According to The Washington Post, federal prosecutors say Navy veteran Thomas Edward Caldwell led a group of the Oath Keepers to Washington to storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
But Caldwell’s attorney says he “also had a top-secret security clearance and served as a section chief for the FBI after leaving the armed forces in 2009,” The Post reported.
Those details were revealed in a motion filed Monday asking a judge to release Caldwell from custody, citing his long military career and ability to pass vetting for the high-security clearance. His attorney also said that Caldwell has disabilities from his military service that would have prevented him from storming the Capitol.
The FBI did not immediately return an inquiry late Monday about Caldwell’s past employment status. Caldwell’s filing, which says he was paid as a GS-12, does not explain how he could have served as an FBI section chief while also being classified at a significantly lower federal pay scale than typically comes with such a position.
The claims about Caldwell’s high-security clearance and FBI service add to concerns about extremism in the military and law enforcement. The indictments against numerous alleged rioters with military and police connections have led local agencies to open investigations and the Pentagon to order each military branch to dedicate time to addressing the problem in the coming months.
Caldwell’s attorney, Thomas K. Plofchan, “identified Caldwell as a retired lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy, and said Caldwell worked as a section chief in the FBI from 2009 to 2010 after retiring from military service,” per the report.
Plofchan also listed multiple service awards his client earned and said Caldwell has had a “top-secret security clearance” since 1979.
Caldwell lives in Berryville, Va., and had been involved in local GOP politics. He was arrested on Jan. 19 in Virginia on charges of conspiracy, destruction of government property, obstruction of an official proceeding, and violent entry or disorderly conduct.
The government alleges that Caldwell, whom an FBI agent identified as having “a leadership role in the Oath Keepers,” sent Facebook messages coordinating with members of the self-styled militia and sharing video from within the Capitol.
“Us storming the castle,” Caldwell allegedly said in one message that accompanied a video that showed a crowd inside the Capitol, according to the criminal complaint. “Please share. Sharon was right with me! I am such an instigator!”
But Plofchan said witnesses “will testify that [Caldwell] never entered the U.S. Capitol Building and that his physical limitations would have prevented him from forcibly entering any building or storming past any barrier.”
He also said Caldwell is not and has never been a member of the Oath Keepers.
Image credit: Screengrab / Washington Post / YouTube