Undercover Anarchist

Written by David Kushner, Rolling Stone

Thursday March 1st, 2012

What happens when a cop falls in love with the radicals he's spying on? Mark Kennedy found out the hard way.

Mark Stone watched in alarm as his girlfriend snapped a black bicycle lock around her throat, securing herself to a giant yellow dump truck. “I don’t think this is a good idea,” Stone told her. It was just after dawn near Kárahnjúkar, deep in the Icelandic tundra. Stone and his girlfriend, along with a dozen other activists, had spent the past two weeks camped out in the remote wilderness, one of the last unspoiled areas in all of Europe. Their goal was as clear as it was dangerous: to shut down construction of a 650-foot dam being built to provide power to Alcoa, the American-based aluminum giant.

A rugged 36-year-old with tattoos snaking up his arms, Stone was considered something of a superhero in the small, insular world of radical ecofighters. He had scaled power plants in England, driven getaway cars at environmental demonstrations, and taken part in underground meetings and violent protests in 15 countries, including the United States. Now, as his fellow activists cuffed themselves to the truck’s fender, he found himself in an uncharacteristic position: wondering if his comrades were going too far.

The truck’s driver, undeterred by the scruffy punks attached to his rig, revved his engine, slipped the clutch and inched forward – a move almost certain to snap the neck of Stone’s girlfriend. Horrified, Stone popped the truck’s hood and slashed frantically at the engine’s cables, to no avail. Clawing desperately, he felt the distributor cap in his grip and pulled hard. The truck ground to a halt.

As security guards charged forward, Stone pushed through the melee to find his girlfriend, a fair-skinned Welsh activist with fiery red hair. “You could have gotten killed!” he said, embracing her. “There’s no point dying for this.”

His concern for his girlfriend was real. But almost everything else about Mark Stone was a lie. His real name was Mark Kennedy, and he was a British undercover cop with a wife and two kids back in Ireland. Recruited by the National Public Order Intelligence Unit, a shadowy wing of Scotland Yard, Kennedy was the top mole of Operation Pegasus, a clandestine, multimillion-dollar mission to “infiltrate extreme left-wing groups.”

Like a hippie James Bond, Kennedy excelled at his part. He had transformed himself from a lowly London bobby to an international eco-spy: growing his hair long, going vegan, learning guitar, and insinuating himself into a radical, and sometimes militant, network of activist andanarchist groups. But he made one mistake: falling in love with the movement he was assigned to shut down. After years of living undercover  as a green warrior, he could no longer separate his roles as a spy and a protester. “The only difference between Mark Stone and Mark Kennedy,” he says now, “is that Mark Kennedy was a cop.”


Mark Kennedy grew up in the suburbs of London, the clean-cut son of a cop. “Being a policeman was a way of life for the family,” says his father, John, a decorated traffic officer. “We had a responsibility to society that we had to uphold.” Mark’s eventual spot on the force may have seemed preordained, but almost from the start he faced a host of physical challenges. At age two, he cut his ocular tendon on a staple while playing in a cardboard box, leaving him with a lazy eye. He also had a pronounced stammer. Nevertheless, at 20, he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and enroll in the police academy. “You’ll never be rich,” his dad warned him, “but you’ll be proud of what you’ve done.”

Kennedy rose quickly through the ranks, busting purse snatchers and burglars, and playing on the police rugby team in London. While responding to a robbery at a clothing store, he met a conservative Irish Catholic girl who worked there, Edel, whom he married and eventually had children with. But he quickly grew bored with his job, and began seeking edgier adventures of his own. A Dead Kennedys fan, he spent nights moshing at punk shows and weekends rock climbing across Europe. Then, in 1997, he volunteered for Operation Crackdown, a campaign designed to take drug dealers off the streets. Being an undercover narcotics officer fed his fix for excitement. It required the finesse of an actor and the instincts of a fighter pilot. ‘You have to be aware of the environment you’re going into and the dangers,” Kennedy says, “and still act like someone who is desperate for a rock of crack.”

Kennedy proved an expert bullshit artist. In 2000, he was one of the first recruits for a bigger and more mysterious operation: spying on left-wing “extremists” for the newly established National Public Order Intelligence Unit. The NPOIU had been created in response to a rash of animal-liberation and environmental protests, some of which had turned violent. In the days before September llth, such homegrown activists were being treated in the U.S. and England as a threat nearly as serious as radical Islamic groups. “There was a need to ascertain what these people were going to do,” says a former NPOIU official who asked not to be identified. “Are they going to take us back to the Stone Age?”

Almost entirely unaccountable to the public, the NPOIU revived the kind of covert operations against radical groups that had resulted in widespread police abuses during the 1960s. “It’s the paranoid style of policing we seem to have imported from the United States,” says British activist George Monbiot, a columnist for The Guardian. “The Bush-era attitudes crept into our government. It’s a complete failure to recognize that peaceful protest is not just legitimate but necessary, if democracy is to be sustained.”

But such issues never concerned Mark Kennedy. He took it as an honor to be chosen, and learned everything he could about what his fellow cops called the “hairies” and “tree-huggers.” He learned to eat and talk like a vegetarian. When he attended a protest against the Iraq War, he found it “very liberal and fluffy.” For his final indoctrination, the NPOIU dispatched him to an abandoned air base that had been transformed into an anarchist squat, populated by cops posing as radicals. There, Kennedy spent five days infiltrating the mock activists and gathering intelligence on their activities. He was also warned to be wary of the left’s most dangerous weapon: sex. “Imagine hippie culture of the Sixties,” his recruiter told him. “It’s very much free love, but don’t engage in sexual activity with these people. You never know who they’ve been with.”

After acing the role-playing exercise, Kennedy had just one last job to do before shipping out: inventing his undercover persona. He stuck closely to his own background. He would play the part of a former drug dealer and van courier who had amassed money smuggling heroin in Pakistan, which he knew well from a mountaineering trip. He would also highlight his skills as a climber, someone who could swiftly scale power plants and hang protest banners whenever needed. When he had to fill out the police form for his fake passport and driver’s license, he put down the first alias that came to mind: Mark, so he could respond naturally to his first name, and Stone, because it was easy to remember.


When activists at the Sumac Centre, a bustling clubhouse for protesters in Nottingham, first set eyes on Mark Stone in 2001, he didn’t look anything like the cop he’d left behind. He sported dark hair down past his shoulders, a scraggly goatee, silver hoop earrings and tattoos poking out from under his T-shirt, blending right in with the neo-hippies cooking curry lentils in the communal kitchen and playing Sex Pistols songs on guitars in the unkempt courtyard. “He just seemed like a regular guy,” recalls one activist.

But that didn’t mean they were quick to accept him. As a primary hub for the animal-liberation and environmental movements, the Sumac Centre had long been subject to raids, and newcomers were treated warily. “We knew the history of how police had been infiltrating groups since the Black Panthers,” says Dan Glass, a veteran activist. “We were always on the lookout.” Winning their trust wouldn’t be easy. “You can’t just turn up and say, ‘Hi, I’m going to join your revolution’ – they’ll turn away from you,” says the former NPOIU official. “What you need to do is go in there and become known.”

Unlike previous infiltrators, Kennedy had the time – and the state-sponsored bankroll – to slowly ingratiate himself. The unit set up Kennedy with a house, identification papers, a gray Ford Escort van and a bank account in Stone’s name. He was assigned a full-time cover officer, an avuncular older cop who would trail him whenever he went on the road and provide him with an out if things got too hot. Several times a day, Kennedy was expected to check in and pass on whatever intelligence he had acquired. When anyone was within earshot of his calls, Kennedy called the older cop Uncle.

Yet despite all of the precautions, Kennedy felt like a schoolboy sent to India. Everything was new and weird, from the gritty town of Nottingham – painfully far from his wife and kids back in Ireland – to the vegan beer in his mug. Even the protesters themselves defied his imagination. They didn’t seem like the dippy freaks the older cops joked about: There were professors and scientists, some of them from families much like his own. Though he didn’t question the job he had to do, he came to see them as “highly intelligent people who were adopting a course of action and a lifestyle because of what they believed in.”

Through trial and error, Kennedy eventually hit on the best way to insinuate himself with the activists: by making Mark Stone larger than life. He wore wraparound shades and boasted about smuggling smack in Pakistan, the profits from which he was now going to devote to social action. “He was quite macho,” recalls Glass. “He had a big ego. It’s a dick extension – to be the best protester, have the most fun, be the most confrontational.” The activists at the Sumac Centre soon had a nickname for him: Flash.

But the more tales Mark Stone spun, the more Mark Kennedy had to keep track of his elaborate web of lies – or risk losing the relationships he was building. “Unlike the drug dealers,” he recalls, “the activists actually wanted to be Mark Stone’s friends.”

The activist lifestyle was even more promiscuous than Kennedy had been warned about. “It wasn’t unusual to be sleeping with four or five different people,” he says. Parties were weekend-long affairs, fueled by Ecstasy and Special K. The drugs were more than recreational. “If people needed to hire a minibus to go on an action,” Kennedy says, “sometimes that money came from the profits of selling Ecstasy.” Often the parties were themed: an S&M ball for the holidays, complete with a makeshift dungeon for anyone who wanted a spanking, and a “Queer Option” party, at which everyone cross-dressed. There was always a bowl of vegan condoms on the bar – made without the milk proteins used in some latex. “I’d never seen anything like this before,” says Kennedy. To keep himself from crossing any lines, he developed a strategy for avoiding temptation: being a DJ. “If you’re hanging around your decks, you can be aloof,” he says. “You don’t have to engage in drinking and stuff like that.”

After spending months with the activists, Kennedy was in – a trusted ecowarrior who could be counted on to play an essential role. With his roomy van, his credit cards for gas and his seemingly uncanny skill at evading the police, Stone became the underground movement’s go-to chauffeur, shuttling people and supplies to demonstrations. “He was someone who was useful, and he knew how to drive,” says Jerry Monroe, an alias for a dreadlocked activist who met Stone early on.

Stone’s badass reputation extended to his climbing. Many of the group’s demonstrations involved hanging protest banners from high places, and few could scale trees and towers as confidently as Stone. One day, he and Monroe went to Oxfordshire to hang a “climate crimes” banner at a massive power station. Monroe took one look at the 150 -foot tower they had to climb and immediately balked. But Stone was a patient guide, teaching him how to fix his harness and knot his rope. It would be one of many such missions together. “I climbed with him,” recalls Monroe, “and there’s a trust you build.”

Throughout the planning of each protest, Kennedy would sneak off to call Uncle with information about the group’s operation. He felt proud of his work, telling himself that he was protecting the activists by providing details to his superiors that would ensure peaceful demonstrations. “I was never targeting anybody,” he says. “As I understood it, I was gathering intelligence so that things could be appropriately policed.” Kennedy wasn’t told where or how his intelligence was being used, but when he saw the cops arrive at a protest as if on cue, he knew exactly whose side he was on. “I was always a police officer,” he says. “I always did my job and I always knew my role.”


It only took one crack of a police baton for Kennedy to begin calling that role into question. By May 2004, he had infiltrated the remnants of the Wombles, a group of anarchists who dressed like a gang out of A Clockwork Orange, in white overalls and protective padding. That month, the group was joining thousands of activists in Dublin to protest the European Union summit, and Kennedy was ferrying crash helmets and masks to the event.

Kennedy never went anywhere without the consent of the NPOIU, as well as government officials in the countries he was visiting. While on the road, he was trailed by Uncle, along with at least one other cover officer. Despite the chain of approval, however, Kennedy received no preferential treatment at the protests: To protect his identity, local cops weren’t informed of his presence. As far as they knew, Mark Stone was just another masked fape in the crowd of protesters pushing against them.

As the march in Dublin grew into the thousands, the protesters quickly gained the upper hand. Kennedy jostled to the front of the pack. The pressure of bodies swelled until he and a mass of shouting protesters tumbled through the line of cops in riot gear. The police blasted back with water cannons and batons. Drenched and battered, Kennedy heard an awful snap and crumpled to the ground. “I thought my knee was broken,” he recalls. As a cop closed in over him, swinging his baton, Kennedy heard another sickening crack.

It wasn’t his own arm that was breaking. A fellow protester had thrust himself in front of the cop, taking the blow for Kennedy. As he helped his injured friend, Kennedy’s mind swirled with anger and confusion. The whole point of his job, he thought, was to prevent violence like this from happening. Now he and his buddy could barely limp away. What good was his work if the cops were going to respond with excessive force, instead of weeding out the violent protesters? “I was passing intelligence back about what was going to take place so that incidents like that didn’t occur,” Kennedy says.

His allegiances were tested even further during a recreational climbing trip to England’s Lake District, where he and his fellow activists camped out, drinking red wine late into the night. Kennedy’s hair was longer now, and he had a few more tattoos. After spending years with the activists, he had grown sympathetic to their cause – and their women. Despite being ordered not to have sex with the activists, Kennedy’s willpower was wearing down. He had already been seduced by a sultry blond protester at a party, a moment of weakness he rationalized as being good for his job. “She was hitting on me,” he says, “and I just felt that to complain and be weird about it would raise suspicions.” So he slept with her instead.

Now, during an outing at a local pub, Kennedy couldn’t keep his eyes off a young Welsh graduate student he calls Megan. The two had been scoping each other out for months; Megan had charmed Kennedy with her haunting rendition of Welsh folk songs. The two soon became inseparable – sleeping together, cooking, climbing, attending protests and a Pixies show. “The way that we took care of each other and the way that we loved each other – I’ve never experienced that in any relationship, ever,” Kennedy says.

When Kennedy would return to Ireland every few weeks to spend time with his wife and children, his double life became even more strained. Though Edel knew he was doing some kind of undercover work, he was no longer the straight-arrow, meat-eating cop she had known before. Much to the amazement of his family, Kennedy was now a full-time vegetarian, eating produce he had grown in his yard.

His resolve was tried further in 2006, during a protest at the Drax coal-fired power plant, the largest source of carbon emissions in England. With its dozen 350 -foot cooling towers spewing planetwarming pollution into the atmosphere, Drax had become an iconic symbol of the climate crisis. Now, after a year of meticulous planning, activists were preparing their most ambitious action yet: to shut down the entire plant.

On a cloudy day that August, 600 people flooded the streets outside the plant, banging on drums and pans, dressed like clowns and Merry Pranksters. Far off over the plowed fields, along the plant’s perimeter fence, Kennedy and others had buried cutting equipment at precise locations. The goal was to break off from the drum-banging legions, grab their tools, cut through the fence, then slip in and chain themselves to the plant’s equipment, forcing a shutdown. As Kennedy had recently seen in Iceland, such an action could easily go wrong. Hoping his intelligence would forewarn the authorities and prevent unnecessary violence, he had sent Uncle copies of the group’s maps and plans.

When the activists cut through the fence, they were immediately greeted by police – but not in the way Kennedy had expected. Without any provocation, the cops assaulted the protesters with tear gas. Kennedy watched in horror as an officer swung his baton, smashing the legs of a young female activist who was crawling through a hole in the fence. “Calm down!” Kennedy shouted. “You’re not achieving anything here!”

When the cop ignored him, Kennedy dived in after her. A half-dozen officers immediately began kicking and punching him. In a white-hot crack, a baton struck his skull. Kennedy covered his head, only to have another blow crush his left hand. As he lay bleeding on the ground, he felt someone stomp on his back and heard something crunch.

The cops dragged Kennedy to a police van, where protesters were being herded in handcuffs. A crowd of curious onlookers had gathered to watch the action, and Kennedy wanted them to see what the police had wrought. Battered and bruised, he shouted, “This is the face of peaceful protest!” It didn’t matter if the face was Mark Kennedy’s or Mark Stone’s. The blood flowing down it was his.

The thrashing left Kennedy with a broken finger and a prolapsed disc. It also shattered his faith in his job: What was the point of feeding intelligence to the cops about peaceful protests if people were still getting beaten? When Uncle called and demanded to meet with him after Drax, Kennedy refused to leave the protesters. “You’ve completely fucked it up!” he seethed, texting Uncle photos of his battered face. “I am going to stay here for the time being, where people are actually going to take care of me.”

To Kennedy’s shock, the NPOIU initiated an investigation into whether he had assaulted the officers at Drax himself. Ordered home for three months while the investigation dragged on, Kennedy found himself at age 37 with no other job prospects. Worse, the family life he once enjoyed was falling apart. His wife had grown wise to Kennedy’s infidelity, and the two were only together for the kids. But Kennedy had been lying to Megan too – after all, she had fallen in love with Mark Stone, the fearless protester, not Mark Kennedy, the ambivalent cop whose life was now unraveling. He felt trapped in his role as a spy. “I couldn’t see a positive way out of it that was not going to destroy everything,” he says.

Finally, cleared by the Drax investigation, Kennedy was allowed to return to his life as Stone. As he left, his dad offered him a piece of advice. “Watch your back,” the retired cop told him. “Because as soon as you’re no longer an asset, you’re yesterday’s man.”


By that point, Britain’s battle against environmental protesters had become a worldwide war – and the Bush administration was leading the assault. In May 2005, the FBI’s top official in charge of domestic terrorism told a Senate committee that “the numberone domestic terrorism threat is the ecoterrorism, animal-rights movement.” According to the FBI, ecoterrorist groups had been responsible for 1,200 attacks and more than $100 million in damages.

The administration, looking for a way to extend its War on Terror, responded with tough new laws and highprofile arrests. President Bush signed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act into law, granting the Justice Department expansive authority to arrest, prosecute and convict eco-terrorists. Operation Backfire, an FBI investigation into animalrights and environmental activists, led to a series of indictments across the United States. Activists dubbed the crackdown the “Green Scare.” Government documents uncovered by the ACLU revealed that the FBI was “expanding the definition of ‘domestic terrorism’ to include citizens and groups that participate in lawful protests or civil disobethence.” Among the groups subjected to federal surveillance were Greenpeace and a “Vegan Community Project,” run by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals at the University of Indiana.

With the U.S. trumping up the threat of left-wing extremists, governments around the world joined the fight – and Britain, which had become the Bush administration’s closest ally in the War on Terror, dispatched Kennedy on dozens of globetrotting missions to provide intelligence for foreign officials. The road trips were not only a welcome break from the lies he was feeding the activists he had come to admire back in England, they were also a way to advance his career. He infiltrated a militant squat in Copenhagen, where activists fighting eviction hurled Molotov cocktails and rioted, and crashed underground meetings in Berlin, where anarchists plotted to derail trains delivering nuclear waste. In 2008, with the approval of the U.S. government, Kennedy traveled to New York to spy on a secret meeting of European and American anticapitalists, including members of the Earth Liberation Front and student activists from Stanford University, who were planning to disrupt the upcoming Republican and Democratic conventions.

Posing as Stone, Kennedy shared his logistical expertise with the assembled activists, not far from where the Occupy movement would later take off. Based on what he saw in New York, though, he didn’t see what all the fuss was about. “It was a bit of a pointless meeting,” he says. He told his superiors that the group, who struck him as young and naive, didn’t seem like much of a threat. A French activist suspected of advocating armed revolution was followed as a result of his spying, but no arrests were made.

That didn’t stop his superiors from praising Kennedy. He received a special commendation from the FBI for his work, and his cover officer told him some of his intelligence on British activists had reached the desk of Prime Minister Tony Blair. “It was their way of letting me know that I was doing the right thing,” Kennedy says.


In the spring of 2009, environmental activists invited Mark Stone to join their biggest and most brazen action to date: shutting down one of Britain’s largest power plants, Ratcliffe-on-Soar, which pumps 150,000 tons of carbon into the atmosphere every week. Kennedy says he was recruited by a man who worked for Greenpeace UK. (The group says the man, if he did work for Greenpeace, acted on his own accord.)

Over coffee at a train station, the man showed Kennedy a file of maps and photographs, explaining exactly how activists planned to shut down the power plant. At three in the morning, he said, a fleet of vehicles filled with designated teams of protesters would descend on the site. A cutting team would snap the padlocks on the gates, enabling another team to break into the plant and chain themselves to the coal conveyor belts. A climbing team would meanwhile scale the plant’s smokestacks, streaming live video to show the world RatclifFe’s high levels of emissions. Kennedy agreed to rent and drive a lorry, for which the Greenpeace official slipped him £500 in an envelope.

But when Kennedy reported the intelligence back to his superiors, they came up with a plan of their own: to make the largest pre-emptive arrest of environmental protesters in history, and charge the activists with conspiracy. Kennedy thought the plan was not only absurd, but unjust. A conspiracy requires people to agree on a plan – but the protesters hadn’t agreed on anything, and there was no telling if they ever would. What’s more, Kennedy felt sickened by the reckless squandering of tax dollars on undercover operations. Cover officers were being provided with BMWs and Audis, and living in luxury apartments in London. The more the NPOIU could justify its existence with high-profile arrests, the better – and Ratcliffe-on-Soar offered the biggest payoff yet. “Management felt that this could be good for their career,” Kennedy says.

To strengthen the case against the activists, Kennedy was ordered to secretly record the protesters at Ratcliffe. He had never worn a wire before, and he knew it would spell the end of Mark Stone if it exposed him in public. “I was really worried that this was going to go to trial,” he recalls. “I’d be facing people I’d known for seven years – and who were really good friends – across a witness box.” Uncle slipped a $10,000 spy watch outfitted with a recording chip on Kennedy’s wrist, and sent him on his way.

Kennedy could barely sleep or eat, knowing the trap he was setting to capture his friends. “The love and concern that was given to me was overwhelming, and it brought me extremely close to people,” he says. “Maybe too close.” Against his better judgment, Kennedy urged his girlfriend Megan to steer clear of the protest. “You don’t need to be there,” he said. “You don’t want to risk your future career.” She was still in grad school, and there was no reason to jeopardize her job prospects. Much to his relief, she agreed.

On Easter Sunday, Kennedy and 113 protesters gathered at a small brick schoolhouse in Nottingham. Kennedy was greeted by his activist friends, including Monroe, his dreadlocked climbing partner. He could hardly look them in the eyes, knowing what was about to come. But there was no stopping what he had helped set in motion. After a dinner of vegan stew, they were told the objective. “The plan was basically to shut down the Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station,” Monroe says. It would start at 3 a.m. that morning. The tactics were extreme but peaceful. “This was planned to be absolutely nonviolent,” recalls one protester.

Just after midnight, as the protesters were bedding down for a few hours of rest, the police came crashing into the schoolhouse, arresting everyone in sight. “We realized the building was surrounded,” recalls one activist. The cops seemed more amped up than the protesters, who tried to calm the police down by sitting peacefully and singing a popular British standard: “We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when. …” Even the cop leading the arrests couldn’t help himself: His face broke into a wide smile. “It was just this beautiful thing,” Monroe says.

The seasoned activists knew exactly what the arrests meant: Someone among them was a spy. “I really want to find out who the person is who grassed us up,” a friend sitting next to Kennedy told him as the police rounded everyone up. Kennedy said nothing. “I just felt so bad, I felt fucking awful,” he says. He had fulfilled his duty and even been decorated for it – but at a cost he never expected. “I did my job very well,” he says, “but I got to a point in my deployment where it was becoming very hard to do those things against people who really meant a lot to me on a personal level.”

As the mass arrests made international headlines, Kennedy got hit with an even bigger blow: Rather than cutting him loose on some legal pretense, prosecutors charged him with conspiracy to inflict criminal damage at Ratcliffe-onSoar. It made no sense. If there was a trial, he would be forced to come clean about his true identity. But when Kennedy confronted Uncle, he was told that the higher-ups at NPOIU were responsible for the decision. “It’s out of my hands,” Uncle told him.

Kennedy feared he was being set up. The NPOIU reportedly had at least a dozen other eco-spies in the field. Exposing Mark Stone would not only quell the growing suspicions among protesters, but would also eliminate a mole whom his superiors worried had gone native. Uncle, who tracked Kennedy’s every move, surely knew about his affair with Megan. “He must have known,” says the former NPOIU official, who insists he would have “gone double-barrel” on Kennedy had he found out at the time.

Then, right before Kennedy was to report to the police station to be booked, the charges against him were suddenly dropped. But the damage was already done. In a pub that night, his fellow protesters confronted Kennedy, their suspicions aroused. “How the fuck did they drop the charge against you?” one asked. “I hired a lorry as well!”

“I don’t know,” Kennedy said. “Just got lucky, I guess.”

But his luck was running out.


One night that fall, a scruffy MC in a gold-sequined sports coat and cowboy hat grabbed the mie on a makeshift stage at a farm in Hertfordshire. A banner depicting two people going down on each other hung on the brick wall behind him. More than 300 protesters – including some of those charged along with Kennedy in the aborted Ratcliffe protest – milled about the stage, shouting and spilling drinks. The occasion was the 69ers Party, a weekend-long bash to honor the 40th birthdays of several prominent eco-warriors – including the guitarist about to join the band, the 69ers, onstage.

“OK, he’s a star,” announced the MC. “He’s a rock & roll star! It’s Flash!”

As the crowd cheered wildly, Kennedy bounded onstage, hoisting his guitar over his head. He was followed by the rest of the band, including Megan, who whipped into a sloppy cover of “1969,” by the Stooges.

But the party felt bittersweet. As Kennedy took the vocals on “Folsom Prison Blues,” he knew it was the last time he would see many of his friends. Just before he hopped onstage, he’d received a call from Uncle. “The operation is over,” Uncle told him. “You’ve got a week to get out.” Kennedy wasn’t given a reason, but it only confirmed his own theory: that the NPOIU thought he was in too far.

Kennedy returned to the party in a daze, downing beers and unleashing his anger in the DJ booth, where he dropped KRS-One’s “Sound of Da Police” as a dark inside joke. As he lay in bed with Megan that night, part of him wanted to confess, to tell her everything. But the cop inside him won out again. “I’m feeling, like, really burnt out,” he told her. “I need some time away.”

Kennedy’s double life came to an unceremonious end a week later. Summoned to an anonymous truck stop, he handed over Mark Stone’s credit cards, car keys and passport to his superiors. Stone’s Facebook and e-mail accounts would soon be erased, and Kennedy was banned from communicating with the activists he had known for years. Just like that, Mark Stone, the man he’d been for seven long years, was dead. “As of then,” he says, “I’d vanished.”

The life of Mark Kennedy he returned to was just as destroyed. With his undercover career finished, Kennedy met with the personnel department of the Metropolitan Police in London – only to be told there were no jobs available for him. “There’s not really much we can offer you,” the personnel officer told him. “You have very few skills.” Just as his father had once warned him, he had become yesterday’s man. After 20 years on the force, he felt he had no choice but to resign. Kennedy signed an agreement to keep the undercover operation secret, and handed in his badge.

His marriage in shambles, he moved into a houseboat in Nottingham and put his climbing experience to use – as a window washer. Now off the force, he also returned to the only life he knew, as Mark Stone. If he couldn’t live in two worlds anymore, then he would choose this one. “I had nowhere else to go,” he says. Like a ghost, he continued socializing with the protesters, including Megan, but told them his activist days were over.

The ruse began to unravel in the summer of 2010, when Megan came across his real passport in his glove box during a climbing trip to Italy. “Look, I’m pretty sure you’re not a cop,” she told him, “but I’m worried why you have a passport with a different name.” Kennedy fumbled for an explanation, telling her it was a fake passport from his drug-dealing days in Pakistan. For the first time, she didn’t seem convinced by his lies.

Not long afterward, he was back home with his kids when his home phone rang. “Can I speak with Jack?” the man on the other end said, asking for Kennedy’s son.

Kennedy recognized the voice as one of the protesters from Nottingham. He felt stunned, wondering how they’d found his unlisted number. “Jack?” he stammered.

“Jack,” the man said. “He’s 11 years old. Got blond hair.”

“I think you’ve got the wrong number.”

“No, I have the right number.”

Kennedy hung up the phone, only to hear it ring again. “Look, Mark, we know what’s going on,” the man said. “We know who you are, we know what you do. We want you to come over and explain it.”

Kennedy caught a late flight to London, and walked into a house where half a dozen of his closest friends from the underground confronted him. Kennedy sank into a couch while they circled him in chairs. They sat before him, reading from clipboards as they clinically recited the details they’d dug up of Kennedy’s true identity: the son of a traffic officer, his wife and kids, even his work back when he was a lowly bobby in London. Kennedy had no idea how they found out so much, and couldn’t help wondering if someone in the police force had fed them information. “I try not to get into conspiracy theories,” he says, “but they said a few things that only the police would know.”

When Megan silently entered the room, the sight of her heartbroken face crushed him. In tears, Kennedy apologized for the years of lies and betrayals. He had systematically ratted her out, ratted out everybody, a government-trained liar. “I feel sorry for you,” Megan told him, “because you were a pawn at the hands of the state.”

As news of Kennedy’s seven-year infiltration spread over online forums, activists reacted with anger and fear. Dan Glass, one of the Ratcliife defendants, felt disgusted over “the ruthlessness the state will go to protect business as usual, which includes the personal relationships he made. For me, that was gutwrenchingly fascist.” Others felt a weird but undeniable grief at the loss of Mark Stone. “It’s like someone died – someone you actually missed,” recalls Monroe, his climbing buddy. “It’s a mixture of grieving and anger. It’s like someone’s evaporated, because the person you knew wasn’t the person you know.”

With threats from some of the more extreme anarchists and radicals, Kennedy went underground. Afraid for his life, he traveled London with a hoodie pulled down to conceal his face, before fleeing to America to hide out at his brother’s house in Cleveland. “I just was filled with huge remorse and regret,” he says. “I didn’t see the point of living anymore.” One dark night that winter, he walked out the door and sat in the snow, intent on freezing himself to death. “Don’t be a dick,” his brother told him. “There’s a lot more out there for you.”


The more, for Kennedy, came sooner than he expected. One day, while he was still in Cleveland contemplating suicide, he heard from an old friend of Mark Stone’s. Back in England, six defendants in the Ratcliffe-on-Soar case were facing trial, and the friend wanted to know if Kennedy, given his remorse, would be willing to assist them. It was a shot at redemption, and Kennedy leaped at it. Now that the operation had been exposed, he wasn’t going to remain silent anymore. “I want to help,” he told his friend.

Kennedy was amazed to learn that the defense attorney representing his former friends didn’t know about the secret recordings he had made before the Ratcliffe protest. Prosecutors in the case had not entered the tapes as evidence. Kennedy immediately realized why: because the tapes proved that the activists he spied on had only engaged in a series of disjointed discussions that fell far short of the legal definition of conspiracy.

With Kennedy now on their side, the defense demanded that prosecutors disclose his role in the case. On January 7th, 2011, just three days before the Ratcliffeon-Soar trial, the Crown Prosecution Service replied with a bombshell of its own: because of “previously unavailable material that significantly undermines the prosecution’s case,” the charges against the defendants were being dropped. The environmentalists were free.

The fallout was immediate and farreaching. In a damning ruling against the state last summer, the court quashed 20 previous convictions against the Ratcliffe-on-Soar activists, citing “the failure of the Crown to make proper disclosure of material relating to the role and activities of the undercover police officer, Mark Kennedy, as well as of materials that had the potential to provide support for the defense case or to undermine the case for the prosecution.” As a result, the court concluded, “Justice miscarried.”

Acknowledging that “something had gone very wrong” in the spying against protest groups, the government stripped the private association that oversaw the operation of its role in targeting domestic extremism. “I absolutely do not believe there is justification for infiltrating environmental protesters unless there is evidence that they are an actual threat to national security, which means that they’re going to use violence,” declared Michael Meacher, a member of Parliament and former environment minister. “It’s a waste of police time.” Despite the millions of dollars spent on Operation Pegasus, the police had failed to convict even a single protester of a crime.

Today, a string of separate inquiries, including an independent investigation ordered by the director of public prosecutions, have been launched into the government’s eco-spy operation. After four more undercover cops like Mark Kennedy were exposed by the investigations, eight female activists sued the Metropolitan Police for trauma, saying they had been tricked into falling for cops who were “pretending that they were also political activists who shared their values, aims and broad political outlook.” Three of the women claim they had sex with Kennedy, including Megan. “If that’s what she wants to do, then fair enough,” says Kennedy, who refuses to believe that his lies invalidated whatever they had together. “I don’t regret it at all. We shared an amazing time, and we loved each other.”

As revelations about Kennedy’s secret missions to other countries – including Iceland, France, Italy and Denmark – continue to surface, the outrage has gone global. “The Kennedy case is bringing to light policies that have become widely institutionalized,” says Will Potter, author of Green Is the New Red: An Insider’s Account of a Social Movement Under Siege. “This has been business as usual for a number of years now.”

In Germany, the federal police chief admitted to working with the British government to send Kennedy to spy on left-wing groups. The American government, however, remains less forthcoming. “I can’t comment if we had involvement with Mark Kennedy and his travel,” says Bertram Fairies, an assistant unit chief at the FBI.

But other revelations about the widespread spying on American protest groups are emerging. The Justice Department’s inspector general has released a report showing that the FBI, with “little or no basis,” wrongly spied on Greenpeace, PETA and anti-war protesters between 2001 and 2006. The inspector general condemned the operation as “unreasonable and inconsistent with FBI policy.” Environmental groups were outraged. “There needs to be healthy skepticism from the public when they see police infiltrating citizen organizations,” says Mark Floegel, an investigator for Greenpeace. “Every cop hanging out in an environmental meeting is a cop that is not going after real crime.”

For Kennedy, the whistle-blowing has come with a heavy cost. First, he betrayed the trust of his fellow activists and was shunned by those he spent years coming to admire. Then, he spoke out against the police, the band of brothers that had been his family since birth. Today, he dwells in a no man’s land – often staying with his brother in Cleveland, far from home, with no job and little money. He still watches his carbon footprint, but bits of his old self sometimes surface, unbidden, the former cop emerging from the hippie activist. At lunch one day, when the waiter comes over to take his order, Kennedy looks at him with his good eye and says, “I’ll have the lamb.”

Kennedy insists that his years of deceit are over. “I’m done telling lies,” he says one night at a cafe. “It hurts and it destroys. It destroyed the life and the girl I loved so much, and it’s destroyed my life. I don’t want to be doing lies again, because I’ve done that as a job, professionally, and it’s devastating.” He now has a new mission in mind: to share his experiences with activists and cops, to improve the effectiveness of both protests and policing in the age of the Occupy movement.

“I’ve experienced both sides of the overzealous policing,” he says. “If the cops were better-educated as to why somebody goes along to a protest and does these things, then it could be policed in a far better and more understanding way.” Deploying riot squads to protests, he says – despite intelligence that suggests there’s no need – only increases the risk of violence. “This has the detrimental effect of retaliatory behavior by protesters, as seen at recent Occupy events,” he says. “The actions of one person throwing a missile or one cop hitting a protester is magnified throughout both sides.”

Kennedy believes the Occupy movement is being infiltrated “on a day-today basis” by people just like the cop he used to be. But he thinks the activists involved have more pressing matters to worry about than undercover cops. “Personally, I think the Occupy movement has lost its focus,” he says. “Internal politics – like whether there should be a vegan kitchen or a smoking tent at a site – have diluted the actual reason why people went there in the first place. That’s a common theme I’ve seen throughout years of protest and camps.”

Such sentiments, however, do nothing to appease those he betrayed. For seven years, Kennedy spied on environmental activists around the world. He attended their protests and hung their banners and lived among them, only to turn them over to the authorities. His work wound up costing him his family, his job, his country. Yet even his decision to switch sides during the conspiracy case has failed to win back the friendship of those who introduced him to a world he had never known, one that values loyalty and courage every bit as much as the police force he once served. “He’s having to come to terms with a whole lot of very, very contradictory things in his life,” says Monroe, the friend he taught to climb. “But I don’t think you can trust a word that he says.”