Undercover Operations Abroad
UK undercover police officers targeting protest and political movements regularly traveled to other nations using their false identities. These were active missions requiring collaboration with the host nations, and in turn foreign undercover agents have come to the UK. The preparations for protests at for instance G8 summits or climate conferences such as Kopenhagen 2009 were part of activist life that undercovers fully engaged with. In particular, Mark Kennedy is known to have been very active across Europe, taking part in many events and carrying out illegal activities, presumably sanctioned by both his UK handlers and the host country. The issue exposes the extent to which cross border use of undercovers has developed, particularly within the European Union.
This page gives an overview of the operations abroad that we know of (time of writing: October 2015, updated January 2017). The information for this overview has been taken from the profile papers of the individual undercovers where more detail and sources can be found.
- Note: some of the countries visited are marked as 'social visits' or 'holidays' - this is the way those we interviewed described visits that were not necessarily linked to a meeting or a protest . It's important to remember that in the life of an undercover officer, there is no such thing as 'a social visit' - border crossing always requires special permission, the use of false passports etc. In the case of Mark Kennedy, cooperation agreements were in place usually but not always, and as such all his activities were planned and supervised, while he was debriefed afterwards about his contacts and the intelligence he had gathered. In the case of Mark Jenner, with several longer holidays to countries far away, it is harder to say whether he was specifically tasked, whether he went along with 'Alison' as part of his legend and role, or simply because the opportunity was there. As a reminder 'quotation marks' have been added to such missions abroad, though we note no particular sanctions would have been required to travel to Scotland as is was part of the United Kingdom.
The list of countries and operations is known to be incomplete, in particular for Mark Kennedy. If you are aware of any details missed from this page, please get in contact with the Undercover Research Group
- 1 Background
- 2 Mark Kennedy operations abroad
- 3 Mark Jenner operations abroad
- 4 Lynn Watson operations abroad
- 5 Rod Richardson operations abroad
- 6 Marco Jacobs operations abroad
- 7 Simon Wellings operations abroad
- 8 Jim Boyling operations abroad
- 9 John Dines abroad
- 10 Peter Francis operations abroad
- 11 Overlap between undercovers
- 12 Notes
There are several issues with undercover operations taking place abroad. They fall outside the remit of the undercover policing units, it is unclear what exactly is considered 'abroad', and little is known about how border crossing operations, whether UK spies abroad or foreign officers working in the UK. The Terms of Reference for the Pitchford Inquiry into undercover policing limited its work to undercover operations in England and Wales by officers from those places.
The NPOIU's remit (1999 - 2008) covered England and Wales, according to the 2012 HMIC report that looked into the national police units dealing with protest intelligence; it says they also worked with forces in Scotland and Northern Ireland. However, "Mark Kennedy was used in or visited 11 countries on more than 40 occasions, including 14 visits to Scotland.
Unusually, the HMIC report considers operations in Scotland and Northern Ireland as operations 'abroad'. This is somewhat odd as the NPOIU was under the control of to the Association of Chief Police Officers' Terrorism and Allied Matters Committee - ACPO(TAM) - which included representatives from the national intelligence agencies and also the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland.
From 1998, Scotland has had its own parliament to which police powers were devolved. So though it remains part of the United Kingdom, there is some degree of separation between the two from a policing perspective. How this impacted on the authorisation of undercover operations is not clear, but the legislative system that affected SDS officers such as John Dines would be different to the one NPOIU officers operated under - though, it does not appear to have been a hindrance on the activities of Mark Kennedy and others from the NPOIU. However, recognising this, we note any visit to Scotland post devolution as 'abroad' in this sense, and ignore such trips prior to devolution.
It is not clear whether border crossing operations were always reported to and coordinated with the countries involved. When the SDS fist sent someone abroad, there was a lot of paperwork involved, as is detailed below by Peter Francis. The HMIC report makes clear the rules were not always followed: "There is evidence that the NPOIU were securing agreements with the destination countries for Mark Kennedy's overseas deployments; but they were not (on occasions) informing the authorising officer that he was going overseas, nor providing them with relevant information about what happened while he was overseas."
For more about how cross-border operations were planned and coordinated, see the following pages on European groups dealing with cross-border operations, each operating in relative secrecy:
- European Cooperation Group on Undercover Activities, "ECG-UA"
- International Specialist Law Enforcement, "ISLE"
- International Working Group on Undercover Activities, "IWG-UA"
- Cross Border Surveillance Working Group
Mark Kennedy operations abroad
Kennedy traveled a lot, while he was an undercover police officer, and he continued to do so in the short period after he had left the police and continued to infiltrate working for Global Open. As was mentioned above, the 2012 HMIC report referred to 11 countries on more than 40 occasions, including 14 visits to Scotland.
Research done in 2011, based on interviews with activists who had worked with Kennedy resulted in this chronology of his activities (note it has not been updated since 2011 - additions and corrections welcome!). The list includes travels to nine different countries: Denmark, Germany, France, Iceland, Ireland, Poland, Scotland, Spain and the USA. Kennedy passed through the Faroe Islands and Belgium going somewhere else; while this would have required use of his false passport, it is not sure whether the transit countries would count as visits in itself. If not, this means that there are two countries missing from this list.
Also, this overview does not cover as many as 40 different occasions on which - according tho the HMIC report - Kennedy went abroad. Additions are welcome! Other than for large protests in other countries or meetings to prepare for such, Kennedy also went abroad in different roles (sometimes maybe on his own). For instance, 2004-2006 he went to Ireland several times as the driver of the Trapese collective who were giving trainings for anarchist groups.
- 2004 Spring, Ireland Grassroots Gathering preparing G8 Scotland, Dissent
- 2004 May, Ireland, Dublin, EU summit
- 2004 Ireland, Dromoland Castle, anti-George Bush protest
- 2005 7-10 April, Ireland County Clare, EYFA wintermeeting
- 2005 24 June, Ireland, Belfast, fund-raiser for the G8
- 2005 6-8 July, Scotland Gleneagles, Stirling, G8. Coordinated transport for the Dissent network of resistance against the G8 camp in Stirling Scotland in 2005. (a fleet of minibuses)
- 2005 Summer 2005, Iceland, Saving Iceland actions against ALCOA and the dams at Karahnjukar
- 2006 Spain, Speaking tour about Saving Iceland
- 2006 3-4 March, Ireland, Dublin Anarchist Bookfair
- 2006 Germany Berlin, Autonomous action
- 2006 Ireland visit to Rossport Solidarity Campaign/Shell to Sea
- 2007 Jan-Feb Copenhagen Denmark, Ungsdomhuset trip
- 2007 Jan-Feb, Germany and Poland, Berlin and Warsaw Planning meeting for Heilingendamm G8 - Actively promoted a violent assault on Berlin business district (Plan B)
- 2007 6-8 June, Germany, Heiligendamm, G8
- 2007 Nov-Dec, Germany, Berlin, 'social visit'
- 2007 8 Dec, Germany, Berlin Demo For Autonomous Spaces and Self-Organization Against Dominion and Capitalism
- 2008 Jan, Copenhagen, Denmark, 'social visit', just under a week
- 2008 12-13 Jan, New York, meeting autonomous action
- 2008 Feb, Nancy France
- 2008 Feb, Germany Berlin Networking, autonomous actions
- 2009 Jan, Strasbourg, France anti NATO
- 2009 4 Mar, Strasbourg, France, organising meeting NATO protest
- 2009 Mar, Copenhagen, Denmark, planning COP15
- 2009 4 April 2009, Strasbourg France actual protest – Kennedy claimed he was late and border had been closed
- 2010 March, Scotland, friends take him 'on holiday' climbing cause he is depressed
In February 2010 Kennedy set up two private security companies;
In March 2010 Kennedy left the police.
- 2010 Early June Germany Berlin, social visit
- 2010 Stayed in Europe until early July (Switzerland, Italy?)
- 2010 8-11 July, Italy animal rights gathering,
- 2010 September, Italy, social visit
- 2010 4 October Nice, France, Planning meeting Nice G8
(Registered for 10 October 2010 Hamburg, Germany, anti repression gathering, but did not go – just before his exposure)
- For more detail see the Mark Kennedy: A chronology of his activities
Mark Jenner operations abroad
Most of Jenner's traveling involved being 'on holiday' with his activist girlfriend “Alison” - they went to Israel, Greece, the Netherlands, Thailand and Vietnam together.
The Northern Ireland visit however was a delegation of activists, and seemed to have been a tasked operation. As described in more detail at the Mark Jenner page, he drove campaigners on a trip republican West Belfast and Derry which included meeting Sinn Fein councillors. Jenner took part in the fighting, when nationalists clashed with the loyalist Apprentice Boys of Derry march on 12 August, which left him with a bruising on his side.
- For more detail, see Mark Jenner profile.
Lynn Watson operations abroad
- 2005 Scotland G8 summit at Gleneagles in Scotland. Her main involvement however was through the UK Action Medics. Of note is that she persuaded the members of the Action Medics group that the main action during the G8 was going to be in Edinburgh rather than at Gleneagles, where the G8 meeting was actually taking place.
- For more detail, see Lynn Watson profile.
Rod Richardson operations abroad
- 2001: June, European Union Summit, Gothenburg, Sweden.
- 2001 July, G8 summit, Genoa, Italy. Traveled with a number of people to Bologna, then on to Genoa for the counter-mobilisation.
- 2002 Summer, People's Global Action gathering, Leiden, Netherlands, attended the meetings.
- 2002 November, NATO Summit, Prague, Czech Republic. He also traveled prior to the protests as part of a group from the WOMBLES participating in planning for the counter-mobilisation.
- 2003 June, G8 summit, Evian, France; Attended counter-mobilisation along with others from WOMBLES.
Richardson was involved in the counter-mobilisation for the EU summit in June 2001 in Gothenburg, Sweden, and drove comrades from London to the airport – but did not go himself.
- For more detail, see Rod Richardson.
Marco Jacobs operations abroad
- 2007 Poland - Warszaw Planning meeting for 2007 G8 in Germany, traveled with Mark Kennedy, who claimed to have been transporting some goods for his uncle to a location in Denmark. This was immediately prior to the meeting in Warszaw in preparation for G8 Heiligendamm. He used his van to transport several Danish activists from Copenhagen to Warszaw. It is believed that only one genuine UK based activist was at this event!
- 2007 Germany anti-G8 Heiligendamm summit protests traveled there with other activists, and planning meetings before that.
- 2009 Jan, Strasbourg, France, Dissent meeting
- 2009 14-15 Feb, Strasbourg, France, Dissent international action conference and he visited private peoples home there.
In 2006, Marco suddenly pulled out of attending the resistance to the G8 in St Petersburg Russia. He also pulled out of attending planning meetings in Ukraine. Now thought this was because the police tried but failed to get the Russians and Ukrainians to agree to undercover police working in their territory).
- For more detail, see Marco Jacobs profile.
Simon Wellings operations abroad
Simon turned up on the scene soon after the Genoa protests and therefore missed GR's first activist conference in May 2001. However, by 2002 he was active enough in the group to be accompanying them to various international mobilisations.
- 2002 Manhattan in February to take part in protests against the World Economic Forum there. Simon was one of twelve GR campaigners to travel. They stayed in a flat in the Upper West Side with activists from Syracuse University.
- 2002 Three days of protest against the EU Summit from 21-23 June, including a General Strike. Wellings traveled to Spain with other activists from Globalise Resistance, staying with them on the camp-site provided for international protestors. However, he camped by himself, away from other GR activists.
- 2003 G8 Summit in Evian in France from 1st-3rd June, large scale protests. Wellings is known to have camped with others from GR at the Geneva camp, which was based at a local sports stadium. On the first night the sprinkler system went off, damaging tents and causing people to switch places. As a result Simon and Martin Hogbin camped close together.
Wellings was exposed just before the 2005 summit G8 Summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, but attended meetings to prepare the protests. Mobilisation under the G8 Alternatives banner began in summer 2004, with the participation of Globalise Resistance.
Wellings may have been at the Barcelona protests against the Spanish presidency of the EU on 14-16 March 2002.
- For more detail, see Simon Wellings profile
Jim Boyling operations abroad
1996 Rome, the Hunger Gathering. Acounter summit held during the FAO World Food Summit 13-17 November 1996. Environmental grassroots movements from around the world gathered Wednesday to produce a radical alternative blueprint for global food security.
1997 Anti-GM crop protests in Ireland. Background: it was a period of time that Monsanto was under fire all over Europe. In October 1997 'the only genetically engineered crop in the Republic of Ireland was destroyed', according to a press release received by Genetix. At the time an MEP has just gone on record saying that the destruction was 'fair play' and causing all sorts of debates..
John Dines abroad
John Dines went 'on holiday' with Helen twice to the Outer Hebrides, Scotland in June 1990 and once more later that year, allegedly to sort out their personal problems - probably as part of his exit-strategy. No special permission would have been required for these trips, as Scotland was part of the UK and this was pre-devolution.
Peter Francis operations abroad
Peter Francis went to Germany, with Lambert as his handler. He claims that he is the first SDS undercover officer who went abroad. By then he had risen to become the secretary of a branch in the YRE and he thought it would have been deeply suspicious not to attend the camp. ‘Everyone knew that I had German connections, with my mother being German,’ he says. ‘It was beyond belief that I would not go.’
- He compiled and delivered a series of reports on the YRE campaign and their connections on the continent. He says that because he spoke German, and could converse with native activists, he managed to provide the host country with high-grade intelligence. The Germans felt the SDS had done them a ‘huge favour’, he says. Lambert and the rest of the senior command felt the trip was a success. It paved the way for other undercover officers to travel abroad. One went to France with the Anti-Nazi League, while the following year Black traveled to another summer camp in Greece.
Overlap between undercovers
Some of the protests or preparing meetings outside the UK were attended by more than one UK undercover officer; of two such meetings two out of the three attendees from the UK were undercovers.
- 2003 June, G8 summit, Evian. Richardson with the WOMBLES, Wellings with Global Resistance.
- 2005 Kennedy, Jacobs, Watson. All three are known to have attended some of the same events, such as the Dissent! network mobilisation around the 2005 G8 meeting at Gleneagles and the subsequent two several Camps for Climate Action at Drax and Heathrow. Simon Wellings was also involved in the preparations of Gleneagles, with Global Resistance.
- 2007 Kennedy used his van to transport several Danish activists and Marco Jacobs from Copenhagen to Warszaw.
- 2007 Jacobs and Kennedy in Germany anti-G8 Heiligendamm summit protests.
- 2009 Dissent meeting in Strasbourg in January 2009 for an anti-NATO mobilisation. Jacobs and Kennedy drove together to the meeting, separately from the few other UK activists also attending. It is of note that the event had very little involvement from UK based activists partly as it took place at same time as the G20 protests in London.
- Pitchford Inquiry, About the Inquiry, official Inquiry website, 2015, accessed 5 Oct 2015.
- HMIC, A Review of National Police Units which Provide Intelligence on Criminality Associated with Protest, 2 February 2012, p.27.
- Rebecca Fisher (ed), Managing Democracy Managing Dissent, Capitalism, Democracy and the organisation of consent, Corporate Watch, London, 2013, p277
- Alison Dickens, FOOD SUMMIT: Hunger Gathering Offers Alternative Way Forward, IPS, 13 Nov 1996, accessed October 2015
- Paul Lewis, Rob Evans and Rowenna Davis, Ex-wife of police spy tells how she fell in love and had children with him, the Guardian, 19 Jan 2011, accessed October 2015
- Press Release, IRELAND GE FREE AGAIN,1 October 1997, accessed October 2015
- Rob Evans & Paul Lewis, Undercover: The True Story of Britain's Secret Police, Faber & Faber, 2013, p132.
- Rob Evans & Paul Lewis, Undercover: The True Story of Britain's Secret Police, Faber & Faber, 2013, p133