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"You know who won World War II? It wasn't the generals or the admirals. It was the economists. More tanks, planes, ships. And all that spending lifted this entire nation out of poverty. Freed the world from tyranny. A big country needs big enemies. The best enemy we ever had was the Soviet Union. Our fear of them unified our people. Gave us purpose. The problem today, John, is half the country thinks the other half is its enemy because they have no one else to fight. So... we gave them a real enemy."
— Thomas Clay

Thomas Clay is a character that appears in the film, Without Remorse. He is the Secretary of Defense.


Thomas Clay served as the Secretary of Defense for the United States in the late 2010s. Married, he owned a farm in West Virginia and had a daughter who was attending collage at Westleyan University as well as a son. In late 2018, Clay concluded that the United States was in dire need of a common enemy in order to unite the country from its political divide and boost the economy. To do this, he sought to orchestrate a war with Russia.

Through the CIA, Clay ordered a SEAL team to travel to Aleppo, Syria extract a CIA operative taken hostage by suspected pro-Assad paramilitary members. In reality, the operative was held at a Russian arms depot and the captors had ties to the Russian military. Clay deliberately chose this location as it was occupied by Yuri Zelin, the son of the head of the FSB, Nikolay Zelin. With Yuri dead, Clay knew that any retaliation by the organization would be seen as justified and would not be investigated.

To create the illusion of a retaliation by the FSB, Clay organized a team of operatives with FSB connections and had them led by a deep cover CIA operative, Viktor Rykov. He then ordered the team to assassinate members of the SEAL team that had attacked the Russian arms depot in Syria. This resulted in the deaths of Rowdy King and Keith Webb. John Kelly and his wife were the third targets. Once Pam Kelly had been murdered, Rykov killed a member of his team with the intention of the body being found. This was done because the discovery of a Russian hit team on American soil would further increase tensions between both countries. Despite this, John Kelly managed to kill all members of the hit team except for Rykov himself who escaped.

Clay later approached Karen Greer in her office and asked if Kelly could be trusted. He then invited Greer to a meeting with Robert Ritter to discuss the attack on the SEAL team members. Ritter protested Greer's presence as CIA Director Sarah Dillard had directed him to only brief Clay on the matter. Ritter then told them of Yuri Zelin's death and that the assassinations of the SEAL team appeared to be payback. Ritter then showed them dossiers of the killed Russian hit team. When Greer asked Ritter about the dossier of the man who escaped (Rykov), Ritter told her that there wasn't one and that it did not matter. Ritter explained that Dillard did not want to anger the FSB further and felt it was better to bury the matter. As a result, Clay told Greer that unless Dillard believed they should act, his hands were tied.

After the meeting, Clay gave Greer the dossiers, knowing that she would give it to Kelly who would stop at nothing to find Rykov. As planned, Kelly killed Andre Vaseliev, the Russian diplomat who issued the passports to the Russian hit team, to learn Rykov's name. As expected, this further deteriorate U.S. and Russian relations. Clay heightened the situation further by leaking intelligence documents relating to the assassinations of the SEAL team members.

With Kelly incarcerated, Clay was approached by Ritter and was told that the CIA did not leak the assassinations as they had been trying to cover them up. He then told Clay as a professional courtesy from Dillard that Greer had given Kelly the intelligence documents relating to Vaseliev but they could not prove it. Ritter then expressed his concern that Vaseliev's death would send the wrong message to Moscow and that Kelly wouldn't be safe, even in prison. Clay stated that some situations warranted thinking outside the box. He then told Ritter that they should see what happens.

After Kelly told Greer to give Clay a message regarding Rykov, Clay had Kelly removed from prison before he could be killed by the Russian Mafia. He then met up with Kelly, Dillard, and Greer at a safehouse. During the meeting, Kelly told them of Rykov who was thought to be dead. Kelly confirmed Rykov's identity from a photo line up. Ritter then suggested that they capture him to prevent future attacks on the West. Kelly insisted on being placed on the recovery team. Clay initially opposed Kelly's inclusion and told Greer that she would be leading the mission. Kelly remained insistent and told Clay that if Rykov was as dangerous as they thought, they would need someone like him on the team. Greer recommended against it, citing Kelly's mental state, but Clay overruled her. Clay did tell Kelly, however, that he would return to prison as a felon after the mission.

The plan for recovery team was to take a disguised passenger jet out of Germany and perform and HALO jump into in Russia. They would then rendezvous with Ritter and proceed to capture Rykov. Clay leaked this mission to the Russian government which resulted in the plane being shot down by the Russian military. This was done to not only further deteriorate U.S. and Russia relations but to also tie up loose ends by killing Kelly. Clay had then intended for Ritter's team to meet up with Rykov and then be ambushed and killed. The ambush team would then kill any first responders to make it look like they had been killed by the recovery team. Clay knew that with the current state U.S. and Russia relations, finding American bodies on Russian soil would finally spark a war between both countries.

Clay's plan ultimately failed as all members of the recovery team survived the plane crash and no member was discovered by Russian authorities during their encounter with Rykov. Unfortunately for Clay, Kelly, Ritter, and Greer deduced his involvement after Rykov had stated that the "true patriots" were in Washington before he killed himself. Kelly faked his death while the other recovery team members returned. Clay was later confronted by Kelly in the restroom of a restaurant. Kelly told him that they were meant to die to increase tensions with Russia and that someone in the CIA was behind it. Clay attempted to blame Dillard but was not surprised when Kelly told him how Rykov died. Kelly pointed out that the manner of Rykov's death was not included in Greer's report, confirming Clay's involvement. Kelly then put Clay in a sleeper hold and knocked him unconscious.

Clay awoke handcuffed inside a car a short time later. Kelly demanded to know why his family and team members were targeted. After Kelly threatened Clay's family, he confessed to all of his actions. Kelly then drove the car over a bridge and demanded that Clay say his wife's name. Believing Kelly would save him, Clay said her name repeatedly before drowning. Kelly recorded their conversation and was saved by Greer who was waiting nearby with diving gear. The recording was taken to the CIA by Ritter and used as leverage to change Kelly's identity to John Clark. Clay's death was officially reported as a suicide.


  • During his initial meeting with Karen Greer, Clay stated that he had worked with her uncle Jim Greer before.