Ex-Spy Was Central to Project Veritas Hiring Effort, Testimony Shows

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WASHINGTON — A British former spy recruited by Erik Prince, the safety contractor near the Trump administration, performed a central function in a secretive effort to rent dozens of operatives for the conservative group Undertaking Veritas, deposition testimony reveals.

Job candidates traveled to Wyoming in 2017 for interviews with the previous intelligence officer, Richard Seddon, as Undertaking Veritas sought to broaden its operations early within the Trump administration, in response to a lawsuit deposition reviewed by The New York Occasions. The interviews performed by Mr. Seddon and his colleagues befell close to the airport within the small city of Cody, not removed from Mr. Prince’s household ranch.

The brand new particulars about Undertaking Veritas present the extent of the group’s ambitions to construct an intelligence-gathering equipment to infiltrate Democratic congressional campaigns, labor organizations, information media and different teams. Undertaking Veritas is understood for its sting operations aimed toward such teams, which have prompted allegations that it has printed deceptively edited movies.

Mr. Seddon didn’t instantly return an e-mail searching for remark. James O’Keefe, the founding father of Undertaking Veritas, didn’t reply to particular questions on Mr. Seddon or his function with the group. However he wrote in an e-mail, “The NYT has engaged in a coordinated malice-fueled disinformation campaign against Project Veritas.”

The Occasions reported in March that Mr. Prince, the founding father of Blackwater Worldwide and the brother of Training Secretary Betsy DeVos, has in recent times helped recruit American and British former spies for Undertaking Veritas’s intelligence-gathering operations.

Starting in 2016, Mr. Prince contacted a number of former intelligence officers — together with Mr. Seddon — and pitched them on educating Undertaking Veritas workers tips on how to function like spies. In some instances, Mr. Seddon led the recruiting, straight contacting the previous officers on Mr. Prince’s behalf.

Undertaking Veritas claims that its workers are journalists who conduct stings within the lengthy custom of undercover, muckraking journalism. However courtroom paperwork present how the group has turned to former troopers and spies for his or her operations.

The deposition of Samuel Chamberlain, a former U.S. Military officer contracted by Mr. Seddon to do work for Undertaking Veritas, disclosed Mr. Seddon’s function within the hiring course of. Mr. Chamberlain, who additionally helped display potential workers and handle discipline operations, was deposed in July as a part of a lawsuit filed by a Michigan academics’ union towards Undertaking Veritas.

The union, AFT Michigan, sued Undertaking Veritas in federal courtroom final 12 months, alleging trespassing, eavesdropping and different offenses. The group accused Undertaking Veritas of utilizing an undercover operative in 2017 to collect info that may very well be made public to wreck the group. Mr. O’Keefe has said the union’s legal claims are “laughable and really nothing more than a heavy-handed attack on Project Veritas and our methods.”

Mr. Seddon and Mr. Chamberlain have been concerned within the undercover scheme concentrating on AFT Michigan, inner Undertaking Veritas emails have proven.

The lawsuit has not deterred Undertaking Veritas. Most just lately, the conservative group made public a video that claimed Consultant Ilhan Omar’s marketing campaign had hyperlinks to an unlawful ballot-collection scheme in Minnesota. A spokesman for Ms. Omar described the video as “a coordinated right-wing effort to delegitimize a free and fair election.”

Mr. Chamberlain’s deposition offers a uncommon glimpse into the group’s operations. He mentioned that Mr. Seddon’s firm, Department 6 Consulting Worldwide, employed him in 2017 as a part of a Undertaking Veritas growth that nearly tripled the variety of the group’s undercover operatives. It isn’t clear who was paying Mr. Seddon. The identify of his firm seems to be a reference to the British Secret Intelligence Service generally known as MI6.

“It was his project, his contract, so ultimately he was in charge of it, but there was such a large volume of people that had applied for positions, I was just helping filter and sift through everything,” Mr. Chamberlain mentioned of Mr. Seddon.

A former fight engineer who served in Iraq, Mr. Chamberlain mentioned his background within the army was helpful in managing what Undertaking Veritas operatives have been amassing, in response to his deposition.

Mr. Chamberlain mentioned he operated as a “middleman between the journalists and the higher echelon of people at Project Veritas,” together with Mr. O’Keefe and Joe Halderman. A former tv producer, Mr. Halderman was convicted in 2010 of making an attempt to extort $2 million from the comic David Letterman.

Mr. Chamberlain mentioned he labored with one other discipline supervisor named Gaz Thomas, a former British commando, who was additionally recruited by Mr. Seddon.

When The Occasions contacted Mr. Chamberlain this 12 months, he known as Mr. Seddon to offer him a “heads-up” {that a} reporter had reached out, in response to the deposition.

Mr. Chamberlain didn’t reply to an e-mail searching for remark.

He was straight concerned within the operation concentrating on AFT Michigan that relied on an undercover operative named Marisa Jorge who used a code identify: LibertyU. Ms. Jorge graduated from Liberty College, a Christian faculty in Virginia. Mr. Chamberlain mentioned he supervised about two dozen Undertaking Veritas workers, together with Ms. Jorge.

Throughout his deposition, Mr. Chamberlain was requested, “You knew that she was going to lie to the folks at AFT Michigan, didn’t you?”

“Yes,” Mr. Chamberlain mentioned.

Within the deposition, he mentioned he was proud to have labored for Undertaking Veritas.

Mr. Chamberlain mentioned potential candidates have been interviewed on the cellphone after which dropped at Wyoming for a second interview at a constructing close to the Cody airport.

The roles have been open to anyone, Mr. Chamberlain mentioned. He had an inventory of about 100 questions he may ask, and he didn’t recall whether or not any have been “designed to disclose political predilections.” It was one of many dozens of instances throughout the deposition that Mr. Chamberlain mentioned he couldn’t keep in mind particulars.

He mentioned he additionally traveled to Wyoming for coaching in spring 2017 for about 20 Undertaking Veritas workers. Mr. O’Keefe, Mr. Halderman and Mr. Seddon additionally attended. The coaching befell at Mr. Prince’s household ranch, in response to interviews.

In a separate deposition taken as a part of the AFT Michigan lawsuit, Mr. O’Keefe mentioned he first encountered Mr. Prince — whom he described as a “supporter” — at a 2016 presidential debate between Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton. He mentioned he attended coaching in Wyoming round Cody however didn’t know who owned the property.

Mr. O’Keefe additionally mentioned he had not spoken to Mr. Seddon since he left Undertaking Veritas.

Mr. Seddon was a longtime British intelligence officer who served in quite a few places around the globe, together with Washington, within the years after the Sept. 11 assaults. He’s married to an American diplomat, Alice Seddon, who has served in Nigeria and different outposts.

In June 2017, Mr. Chamberlain mentioned he moved to Mamaroneck, N.Y., the place he labored within the places of work of Undertaking Veritas. Later that summer season, probably in August, Mr. Chamberlain mentioned he stopped working for the group after which attended a regulation enforcement academy in Minnesota.

He’s at the moment employed by the Nationwide Park Service, in response to the company.

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