Spy V. Spy in Virginia Politics?

Erik Prince

By Peter Galuszka

Erik Prince, the highly controversial former Navy SEAL and founder of the security firm Blackwater, recruited spies to infiltrate liberal groups and the 2018 political campaign of U.S. Rep Abigail Spanberger, according to media reports.

His role was disclosed in a lawsuit deposition involving the right-wing group Project Veritas that has tried to work covertly to embarrass journalists and others, according to the Washington Examiner.

Spanberger, a Democrat, knocked off U.S. Rep. Dave Brat, a conservative favorite, in the 7th District, which includes parts of the Richmond suburbs. Her victory stunned political watchers since the district historically has voted  for Republicans. She had worked previously as an undercover operative for the CIA on issues including terrorism and nuclear proliferation.

Prince is alleged to have hired Richard Seddon, a former intelligence officer with MI-6, for various covert political missions. In one case, Seddon allegedly recruited Marisa Jorge, a Liberty University graduate to work in Spanberger’s campaign.

She was discovered and fired. In another event during the campaign, personnel files about Spanberger’s government work somehow were circulated. Republicans pounced when it was learned that Spanberger had once taught at a Muslim school in Northern Virginia, which conservatives claimed was “terror high.

The brother of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Prince has close ties with the Trump Administration. The current $3 million lawsuit came from the American Federation of Teachers, a group that was also penetrated by Seddon, according to media reports,

Prince has long been controversial. In 1997, he founded Blackwater U.S.A., a security firm in Moyock, N.C. not far from the Virginia border. He built a 7,000 acre training camp near Moyock that recruited special forces personnel to work on security jobs. The center has also served as a training ground for foreign nationals, including people from Azerbaijan, an oil-rich former republic in the Soviet Union.

Blackwater got big contracts during the early part of the second war in Iraq to provide security for top U.S. officials and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. According to news reports, Blackwater also was involved in a CIA contract to hunt down and kill high ranking members of Al Qaeda, a Muslim terrorist group.

In 2007, Blackwater guards opened fire on a crowd in Baghdad, killing 14 civilians and injuring 20 more. That and other problems cost Blackwater government work.  The company was forced to sell itself off and eventually became known as Academi.

Its board of directors has included retired Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, the former head of the code-busting National Security Agency and was deputy head of the CIA. By coincidence, Inman was also the last chairman of the board of Massey Energy, a coal company that was based in Richmond. The firm was taken over by now-defunct Alpha Natural Resources after an April 5, 2010 blast killed 29 miners in West Virginia.

Virginia has long been known for its ties to the intelligence community. The CIA is based in Langley and its operations people train at Camp Peary near Williamsburg. Northern Virginia is dotted with other secretive government agencies. The Pentagon is also in Virginia.

Another strange aspect is that Prince seemed to be taking his undercover political operations at a time when Russia was being accused of infiltrating the American electoral scene to back Donald Trump.

The bizarre events actions have taken political spying to new levels. It is peculiar that they involve individuals with close links to intelligence circles.

They also display the problems of privatizing security work normal done by on-duty troops or intelligence people.

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13 responses to “Spy V. Spy in Virginia Politics?”

  1. Interesting story, Peter. I don’t condone spying on political campaigns, whether Prince is spying on liberals and Democrats or the FBI is spying on the Trump campaign. I’m curious. What are the grounds of the lawsuit? What law is Prince alleged to have broken?

    1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      The AFT is alleging “trespassing, eavesdropping, and other offenses.” Here is a link to one story: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/07/us/politics/erik-prince-project-veritas.html

  2. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Jim. I don’t the answers. Project Veritas says it is protected by the first amendment

  3. CrazyJD Avatar

    I’m interested in what point you’re trying to make. It sounds a little bit like:

    “And so’s your mama”
    or maybe:

    “Turnabout is fair play.”

  4. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Shocked, shocked are you? Sounds like these guys were obvious and sloppy. When it works well nobody ever gets a hint…..Linking to the story or, better, to the pleadings or deposition, if public, would have added some meat to this. Thirty years ago if I wanted the Democrat leadership to see my internal caucus communications, I’d stamp them confidential and they leaked faster. Intelligence is just as much a key element in a political campaign as in a military one. Usually you just curry sources rather than plant informants, though.

  5. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    As I recall, this is one of many guys that the Democrats absolutely love to hate.

  6. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    I see the points made by steve and reed. In my opinion, gathering intell is one thing but actual sabotage is another. Not sure that happened here.

    1. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner

      Sabotage crosses my line. So does a plant, actually. But it’s done.

  7. LarrytheG Avatar

    I would think in this day and time of social media, it would be dang near impossible to “plant” someone. Either they have a social media history or not – and if they do not any such history – warning warning Will Robinson!

    1. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner

      Fair point.

  8. LarrytheG Avatar

    Steve is apparently the only one to to say there is a line…. 😉

    I think it’s wrong also but if it’s acceptable then so be it – and we’ll see more of it…on both sides…

    and … our practices and procedures for elections will descend to even lower levels… because.. we apparently are okay with it…especially if it happens to the side we oppose… eh?

    1. Steve Haner Avatar
      Steve Haner

      Of course there’s a line. The most recent example in Virginia, the congressional campaign that used faked signatures to get a spoiler candidate qualified for the ballot, cost that candidate the election and has subjected many people involved to criminal investigations and prosecutions. People face jail for ballot fraud. There are ways to break the donation rules and visit the big house. The Watergate break in was a failed campaign intel effort and we all know how that worked out. Some of us don’t see much difference between that and the spying done on the Trump campaign as recently as 2016…..Nobody is jail yet for those fraudulent warrants, is there?

  9. LarrytheG Avatar

    When it comes to political games – there are a wide array of them as well as a wide array of opinions with respect to which “dirty tricks” are kosher and which cross that line and it goes back a long, long time.

    I’m no admirer of any of it – but elections do something to people involved in them sometimes. It’s easy to justify some of it in your own mind – if it’s for someone you support and not yourself.

    Unfortunately, a lot of them actually do work.

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