Thomas Caldwell claims to be a former FBI Section Chief, a former classified government consultant, and unaffiliated with the Oath Keepers.
WASHINGTON — A man who authorities say is a leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia group and helped to organize a ring of other extremists and led them in the attack last month at the U.S. Capitol has held a top-secret security clearance for decades and previously worked for the FBI, his attorney said Monday.
Thomas Caldwell, who authorities believe holds a leadership role in the extremist group, worked as a section chief for the FBI from 2009 to 2010 after retiring from the Navy, his lawyer, Thomas Plofchan, wrote in a motion urging the judge to release him from jail while he awaits trial.
The defense said Caldwell, who has denied being part of the Oath Keepers, has held a top-secret security clearance since 1979, which required multiple special background investigations, according to Plofchan. Caldwell also ran a consulting firm that did classified work for the U.S. government, the lawyer said.
“He has been vetted and found numerous times as a person worthy of the trust and confidence of the United States government, as indicated by granting him Top Secret clearances,” Plofchan wrote.
Caldwell was one of three Oathkeepers charged with conspiracy on January 26th.
Jessica Marie Watkins, 38, and Donovan Ray Crowl, 50, both from Champaign County, Ohio, and Thomas Caldwell, 65, of Clarke County, Va., were arrested about two weeks after the insurrection in Washington, D.C., a Justice Department news release said. They face a slew of charges: conspiracy, obstructing an official proceeding, destruction of government property and unlawful entry on restricted building or grounds.
All three have ties to the Oath Keepers, which is described by the Justice Department as "a paramilitary organization focused on recruitment of current and former military, law enforcement, and first responder personnel." The organization encourages its members and prospective recruits to uphold their sworn oath to defend the Constitution, according to the Oath Keepers website.
Watkins, Crowl and Caldwell are accused of communicating their plans long before the assault in Washington. The Justice Department said the three coordinated their attack on the Capitol. Additionally, they documented their participation in the attack on social media, investigators said. Watkins posted a video of herself inside the Capitol on Parler. "Yeah. We stormed the Capitol today. Teargassed, the whole, 9," she said. "Pushed our way into the Rotunda. Made it into the Senate even."
Charging documents show messages between Caldwell and the others about arranging hotel rooms in the Washington area in the days before the siege. In one Facebook message from to Caldwell, one the others says: “Will probably call you tomorrow … mainly because … I like to know wtf plan is. You are the man COMMANDER.”
Authorities say the Oath Keepers communicated during the attack about where lawmakers were. At one point during the siege, Caldwell received a message that said “all members are in the tunnels under the capital,” according to court documents. “Seal them in turn on gas,” it said.
Other messages read: “Tom all legislators are down in the Tunnels 3floors down” and “go through back house chamber doors facing N left down hallway down steps,” according to court documents.
Law & Crime
“Law enforcement and news media organizations observed that members of a paramilitary organization known as the Oath Keepers were among the individuals and groups who knowingly, willfully, and forcibly entered the U.S. Capitol,” Caldwell’s charging documents note. “The Oath Keepers are a large but loosely organized collection of militia who believe that the federal government has been coopted by a shadowy conspiracy that is trying to strip American citizens of their rights. Though the Oath Keepers will accept anyone as members, what differentiates them from other anti-government group is their explicit focus on recruiting current and former military, law enforcement and first responder personnel.”
Authorities relied largely on evidence from Caldwell’s Facebook for the probable cause affidavit leading up to the three arrests.
“Even if you tell the hotel its double occupancy, you can STILL put a couple of people on the floor with bedrolls and the hotel won’t know shit,” the message reads. “Paul said he might be able to take one or two in his room as well. I spoke to the hotel last night (actually 2 a.m. this morning) and they still had rooms. This is a good location and would allow us to hunt at night if we wanted to. I don’t know if Stewie has even gotten out his call to arms but it’s a little friggin late. This is one we are doing on our own. We will link up with the north carolina [sic] crew.”