"Interesting, isn't it? The Federation claims to abhor Section 31's tactics, but when they need the dirty work done, they look the other way. It's a tidy little arrangement, wouldn't you say?"
Section 31 was the name of an officially-nonexistent clandestine organization within Starfleet Intelligence that claimed to protect the security interests of United Earth and later the United Federation of Planets.
The organization's title came from the original Starfleet Charter, Article 14, Section 31, which allowed for extraordinary measures to be taken in times of extreme threat. At some point before 2151, a young Ensign Malcolm Reed was recruited by Section 31 through former Starfleet Security officer Harris. By the time Reed was posted to Enterprise NX-01, he was no longer actively involved in covert operations.
However, in late 2154, when Reed was investigating the kidnapping of Doctor Phlox, he was contacted by Harris again. Harris' organization had entered into a secret agreement with Klingon Fleet Admiral Krell, in which Harris facilitated Phlox's forcible transportation to a Klingon colony to help in finding a cure for the Klingon augment virus in exchange for a mutually beneficial alliance.
Harris ordered Reed to slow down Enterprise's investigation until Phlox could develop a cure. Reed complied, but his tampering was discovered by Captain Jonathan Archer and Commander T'Pol, and Reed was thrown in the brig. (ENT: "Affliction")
T'Pol reconstructed Reed's communication logs and discovered that he had been in contact with Harris. When confronted with this information, Reed confessed that he had been following Harris' orders. Later, Archer had Reed put him in contact with Harris, and Harris told Archer that, if Phlox was successful, the Klingon Empire would stabilize, an outcome that would be quite favorable for Starfleet. Archer remained suspicious of Harris' motives. After the plague was cured, Harris contacted Reed again, but Reed rebuffed him, saying that he only answered to one commanding officer: Jonathan Archer. (ENT: " Divergence")
In 2155, Harris agreed to provide intelligence on the Earth-based Human terrorist group Terra Prime to the Enterprise crew, when it was discovered that Terra Prime was attempting to disrupt the creation of the Coalition of Planets and to drive all non-Humans out of the Sol system. Harris implied to Reed that this information would come at a price to be exacted at a later time. (ENT: "Demons", "Terra Prime")
In 2374, Section 31 attempted to recruit the chief medical officer of space station Deep Space 9, Doctor Julian Bashir, after putting him through psychological testing on the holodeck of a ship to which he had been abducted. Subjecting Bashir to an elaborate deception designed to test his loyalty to the Federation, Section 31 operative Luther Sloan presented himself to Bashir as the Deputy Director of Starfleet Internal Affairs, and placed Bashir in a scenario wherein it appeared that he had defected to the Dominion. Eventually, Sloan became convinced of Bashir's loyalty and, citing his genetically engineered background and fascination with spy stories, offered him a position within Section 31.
Bashir, appalled at the thought of an organization that was not accountable to anyone and regularly violated the very principles and core values upon which the Federation had been founded, declined Sloan's offer, although Section 31 continued to regard him as a potential asset. After the agency returned him to Deep Space 9, Bashir alerted the station's senior staff – including his commanding officer, Captain Benjamin Sisko, and Bajoran Militia officers Major Kira Nerys and Constable Odo – of Section 31's existence and its attempt to recruit him. Sisko advised Bashir to accept Section 31's offer to join them, should they ask again, so that Bashir could spy on the organization for Sisko. (DS9: "Inquisition")
In the course of his efforts to expose Section 31, Bashir discovered that he had actually been manipulated by Sloan into convincing Romulan Senator Kimara Cretak to access Koval's personal database, on suspicions that Section 31 planned to assassinate Koval. This gave Koval sufficient evidence to have Cretak arrested and charged with treason, which assured his own seat on the powerful Continuing Committee. Bashir learned that Koval was an agent of Section 31 after discovering Starfleet Admiral William Ross' complicity in the scheme.
It seemed Section 31 had been planning for what it regarded as a likely war with the Romulan Star Empire following the Dominion War. The agency projected that the Dominion was likely to end up confined to the Gamma Quadrant with the Cardassian Union occupied and left a shambles, and the Klingon Empire left to spend at least ten years rebuilding from the damage left by the Klingon-Cardassian War, the Federation-Klingon War of 2372 to 2373, and the Dominion War itself. Section 31 regarded Cretak as a potential threat to the Federation in the post-war Alpha Quadrant, as her primary loyalties were to the Star Empire's interests, while Koval could be counted on to influence Romulus in the Federation's favor.
Admiral Ross attempted to defend his actions to Bashir by stating that the high cost of the war justified the extreme measures being taken, but Bashir refused to concede that the ends justified the means. Ross responded by dismissing Bashir from his office and forbidding him from repeating and otherwise acknowledging their conversation. (DS9: "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges")
Later that year, while researching the morphogenic virus which was ravaging the Great Link and Odo, Bashir discovered that Section 31 had actually engineered the disease and deliberately infected Odo during a visit to Starfleet Medical three years previously, in a preemptive attempt to neutralize the threat posed by the Founders and the Dominion. Despite the risk that a cure for the disease might reach the Changelings and thus not only strengthen them but also continue the genocidal war they had initiated, Bashir decided to still pursue the matter and find a cure to help Odo. He lured Sloan to Deep Space 9 with false claims of having developed a cure. Sloan, who was committed to the cause of protecting Federation and Starfleet interests at all costs, committed suicide in an attempt to prevent the cure from being discovered, nearly killing Bashir and Chief Miles O'Brien in the process. Unable to revive him, Bashir and O'Brien used a multitronic engrammatic interpreter to link their minds to Sloan's, in order to finally retrieve the information before Sloan's brain injuries rendered him brain dead. (DS9: "When It Rains...", "Tacking Into the Wind", "Extreme Measures")
After the cure was discovered, the Federation Council decided against sharing it with the Founders, an act which Odo likened to abetting genocide. The cure was later given to the Female Changeling by Odo as a condition for surrendering her forces and ending the war. These events ruined the organization's plan to eradicate the Founders. The Changeling's surrender ended the war and allowed the Founders to live. Odo eventually returned to the Great Link to distribute the cure to the rest of the Founders, saving his people. (DS9: "The Dogs of War", "What You Leave Behind")
Organization and tactics
One of Section 31's operatives claimed that the organization dealt with threats to the Federation that others did not even realize existed and that jeopardized the Federation's very survival. Section 31's actions were autonomous and its existence was neither acknowledged nor denied by Starfleet Command or the Federation Council. Those found guilty of posing a security threat to the Federation were dealt with quietly, as one of its operatives, Luther Sloan, once explained. Section 31 was not accountable to anyone; it did not submit reports to anyone or ask approval for specific operations. As such, it has been described as having granted itself the powers of "judge, jury, and executioner." Under Section 31 credo, to save lives, the ends always justified the means and its operatives were not afraid to bend the rules if the situation warranted it. Section 31's existence was likened to that of the Cardassian Union's Obsidian Order or the Romulan Star Empire's Tal Shiar.
Section 31 had no known physical headquarters or base of operations. A select few were chosen to carry widespread knowledge of their operations. Recruitment of new agents had to be done in secret. One method that Section 31 used to accomplish that involved kidnapping potential agents and testing their loyalty. Section 31's recruitment policy did not allow agents to officially retire from duty, and agents who had long since moved on from the agency could be called upon at any time to carry out a mission. (ENT: "Divergence"; DS9: "Inquisition", "Extreme Measures")
- Luther Sloan
- Koval (double agent)
- William Ross (sympathizer)
- Two unnamed Human operatives working for Sloan
Section 31 was created by Deep Space Nine executive producer Ira Steven Behr, and resulted from his desire to look into the darker aspects of the utopia created by Gene Roddenberry. Behr was inspired by a line of dialogue he had written in "The Maquis, Part II" where Commander Sisko remarks that "It's easy to be a saint in paradise." Behr remarked, "Why is Earth a paradise in the twenty-fourth century? Well, maybe it's because there's someone watching over it and doing the nasty stuff that no one wants to think about. Of course it's a very complicated issue. Extremely complicated. And those kinds of covert operations usually are wrong!" (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 551) According to Ronald D. Moore, the writing staff had "extended discussions" about the backstory of Section 31, with much debate about how long the organisation was to have existed. (AOL chat, 1998)
The concept of Section 31 was criticized by some fans who saw it as undermining Roddenberry's vision. In response to such criticisms after "Inquisition" aired, Moore commented, "The idea that there's a rogue element within the Federation doing dark deeds outside the normal chain of command is certainly a provocative one, I'll grant you, but does it really throw into question 'on a fundamental level...the principaled Federation we have known...'? Not yet it doesn't...It's a little early to declare the death of the UFP, folks." (AOL chat, 1998) Elsewhere, Moore commented, "We like pushing the concept of Starfleet and the Federation itself into uncharted territory. We like to question the ideals and beliefs of the Trek universe and put our characters into difficult situations that may not have easy answers. To be sure, we like Trek and enjoy working in this universe, but we're not satisfied with just painting the UFP as a happy-go-lucky place where everyone gets along and the Prime Directive is always right." (AOL chat, 1998)
Costume designer Bob Blackman noted that the uniforms worn by Section 31 agents were chosen for their fascist overtones. "We design a lot of Gestapo / S.S / Naziesque outfits for our villains. And when they're really the ultimate, like the Section 31 people, we immediately go that way to make them look like storm troopers, because that's an imagery that works best, not only for the viewers, but for the producers. For 'Inquisition,' Ira asked for dark black, severe, hostile looking garments. Well, that's black leather." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 553)
While the organization seen in Enterprise was never explicitly referred to as "Section 31", production staff have confirmed that it was intended to be the same organization seen on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. (ENT Season 4 DVD "Terra Prime" audio commentary) Harris wears a leather uniform similar to the one worn by Sloan two hundred years later, and refers Captain Archer to "Article 14, Section 31" of the Starfleet Charter. This is consistent with Sloan's comment that Section 31 was created as part of the "original" Starfleet charter, but not with Bashir's statement that Section 31 has managed to stay hidden for "over three hundred years" in "Tacking Into the Wind". Ronald D. Moore, who wrote the DS9 episode, considered Bashir's figure a mistake and stated that it should have been only around two hundred. The figure was later corrected. (AOL chat, 1999)
There are no canonical references to Section 31 activity in the 23rd century, but the non-canonical novels published by Pocket Books posit that Section 31 was involved in the theft of the Romulan cloaking device by the USS Enterprise (TOS: "The Enterprise Incident"), the development of the Omega molecule and the subsequent destruction of subspace in the Lantaru Sector (VOY: "The Omega Directive"), and spying upon Federation civilian attorney Samuel T. Cogley (TOS: "Court Martial"). Starfleet Admiral Lance Cartwright was established to be a Section 31 agent in the novel Section 31: Cloak, suggesting the possibility that the Khitomer conspiracy was, from the Federation end, a Section 31 operation.
Although the televised appearances of Section 31 have been limited to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Enterprise, a short series of novels, Star Trek: Section 31, has also been published, documenting encounters with Section 31 in the other Star Trek series. These stories were largely designed around, and serve to explain or provide background to, certain canon events. In the novels, it is revealed that Section 31:
- had a hand in the disastrous test of the Omega molecule (see VOY: "The Omega Directive")
- had Admiral Cartwright, Cortan Zweller, and eventually Sarina Douglas as agents (see Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, TNG: "Tapestry" & DS9: "Chrysalis")
- placed an agent aboard the USS Voyager before it was transported to the Delta Quadrant in 2371 (see VOY: "Scientific Method")
- attempted to recruit USS Enterprise-E conn officer Lieutenant Hawk (see Star Trek: First Contact)
- was responsible for Admiral Dougherty's mission to forcibly and illegally relocate the Ba'ku (see Star Trek: Insurrection)
- continues to regard Julian Bashir as an asset
- had a hand in the events of TOS: "The Enterprise Incident"
- attempted to kill the former Borg drone Seven of Nine
Section 31 is also revealed to be responsible for allowing the Dominion to engage in an infamous massacre of Federation civilians during the war, as part of an attempt to recruit a potential agent.
Section 31 has also appeared in the Star Trek: A Time to... series. In A Time to Kill and A Time to Heal by David Mack, it is revealed that Section 31 has a hand in a coup d'etat organized against the President of the United Federation of Planets, Min Zife, whom they assassinate.
All of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine DVDs feature several "Easter eggs" known as "Section 31 hidden files."
In Star Trek: Starfleet Command III, in a mission in the Romulan campaign, the player is inspecting the damage to the Unity One starbase. While listening to the Federation-Klingon Alliance broadcasts, one Starfleet officer suggests, "Why don't you ask Section 31?" as to how Starfleet could know if the Unity One scans could detect cloaked Romulan vessels.
After the events of the novel Section 31: Cloak, Captain Kirk briefed Starfleet Captains Phil Waterson and Nick Silver and Commodores Aaron Stone and José Mendez of his discoveries and suspicions about Section 31 and the five men formed the Kirk Cabal, a secret group designed to oppose Section 31 whenever it was involved in any known activity. The Kirk Cabal was still active as of 2376, when Elias Vaughn recruited Julian Bashir into its ranks.
According to The Good That Men Do, the existence and activities of Section 31 were exposed to the general public by the early 25th century and its agents were eventually brought to justice for their crimes. The public release of Section 31's files and records ended over 300 years of the bureau's illegal and unsanctioned black-ops and infiltration programs.
In the MMO game Star Trek Online, Section 31 tests player characters on a mission in a fashion similar to that of Dr. Julian Bashir.
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