Our old friend Erik Prince is at it again, this time hiring out his mercenaries for a different kind of warfare here in the '20s: disinformation warfare and infiltration of liberal groups through James O'Keefe and his Operation Veritas project.
Erik Prince, the security contractor with close ties to the Trump administration, has in recent years helped recruit former American and British spies for secretive intelligence-gathering operations that included infiltrating Democratic congressional campaigns, labor organizations and other groups considered hostile to the Trump agenda, according to interviews and documents.
One of the former spies, an ex-MI6 officer named Richard Seddon, helped run a 2017 operation to copy files and record conversations in a Michigan office of the American Federation of Teachers, one of the largest teachers’ unions in the nation. Mr. Seddon directed an undercover operative to secretly tape the union’s local leaders and try to gather information that could be made public to damage the organization, documents show.
Using a different alias the next year, the same undercover operative infiltrated the congressional campaign of Abigail Spanberger, then a former C.I.A. officer who went on to win an important House seat in Virginia as a Democrat. The campaign discovered the operative and fired her.
Both operations were run by Project Veritas, a conservative group that has gained attention using hidden cameras and microphones for sting operations on news organizations, Democratic politicians and liberal advocacy groups. Mr. Seddon’s role in the teachers’ union operation — detailed in internal Project Veritas emails that have emerged from the discovery process of a court battle between the group and the union — has not previously been reported, nor has Mr. Prince’s role in recruiting Mr. Seddon for the group’s activities.
Both Project Veritas and Mr. Prince have ties to President Trump’s aides and family. Whether any Trump administration officials or advisers to the president were involved in the operations, even tacitly, is unclear. But the effort is a glimpse of a vigorous private campaign to try to undermine political groups or individuals perceived to be in opposition to Mr. Trump’s agenda.
Mr. Prince, the former head of Blackwater Worldwide and the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, has at times served as an informal adviser to Trump administration officials. He worked with the former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn during the presidential transition. In 2017, he met with White House and Pentagon officials to pitch a plan to privatize the Afghan war using contractors in lieu of American troops. Jim Mattis, then the defense secretary, rejected the idea.
Mr. Prince appears to have become interested in using former spies to train Project Veritas operatives in espionage tactics sometime during the 2016 presidential campaign. Reaching out to several intelligence veterans — and occasionally using Mr. Seddon to make the pitch — Mr. Prince said he wanted the Project Veritas employees to learn skills like how to recruit sources and how to conduct clandestine recordings, among other surveillance techniques.
James O’Keefe, the head of Project Veritas, declined to answer detailed questions about Mr. Prince, Mr. Seddon and other topics, but he called his group a “proud independent news organization” that is involved in dozens of investigations. He said that numerous sources were coming to the group “providing confidential documents, insights into internal processes and wearing hidden cameras to expose corruption and misconduct.”
“No one tells Project Veritas who or what to investigate,” he said.
A spokesman for Mr. Prince declined to comment. Emails sent to Mr. Seddon went unanswered.
To recap, a major private military contractor, who happens to be the brother of the Secretary of Education, is bankrolling, recruiting and training operatives to infiltrate labor unions, activist organizations, news outlets and, I cannot stress this enough, Democratic campaign staff, in order to damage their credibility and spread disinformation.
They are doing this with the tacit permission of the White House.
Disgraced paramilitary leader aligned with regime party pays spies to infiltrate and suppress domestic political opposition on behalf of the head of state https://t.co/UQ9Hvv47JJ— Adam Serwer🍝 (@AdamSerwer) March 7, 2020
It would make a great Tom Clancy novel if it wasn't 100% real. If this was happening in any other putative democracy on Earth, the US would call for UN election observers and threaten sanctions.
They gave O'Keefe and his merry band of gotcha "journalists" real actual spies to use against Democrats and their allies, to spy on Trump's political foes. It worked, too. They stole information, they got people fired, they spread chaos.
And they're still doing it. If you don't think these guys have folks in the Bernie and Biden campaigns, you're not paying attention. The US Senate campaigns and key House races? Absolutely. Unions, Black Lives Matter, women's groups, Latino groups, LGBTQ groups, you name it, they've got people in or heading in.
We're up against a mob boss willing to do anything to crush his foes.