How to Spot an Undercover Cop

Cutting Edge: Confessions of an Undercover Cop

Channel 4 (2011)

Film Review

This documentary is about a member of Britain’s National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) who served as an undercover operative inside the British environmental and antifascist movement between 2002-2009. Mark Kennedy was recruited for the elite NPOIU while working as an undercover narcotics officer. Following three weeks of specialized training, he assumed the role of a vegan anarchist named Mark Stone. For seven years, he reported daily to an NPOIU cover officer with information he had gleaned about fellow activists and their protest campaigns.

The NPOIU justification for infiltrating the environmental movement was to ensure the police response was “proportional” to the size of environmental protests. However over time Kennedy realized their true goal was to minimize the effectiveness of the environmental movement. As a result, he became increasingly conflicted about the role he played in undermining activists who seemed to have a genuine social function.

London’s massive March 2003 demonstration against the Iraq War was one of the first protests he infiltrated. Over time Kennedy, who was living under the cover name of Mark Stone, was admitted to the inner circle of the environmental movement. By 2005, he was assuming major responsibility for managing logistics for the 2005 G8 protest at Glen Eagles and the attempted shutdown (in 2006) of the Drax Power Station.

He also began a four year relationship with a female activist, in clear violation of NPOIU policy. According to police officials interviewed in the film, his cover officer had to know about the affair and should have terminated the assignment. It appears Kennedy’s superiors allowed the affair to continue for four years owing to the high quality of the information he was providing.

In 2005, he was suspended after riot cops beat him up during a protest, leading to an investigation on a possible charge of assaulting a police officer. After three months, he was suddenly recalled to duty to infiltrate the Spanish antifascist movement. Spain had contacted NPOIU requesting their assistance.

The NPOIU was forced to remove Kennedy from his undercover role in 2009, when information he provided led to police preventively arresting 30 protestors planning a civil disobedience at Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station. It became patently obvious Kennedy had narked on them when he was the only participant to have his charges dropped.

The NPOIU extracted him by floating the cover story he was moving to the US. After two weeks, he returned to Britain to be reassigned and was told the Metropolitan Police no longer had any use for his particular skills. He resigned, effectively ending a twenty year career.

When he tried to resume his relationship with his activist girlfriend, she happened to find a passport issued under his real name and outed him to the rest of the group – who outed him to the media.

The film concludes by raising important ethical questions about Kennedy’s undercover activity. Such as why the British police feel justified in preventing environmental protestors from executing their democratic rights. And how they justify spending millions of dollars spying on activists when Kennedy’s seven year mission failed to result in a single conviction.

19 thoughts on “How to Spot an Undercover Cop

  1. This dummy had no idea who he was really working for, and was in fact deceived himself into becoming a Cop and doing this job. When he woke up, he realized that the powers that be don’t really give a damn, not about him, their agent, nor for the people whose lives he ruined. Sad.


  2. The national security state has gone bonkers.Western goverments have been living the lie for so long that they must ever escallate there lies as each episode unravels they double down as there doing in Syria and Iraque now


  3. Don’t know that I’ll watch this forthwith although I eventually want to. Right now I’ve started into Walter Rodney’s:

    “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa.” (

    I’m also re-reading Eduardo Galeano (your fault) and I want to go through “The Weight of Chains” one more time. You set a grueling pace, Dr. Bramhall. I wish I could keep up.




  4. “their democratic rights” As your post reveals, “democratic rights” are a farce, a lie, they don’t exist and never did.

    I know what you mean, however, according to what the English have been led to believe (indoctrinated/programmed with), their ‘rights’ have been violated. But in reality, the only ‘rights’ the English ever had were those granted them by the unseen powers that be. And granted rights by an unseen power elite are not rights at all; they are gifts, the throwing of bones to the masses, since they can be rescinded anytime by those in power, as your post so obviously reveals.


  5. Okay, I watched it. Not quite sure what to make of this ‘documentary.’ There are many ways in which it can be ‘read’ or ‘interpreted.’

    I presume, without having done much of a search, that it aired on the BBC, a mainstream broadcasting media channel in Britain.

    That, in itself, raises questions. One possible motive, looking at this as a possible propaganda operation being conducted on behalf of the ‘establishment,’ is to heighten the level of paranoia or distrust within ‘activist’ organizations, and therefore undermine their cohesiveness and efficiency. I do recognize that Mark Kennedy may be sincere in his declarations on camera. But they are declarations on camera and Kennedy is, on his own admission, and as the documentary attests, a good liar. How do we know that this ‘documentary’ isn’t “milking an asset for all that you can.”

    Furthermore, if the police operate in a cloak and dagger manner, the take away for anyone not completely asleep to the significance of that ‘fact’ is that we do not live in a society that is free and democratic, despite all of the ‘mea culpas’ and ‘apparent’ revelations publicly disseminated on prime time TV. Thus part of the ‘psy ops’ at hand may be to reinforce in its intended audience the idea that, all evidence to the contrary (i.e., police infiltration of dissident organizations), we ‘really’ do live a free and open society. The proof is documentaries such as this one aired far and wide for everyone to see and hear.

    Infiltration is, under any kind of ‘dictatorship,’ impossible to counter. One should therefore always act and speak on the assumption that one is always being monitored and watched. Not in the manner of a paranoid, but in the manner of one defiant of the power that aims to suppress ones challenge to that illegitimate power. In the manner, for example, that a blogger might opt to continue blogging inconvenient truths while knowing that he or she has drawn unwanted and hostile attention to himself or herself.




    • You make some excellent points, Norman. I did a little research on Channel 4, and it’s independent of the BBC. It’s largely commercially funded, though they do receive some funding from a government agency called the Independent Broadcasting Authority. I’m not sure if this really makes any difference, as commercially funded stations mainly do the bidding of their corporate sponsors, which coincide closely with the goals of our so-called democratic governments.

      I think you’re probably right that the main purpose of the documentary is to heighten mistrust and paranoia. I think activists are wise to assume that they’re always being monitored and watched. Especially as much current infiltration and surveillance is sponsored by private corporations. There is absolutely no public accountability for these activities. In fact, the public has no way of knowing about it unless they sue the corporation and the information is disclosed as part of the discovery process.

      This was how some British environmental activists discovered (in 1997) that McDonald’s spies had infiltrated their group. Ironically in this case McDonald’s had sued them over leaflets they were distributing.


  6. Pingback: Mark Kennedy: the spycop who disappeared into the cold | The Most Revolutionary Act

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