Thomas Caldwell, Man Accused of Plotting Capitol Riot, Worked for FBI—Lawyer

The man authorities allege is the leader of the far-right Oath Keepers and an orchestrator of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol building previously worked for the FBI, his attorney claims.

The Oath Keepers is a far-right militia that supports former U.S. President Donald Trump and peddles conspiracy theories, according to the Anti-Defamation League. The Oath Keepers believe that violent civil war in the U.S. is imminent and they have said they are "the last line of defense against tyranny."

The alleged leader of the group, Thomas Caldwell, 66, of Berryville, Virginia, worked as a section chief for the FBI from 2009 and 2010 after retiring from the Navy. That's according to his lawyer, Thomas Plofchan, who wrote a motion urging a judge to release his client from prison as he awaits trial.

Caldwell was arrested on January 19 on four federal counts, including conspiracy to commit an offense against the U.S. during the January 6 Capitol building riots in Washington, D.C.

The defense said Caldwell, who denies being an Oath Keeper, has had top-secret security clearance since 1979, which required multiple special background investigations. Caldwell's lawyer says he also ran a consulting company that did confidential work for the government.

Most section chiefs in the FBI are promoted internally, but it is not clear whether Caldwell was hired directly or held other posts within the bureau. Newsweek has contacted the FBI for comment.

"He [Caldwell] 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 on Monday.

Caldwell is among roughly 200 people charged so far for the January 6 attack on the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. The rioters have been charged for federal crimes such as disrupting Congress, disorderly conduct and assault. Caldwell's lawyer denies his client ever went to the Capitol due to "physical limitations" that would prevent him from breaking into the building. Among these limitations, he said, were shoulder, back and knee issues resulting from a "service-connected injury." Court filings say Caldwell had a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder and that he had to undergo spinal surgery, which later failed and led to long-term spinal issues.

But prosecutors say Caldwell and others wrote messages to each other to arrange hotel stays near Washington, D.C., days before the violent attack on the U.S. Congress building. A Facebook message to Caldwell says "Will probably call you tomorrow ... mainly because ... I like to know wtf plan is. You are the man COMMANDER.", according to court documents. 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," court documents showed.

FBI papers also say that Caldwell suggested a similar, local event after the attack, writing in a message: "Lets storm the capitol in Ohio. Tell me when!"

Several members of the Proud Boys, the far-right group that was founded in 2008, have also been charged with conspiracy and are accused of working together during the siege. On January 3 the extremist group was labeled a terrorist entity by Canada.

At a rally held just before the insurrection, President Donald Trump urged supporters to "fight like hell" to overturn President-elect Joe Biden's victory.

On Monday, a U.S. District Court judge in Seattle ruled that a Proud Boys leader who allegedly participated in the riots will remain in jail after the Department of Justice (DOJ) appealed the judge's order to release him.

Pro-Trump protesters storm Capitol
A large group of pro-Trump protesters overtake police and barriers in order to access the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 in Washington, D.C. A man alleged to be one of the orchestrators of the insurrection previously worked for the FBI, his attorney has said. Jon Cherry/Getty