NYC Rep. Ritchie Torres asks Dept. of Homeland Security for answers after report finds far-right Oath Keepers in its ranks

A disclosure that hundreds of members of the far-right Oath Keepers militia may have worked in the Homeland Security Department demands answers from the anti-terrorism agency, Rep. Ritchie Torres said Monday.

Torres (D-Bronx) sent a letter to the department Monday afternoon asking its leadership to take “all appropriate measures” to ensure the agency does not employ violent far-right extremists, his office said.

Rep. Ritchie Torres, D-N.Y., speaks during a House committee on Homeland Security hearing addressing threats to election security at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, July 20, 2022.

The Project on Government Oversight, an independent watchdog, reported last month that more than 300 Oath Keepers listed in a leaked 2015 roster described themselves as active or former Homeland Security Department employees.

Most of those members had retired from the department, according to the watchdog. But the blinkered nature of the reported list raised concern that more government workers could have joined the Oath Keepers in the years since.

“It is a fundamental conflict of interest for any member of an anti-government group like the Oath Keepers to work for the U.S. government, and particularly for [Homeland Security] given its role in law enforcement and national security,” Torres said in the letter.

He asked Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to provide information about how the department is addressing possible Oath Keepers membership within its ranks.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas speaks during a news conference during the U.S.-Mexico High-Level Security Dialogue, at the State Department, Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022, in Washington.

The Homeland Security Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Torres was the lone signer on the letter. It used the letterhead of the House Homeland Security Committee; the Bronx congressman serves as the committee’s vice chairman.

Democrats were rushing to put their final stamps on the 117th Congress before Republicans take control of the House and its committees Tuesday.

The Homeland Security Department, which has more than 240,000 employees, extended its long-running domestic terrorism advisory in November.

The department said the advisory marked the seventh such notice since January 2021, the month that former President Donald Trump’s election lies inspired his followers to attack the U.S. Capitol.

More than 20 Oath Keepers have been charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack.

Two leaders of the group — Stewart Rhodes, the Oath Keepers founder, and Kelly Meggs, the leader of its Florida chapter — were found guilty of seditious conspiracy in November.

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