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IMMINENT WARNING: VIOLENT PROTESTS LIKELY AS OATH KEEPERS FOUNDER IS SENTENCED TO 18 YEARS IN PRISON

May 25, 2023

Lydia Baccino, Michael Grimaldi, Hae Lim Park, Julia Tsarnas, NORTHCOM and Extremism Teams

Jennifer Loy, Chief Editor


Oath Keepers’ Symbol[1]


Event: The Oath Keepers’ founder, Stewart Rhodes has been sentenced to 18 years in prison for coordinating a weeklong plot that had his followers attacking the U.S. Capitol to keep President Joe Biden out of the White House after winning the 2020 Presidential election. Rhodes is the first to be convicted on charges of seditious conspiracy relating to the January 6 riots. When sentencing Rhodes, Judge Amit Mehta stated that this charge and long sentencing was due to Rhodes presenting as an “...ongoing threat and a peril to this country and to the republic and to the very fabric of this democracy.” This statement comes as a message from Rhodes detailing that the people "They won't fear us until we come with rifles in hand,” was made public during proceedings. His extremist and anti-government stance was reaffirmed in court and to his followers as he stated that the only crime he committed was defending against those trying to destroy our country.[2]


Significance: Rhodes’s sentencing will likely mobilize remaining Oath Keepers who have not been identified or arraigned for their roles in the insurrection. He will very likely continue to insist that he is a political prisoner who did not directly incite the storming of the Capitol. Rhodes and other Oath Keeper leadership will likely assert that the insurrection was not premeditated and that the congressional special investigation into the January 6 insurrection was a political maneuver. This will likely further justify to existing right wing extremists that they are being wrongly persecuted, likely helping the recruitment to the Oath Keepers and other far-right extremist groups. Young individuals will likely join the Oath Keepers from online recruitment as current followers will likely replace vacant leadership roles from on-going investigations. The judiciary’s willingness to apply enhanced penalties for terrorism will likely generate the organization of violent protests as a response to this sentencing. The judiciary’s punitive stance towards terrorism will likely offend the Oath Keepers and other right wing militias, as they will likely only view terrorism as attacks by a foreign party. The Oath Keepers’s terrorism designation will likely further radicalize them and make them more likely to organize sophisticated “protests.” These will likely escalate to destruction of property and violence. These attacks will likely be organized via social media platforms and phrases igniting protests will likely be used. They will unlikely include the exact intention of the “protest” to protect their communications from being used against them in court. There will likely be encrypted messages and code words only used by the members of the group to avoid detection from law enforcement. Since it is very likely that both incumbent President Biden and former president Trump will run for the 2024 presidential election, campaigning will likely reignite violent political extremism and further polarize the American public.


Recommendations:

  • The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) recommends that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and National Security Agency (NSA) should focus on monitoring social media and public statements from Oath Keepers, their affiliates, and other militia groups with similar ideologies. If possible, attempt to monitor right wing chat rooms on apps like discord and telegram for any possible threats in relation to the recent sentencing.

  • CTG recommends that a shared hash database should be implemented to monitor any key phrases and words relating to extreme political beliefs. This would allow the detection of more subtle and nuanced language used by the Oath Keepers and other far-right groups when talking about membership, recruitment and planning of future attacks. CTG understands that not all language is inherently violent allowing for this recommendation to circumvent measures put in place by the group to avoid detection.

  • CTG recommends that Federal agents and local law enforcement should increase security around the residences and offices of judges and politicians, particularly those who are not members of the “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) movement or those who have strongly condemned the January 6th Attack. Law enforcement should keep this increased security situation for about 3-4 months, as a possible retaliatory attack may not be planned for immediately after the sentencing. This would also protect citizens and government buildings as new convictions and sentences occur over the incoming weeks.

  • CTG recommends that law enforcement should also continue to monitor for any planned protests and attacks in the runup and during the 2024 presidential election campaigns. During this period campaign locations will likely become hotspots for Oath Keepers and other far-right extremist groups.

  • If there is any additional and or critical information please contact us at The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) by Telephone 202-643-2848 or email info@counterterrorismgroup.com

 

[2] Oath Keepers founder sentenced to 18 years in Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy case, NBC News, May 2023, https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/justice-department/oath-keepers-founder-sentenced-18-years-jan-6-seditious-conspiracy-cas-rcna85852

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