The Slatest

Security Contractor Erik Prince Reportedly Recruited Ex-Spies to Infiltrate Liberal Groups

Erik Prince, former Navy Seal and founder of private military contractor Blackwater USA, arrives to testify during a closed-door House Select Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 30, 2017.
Erik Prince, former Navy Seal and founder of private military contractor Blackwater USA, arrives to testify during a closed-door House Select Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on Nov. 30, 2017. Saul Loeb/Getty Images

Erik Prince, a security contractor who has ties to the Trump administration, recruited former spies to infiltrate liberal groups, reports to the New York Times. The founder of the private military contractor Blackwater has been hiring British and American spies to carry out operations, including infiltrating a Democratic congressional campaign and a labor organization. The apparent goal? Get information that could be used against the groups that are seen as hostile to President Donald Trump and his agenda.

One former MI6 agent that was recruited by Prince helped run an operation at the Michigan office of the American Federation of Teachers.* The former agent, Richard Seddon, directed the undercover operative to record leaders of the union and gather information that could hurt the organization if made public. That same operative later infiltrated the congressional campaign of now-Rep. Abigail Spanberger. The campaign fired the operative when it realized what was going on.

Both of these operations were carried out by Project Veritas, the conservative group that calls itself a news organization and is known for carrying out “stings” on media outlets, Democrats, and other groups. Seddon’s role is detailed in emails that are part of a lawsuit between Project Veritas and the American Federation of Teachers, which is asking for more than $3 million in damages. The union is accusing Project Veritas of being a “vigilante organization which claims to be dedicated to exposing corruption. It is, instead, an entity dedicated to a specific political agenda.” Project Veritas claims its activities are protected by the First Amendment.

The Times obtained documents that showed Prince apparently became interested in using former spies to train Project Veritas employees in skills to conduct their undercover work. James O’Keefe, who heads up Project Veritas, declined to answer questions on the group’s ties to Prince, who is the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and has been an informal adviser to White House officials at certain points of Trump’s presidency.

Correction, March 9, 2020: This post originally misidentified the British intelligence agency MI6 as M16.