership to,” he wrote to NHPR in an email.

Instead, he said the council has a regulation that prohibits the hiring of an individual “whose general character and reputation in the community are such that a reasonable person would doubt that the applicant would conduct him or herself with honesty and integrity and uphold the rule of law.”

Scippa noted that an acting officer’s certification can be brought under review by the council and potentially revoked for conduct that calls their fitness to serve into question. Local police departments are also allowed to set their own policies.

James Boffetti, an associate Attorney General for the state, wrote in an email to NHPR that his office has “not previously been provided with the information” obtained by NHPR, but that it “will look into the situation to determine whether any further action by this Office is necessary.” The state’s top law enforcement agency declined to answer a question about what steps it may be taking to prevent extremism within law enforcement in the state.

Law enforcement agencies, including in New York, New Jersey, Washington and Oregon, have launched investigations in recent months into officers whose names appear in the leaked Oath Keepers records.

In Grafton County, a police chief said he would launch an investigation after being informed by NHPR that an officer in his department with the same name and cell phone number appeared in the database. When reached by NHPR, the officer denied ever joining the group, and said he had “no idea” what the Oath Keepers are.

At the Hollis Police Department, all job candidates are asked a list of screening questions, including whether they’ve been members of a militia or a group seeking to overthrow the government. Hollis Chief Joe Hoebeke, who is also current president of the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police, said such screening is one way to root out candidates who may hold extreme views. But he noted that police officers don't forgo their right to freedom of speech, and freedom of association.

“We have to think about what we do on-duty, and what we do off-duty, and how that can impact not just ourselves as individual professionals, but the agency as a whole, and the profession as a whole,” he said. Building public trust, he said, “takes a lot of work, and it takes very little work to destroy it.”

For Jon Lewis, a research fellow at the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, membership in a group such as the Oath Keepers by law enforcement or elected officials raises concerns because “fundamentally, the ideals of the Oath Keepers are anti-democratic.”

While not every member, past or present, may have been preparing to storm the U.S. Capitol to prevent the peaceful transfer of power, he said the group’s core principles from its founding have been about opposing the federal government.

A member who also holds a position of power in the state, Lewis added, be it by wearing a badge or by holding public office, “is certainly not someone who can claim in good faith to be representing the people of New Hampshire, or anywhere else.”

NHPR’s Casey McDermott contributed reporting to this story.

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