Byline speaks to one of the Guardian reporters, Rob Evans who broke the Spycops story
The Undercover Police, Since 1968
They were long term infiltrators embedded like no other spy in the history of the British police force with over 1000 political groups spied upon, and 144 undercover officers confirmed, the victims still to discover which friends and lovers betrayed them could be in the thousands.
Political groups infiltrated include: Greenham Women’s Peace Camp, Vietnam Solidarity Campaign, Anti-Apartheid Movement, Greenpeace, Black Power Movement, Reclaim the Streets, Animal Rights, Labour Party, Earth First, Maoist Group, Socialist Party, Justice Campaigns, British National Party, Illegal Rave Groups, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Dissent, Youth Against Racism in Europe.
The Role of Activists And Journalists
Eight years ago, activists posted on Indymedia that Mark Stone was an undercover officer of seven years based in Nottinghamshire, and Guardian journalists Rob Evans and Paul Lewis exposed the first spycop in January 2011.
Both reporters co-authored the 2013 book, The True Story of Britain’s Secret Police, Undercover.
What was the most shocking fact when you started investigating the story?
Rob recalled: “The most shocking thing was that no one knew for over forty years that this was going on, and the lengths to which the state had spied on protestors.
“At the start, what changed for me was the realisation that the police and state would have such elaborate methods of infiltrating protestors, developing all these fake identities and then to send them undercover for five years.
“That’s the shocking part I just thought wow, it’s amazing really.”
Mark Kennedy Unveils Forty Years Of Secrecy
The undercover squad remained a hidden part of Britain’s history and would have stayed that way if Mark Stone, real name Mark Kennedy, had not made a mistake.
The most successful infiltrator in the history of the squad, an officer who joined the spycops following a stint as an undercover drug dealer for four years was decommissioned from his role in 2009, by the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU).
Mark infiltrated all significant national and international political groups across Europe from 2003-2010, and with his fake passport travelled to over 11 countries participating in over 40 actions while playing his state role to perfection as a committed environmentalist.
Forty years of secrecy was in the hands of this spycop whom after retiring from the Metropolitan Police returned to his old identity as Mark Stone, with plans to work in the same field this time as a corporate spy.
However, without direction or protection he left his real passport in the car for his girlfriend to find.
The woman in a relationship with Kennedy for six years informed fellow activists and together they investigated and discovered the truth.
Friends of the spycop confronted him – and he readily confessed, and then disappeared to America.
Rob said: “It took months until we could publish the Mark Kennedy story because our problem was proving it, and you run into the immediate obstacle of the police who will neither confirm, nor deny the allegations.”
In 2008 Mark received a special commendation award from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in New York for unknown reasons said to be related to his short US deployment to infiltrate the early Occupy Movement.
Mark also admitted to feeding information directly from his protest tents at various actions including anti-G8 summits in Scotland and Germany straight to Tony Blair and MI5.
At present Mark Kennedy is styled with short blonde hair and with the same injured left eye appears to be fulfilling his lifelong dream of playing guitar and is touring Europe with his band.
Whom his current employees are remain unknown.
Meet The Undercover Police
Deployments at a cost of £250,000 per year of public funds for each officer and each handler, the squad successfully infiltrated the homes and lives of activists, volunteers, MP’s, lawyers, victims of crime, and justice campaigners.
Selected from previous undercover roles within the Metropolitan police and not quite on the radar of security services they were put to good use into five-year deployments.
Long hair and beards grown for their roles they called themselves and were known as the Hairies, and the elite squad from the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) and NPOIU infiltrated every form of political activism and thought which was present within Britain.
Rob explained: “The undercover police are a hidden part of Britain’s history and the spying on citizens ran for 40 years without anyone knowing it was running, including senior government and police officials.”
Provided with a new identity and a script of a life lived so far, they had all the means for a double life and took great advantage of the overflowing waves of power and secrecy they were provided with.
The majority of spycops were married men in real life, and many engaged in sexual relationships with women targets who would not have entered into relationships with the men - had they been aware of the fact they were long term spycops on the clock for the state.
Rob said: “It’s very clear when you have elements of the state who think they will never be caught, they misbehave, and that’s what we have seen now with the undercover unit set up in 1968 in complete secrecy.
“I think it all flows from that characterisation of how the state operates.
“That explains all the different elements of controversy, such as the deceiving of the women, the spying on justice campaigns, such as Stephen Lawrence, the theft of the children’s identities, and disrupting the protestors in what they were doing.”
During deployments the state actors happily met twice a week in safe houses for drinks and the squad continue to meet yearly to talk over the many people deceived and no doubt the ongoing undercover policing inquiry.
The Aims Of A Spycop
The police infiltrations were designed to undermine and repress collective political activities, and sex was used as an established and deliberate tactic in order to gain acceptance and trust within protest groups.
The aim was to embed themselves long-term in order to gather intelligence and destroy relationships and create discord to make protest groups less effective.
Mark Kennedy who is confirmed to have had more than ten sexual relationships with women internationally, said: “The state-sponsored operation was like a hammer to crack a nut.”
While it is clear the task was to break down political groups, Rob explained: “It is difficult to understand the cause and effect of spycops and I think you can see clearly in some groups destruction happened as a result.
“The Campaign Against Nuclear Disarmament (CND) was big in the 1980s and then sort of diminished and of course they were infiltrated.
“Political activists should still be able to do what they do, without being paranoid or worrying about infiltrators.”
How The Power Has Shifted
Labelled as subversives by the state for engaging in political activity those spied upon come from a diverse range of citizens and are psychologically distressed when they discover their lovers and friends were spycops.
However, the people who were once infiltrated and reported upon are now the ones with the power to seek out the infiltrators and report on them.
Rob said: “What is interesting about this controversy, is actually a lot of information has been found by the activists themselves and the power has shifted, this is a complete turning of the tables on the police as they infiltrated for years.
“The infiltrated now have a much better idea of how the infiltrators work and they can now spot the spies who were in their midst.
“This is about power really as the tables have turned now, on the police.”
The continued restriction of real and cover names of spycops by Justice Mitting, Chairman of the undercover policing inquiry means the power remains in the collective research efforts from activists and journalists to unveil the next batch of infiltrators.
Rob explained the role reversal: “Some of this is like cat and mouse, because the activists can go back in history and see, and they can spot informers and dig into them.
“And they have a good record of spotting and exposing informers.”
The Undercover Policing Inquiry
Two judicial review legal actions have been launched against the inquiry by three victims who have been made core participants, firstly to the Home Secretary concerning appointing a diverse panel to sit with the chairman. The second action is against Justice Mitting himself for his continual restriction of real and cover names of the spycops.
How does Rob feel about the progress of the inquiry?
“One of the areas in the inquiry is to look into the misconduct of the police, and so you immediately run into a problem if you have a significant number of undercover police officer’s identities kept secret.
“Why this is crucial is because one of the big issues of this inquiry is looking at how women were deceived into having intimate sexual relationships with police spies.
“At the moment Mitting does not have much confidence from the people, and so it is a useful tactic to get a panel to surround him with experts who have different life experiences essentially to him, my perception is that this worked very well with the Macpherson Inquiry.”
Undercover Cops Today
The SDS and NPOIU officially disbanded, spycops are now under instruction from the Special Projects Team from the Met's Counter Terrorism Command.
The use of electronic surveillance and paid informants widespread in operations, what are spycops doing today?
Rob said: "I would be surprised if they weren’t still doing infiltrations, how that operates we don’t know.
“What this means in practical terms is that now they can’t operate as they use to, and so the police will of course react and will find new ways of working.”