Created By: Koveras on December 8, 2012 Last Edited By: Koveras on December 13, 2012
Troped

No Such Agency

A government agency whose existence is denied by the government.

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Trope
A step up (or down) from a Covert Group with Mundane Front is a government agency whose very existence is officially regarded as an Urban Legend and denied by The Government officials to maintain Plausible Deniability if their activities (often of black ops variety) become known to general public.

Subtrope of Government Agency of Fiction and often a supertrope to The Men in Black. Compare Government Conspiracy.

Examples:

Anime and Manga

Film -- Live-Action
  • Played With The Men in Black in the Men in Black film series: they are independent and get their funding from royalties on alien technology, so they mind-wipe even the government officials to deny their existence.
  • The movie Conspiracy Theory features an unnamed government agency, and the way one of their agents describes it could be an excellent page quote:
    "If the intelligence community is a family, think of us as the uncle no one talks about."
  • In Hellboy, one of Tom Manning's jobs is to deny the existence of the Bureau of Paranormal Research & Defense and cover up all evidence of their missions (which is a deviation from the original comic books, where the Bureau's existence was public knowledge). But in the sequel, Hellboy deliberately reveals the Bureau's existence by appearing on a live news broadcast.
  • Division in all iterations of Nikita, including the two TV series and the Transatlantic Equivalent Point of No Return, is a black-ops program for assassination and counterintelligence that does not officially exist. Which has allowed the program's leader to turn it into a work-for-hire operation that the government can't shut down.
  • Deconstructed in Transformers, when soldiers refuse to take orders from the secret agents, as their section does not officially exist.
  • Red: The CIA Back Room. Lampshaded in its debut scene:
    Cooper: I didn't know this place existed.
    Records Keeper: It doesn't.

Literature
  • In the Matt Helm series of novels written by Donald Hamilton, the U.S. assassination agency with no name that Matt works for.
  • The assassination agency CURE in The Destroyer novels, which was created by President John F. Kennedy to protect the U.S. by working outside the Constitution.
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's The Puppet Master, the narrator explains up front that you've never heard of his organization because they do not exist.
  • The Rainbow counter-terror unit in the Tom Clancy book and video game series Rainbow Six. Officially all its operations were performed by special forces units loyal to the country they occurred in. Though by the later Ryanverse novel Teeth Of The Tiger, Rainbow has apparently become an Open Secret in the government.

Live Action TV
  • Fifteen years into the project, Stargate Command remains a secret known only to cleared members of the participating militaries and the highest government officials of the 50 nations that are signatories to the Antarctic Treaty System. The latter were only read into it because there's an Ancient outpost underneath the continent. The project was supposed to go public in the third Stargate SG-1 movie, Revolution (partly because the number of people involved is in the thousands at this point, making keeping the secret increasingly difficult), but the plans for the movie were derailed by MGM's bankruptcy.
  • Bureau 13 of Babylon 5, an agency so secret that even its name is rarely known. The one guy that told Captain Sheridan the Bureau's name ended up dead shortly afterwards.
  • Section 31 of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Not only are they officially non-existent, its actions clashed with the principles of the Federation.
  • The IMF (Impossible Mission Force) in Mission: Impossible. Famous for the warning given to its leader before each mission.
"If you or any member of your IM Force are caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow all knowledge of your actions."

Tabletop Games
  • The Grey Knights are a curious example, as their existence is considered an urban legend in the Imperium, but there are select few chapters of Space Marines (Namely the Space Wolves and Blood Ravens) who are allowed to learn of their existence. In addition, they are considered the militant arm of the Ordo Malleus, making them soldiers of the Inquisition. However, anyone else who fights alongside them are either killed or mind-wiped after the war is over in order to preserve their secrecy.
  • Bureau 13 in Bureau 13: Stalking the Night Fantastic. It's an undercover branch of the U.S. government dedicated to identifying and eliminating supernatural threats.
  • Conspiracy X. The main opponent organization for the Player Characters is a secret government agency called the National Defense Directorate AKA the Black Book.
  • The eponymous Delta Green was originally an official non-existent government agency. When it was disbanded, its members continued to operate covertly and illegally, becoming an unauthorized No Such Agency.

Video Games
  • The Third Echelon in the Splinter Cell series is a black ops and intelligence agency of the US government. Their existence is hidden even from the NSA, which they are technically part of.
  • The Corsairs in the Mass Effect universe are a branch of Alliance Marines who conduct black ops for the Alliance without official orders. Their existence is unknown even to high-ranking Alliance officers such as Shepard.
  • The existence of the Osean 8492nd Squadron, a.k.a. the Belkan Aggressor Squadron, in Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War is denied by the Osean government, probably because of the unsavory association with the ex-Belkan military. Comes to bite them in the ass later on, when it turns out that the 8492nd remained loyal to the Belkan government the whole time.
  • Section 8: Prejudice introduces a unit called the Spear which serves as the game's Big Bad. It was an elite paramilitary unit intended to exterminate any alien life that could be an obstacle to human colonies (read: all of it), but its leadership began to get mentally unstable (partly from remorse) and they were disavowed and ordered destroyed by USIF regulars. They've come back for revenge.
  • The eponymous Alpha Protocol. Also, Steven Heck claims to work for a branch of the CIA that doesn't officially exist, but he could just be crazy.
  • Soldier of Fortune has The Shop, a covert government organisation that conducts black operations around the globe.

Real Life
Will go under Espionage Tropes.
Community Feedback Replies: 37
  • December 8, 2012
    lakingsif
    In My Sims Agents for Wii, Skip Rogers denies his involvement in creating the Flower Requisition Board, which is itself a false branch he created so that he could steal flowers.
  • December 8, 2012
    zarpaulus
    The Men In Black are often an example, though the agency in the film series are independent and get their funding from royalties on alien technology.
  • December 8, 2012
    StarSword
    Compare Government Conspiracy.

    [[folder:Live Action TV]]
    • Fifteen years into the project, Stargate Command remains a secret known only to cleared members of the participating militaries and the highest government officials of the 50 nations that are signatories to the Antarctic Treaty System. The latter were only read into it because there's an Ancient outpost underneath the continent. The project was supposed to go public in the third Stargate SG 1 movie, Revolution (partly because the number of people involved is in the thousands at this point, making keeping the secret increasingly difficult), but the plans for the movie were derailed by MGM's bankruptcy.
    [[/folder]]
  • December 8, 2012
    MrRuano
    The Grey Knights are a curious example, as their existence is considered an urban legend in the Imperium, but there are select few chapters of Space Marines (Namely the Space Wolves and Blood Ravens) who are allowed to learn of their existence. In addition, they are considered the militant arm of the Ordo Malleus, making them soldiers of the Inquisition. However, anyone else who fights alongside them are either killed or mind-wiped after the war is over in order to preserve their secrecy.
  • December 8, 2012
    Bisected8
  • December 8, 2012
    Gatomon41
    Anime

    • Hypnos of Digimon Tamers. Originally, it was kept secret because it's signals intelligence activities could be seen as privacy vioaltions.

    Live Action TV

    • Bureau 13 of Babylon 5, an agency so secret that even it's name is rarely known. The one guy that told Captain Sheridan the Bureau's name ended up dead shortly afterwards.
    • Section 31 of Star Trek Deep Space Nine. Not only are they officially non-existent, it's actions clashed with the principles of the Federation.

  • December 8, 2012
    KevinKlawitter
    • The movie Conspiracy Theory features an unnamed government agency, and the way one of their agents describes it could be an excellent page quote:
      "If the intelligence community is a family, think of us as the uncle no one talks about."
  • December 9, 2012
    Koveras
    @lakingsif: From the write-up, it seems more like a Covert Group With Mundane Front, since the Mayor doesn't deny the Flower Requisition Board's existence, only his involvement with it.
  • December 9, 2012
    robinjohnson
    It's tempting to suggest a gag along the lines of

    Real Life
    • THERE ARE NO EXAMPLES
  • December 9, 2012
    Arivne
    Literature
    • In the Matt Helm series of novels written by Donald Hamilton, the U.S. assassination agency with no name that Matt works for.
    • The assassination agency CURE in The Destroyer novels, which was created by President John F. Kennedy to protect the U.S. by working outside the Constitution.

    Live Action TV
    • The IMF (Impossible Mission Force) in Mission Impossible. Famous for the warning given to its leader before each mission.
    If you or any member of your IM Force are caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow all knowledge of your actions.

    Tabletop Games
    • Bureau 13 in Bureau 13: Stalking the Night Fantastic. It's an undercover branch of the U.S. government dedicated to identifying and eliminating supernatural threats.
  • December 9, 2012
    Goldfritha
    Literature
    • In Robert A Heinlein's The Puppet Master, the narrator explains up front that you've never heard of his organization because they do not exist.
  • December 9, 2012
    StarSword
    Film:
    • Division in all iterations of Nikita, including the two TV series, is a black-ops program for assassination and counterintelligence that does not officially exist. Which has allowed the program's leader to turn it into a work-for-hire operation that the government can't shut down.

    Literature:
    • The Rainbow counterterror unit in the Tom Clancy book and video game series Rainbow Six. Officially all its operations were performed by special forces units loyal to the country they occurred in. Though by the later Ryanverse novel Teeth Of The Tiger, Rainbow has apparently become an open secret in the government.

    Video Games:
    • Section 8: Prejudice introduces a unit called the Spear which serves as the game's Big Bad. It was an elite paramilitary unit intended to exterminate any alien life that could be an obstacle to human colonies (read: all of it), but its leadership began to get mentally unstable (partly from remorse) and they were disavowed and ordered destroyed by USIF regulars. They've come back for revenge.
  • December 9, 2012
    SharleeD
    • The Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense is this in the Hellboy franchise.
  • December 9, 2012
    MorganWick
    @robinjohnson: And pothole it to either No Real Life Examples Please or Suspiciously Specific Denial.
  • December 9, 2012
    MetaFour
    Regarding Hellboy: The BPRD is a secret agency in the movies, but not in the comicbooks.
  • December 9, 2012
    justanid
    ^ There's at least one relevant RL example and humorous examples are fun too.

    Anime Real Life
    • "Area 51" does not officialy exist, this caused problems for civilian contractors when they sued the USAF and the US EPA. President Clinton issued a Presidential Determination exempting Groom Lake from environmental disclosure laws that's still upheld today.
    • |||||||||||| ||||||||, The ||| Foundation, ||||||||||||||||||||||, and the |||||.
  • December 10, 2012
    Koveras
    I have started a real life section. Tell me whether it's funny enough, or I should just add the examples from justanid's post instead...
  • December 10, 2012
    StarSword
    I like it :D

    Area 51 would be a real life subversion, given that it's known to exist since the president has to sign off on its budget every year. (Though what they get up to is anyone's guess.) The second one justanid put up doesn't really make sense, I'm afraid. (Took me several hours to work out he was trying to simulate redacted material.)
  • December 10, 2012
    robinjohnson
    No Such Agency for a title? From an old joke about what the American NSA stands for (though it's really the National Security Agency)

    Edit: oh, that already redirects to NSA, never mind.
  • December 10, 2012
    StarSword
    ^Actually, if we could get moderator support for removing the redirect (ATM it only has one wick, Useful Notes.Washington, D.C.), that would be a great title.
  • December 10, 2012
    KTera
    • The eponymous Alpha Protocol. Also, Steven Heck claims to work for a branch of the CIA that doesn't officially exist, but he could just be crazy.
  • December 10, 2012
    reub2000
    Real Life
    • Until the 90s, the BT Tower in London was officially a secret and did not appear on maps.
  • December 10, 2012
    StarSword
    Working on getting No Such Agency freed up for use. Wick is removed; waiting on redirect deletion.
  • December 10, 2012
    elwoz
    ^ You don't need moderator help to take over the existing redirect. When you're ready to launch, instead go to http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/NoSuchAgency?action=edit and it'll let you replace the redirect with the new page.

    If we're going to go with that joke (and I approve), Real Life should include

    • From 1952 until 1967, the USA officially denied the existence of its National Security Agency (NSA). Even after that, for many years they were very closemouthed about what they did, leading to the joke that the acronym really stood for No Such Agency.
  • December 10, 2012
    StarSword
    Yeah, I didn't know until today that redirects didn't need to go through the TRS for definition changes, either. I'm still kind of a noob here.

    In any event, that's three votes for No Such Agency.
  • December 11, 2012
    Koveras
    I am still reluctant to expand the Real Life section, but here are the collected examples for it thus far:

    Real Life
    • From 1952 until 1967, the USA officially denied the existence of its National Security Agency (NSA). Even after that, for many years they were very closemouthed about what they did, leading to the joke that the acronym really stood for No Such Agency.
    • "Area 51" does not officialy exist, this caused problems for civilian contractors when they sued the USAF and the US EPA. President Clinton issued a Presidential Determination exempting Groom Lake from environmental disclosure laws that's still upheld today. Still, the US president has to sign off on its budget every year, so it's at least that official. (Though what they get up to is anyone's guess.)
    • Until the 90s, the BT Tower in London was officially a secret and did not appear on maps.
    • Numbers stations -- radio stations that do nothing but broadcast long sequences of letters and numbers -- can be confirmed to exist by anyone with a shortwave radio, and it's not much of a stretch to speculate that they are transmitting coded messages to spies, but no government or other broadcaster has ever officially admitted that they operate a numbers station.
      • A spokesperson for the UK regulator of radio broadcasting did once say "[numbers stations] are what you suppose they are" in a newspaper interview.
    • SEAL Team 6 apparently doesn't exist, but they were real enough to kill Osama bin Laden.
  • December 11, 2012
    Bresher
    Video Games

    • The Agency (ICA) in the Hitman series. While its existence is rumored, it's not proven in the public eye.
  • December 11, 2012
    Koveras
    ^ Wouldn't that fall under The Syndicate or Murder Inc?
  • December 11, 2012
    Generality
    Deconstructed in Transformers, when soldiers refuse to take orders from the secret agents, as their section does not officially exist.
  • December 12, 2012
    Arivne
    Film
    • The secret U.S. government agency in Point Of No Return. It takes criminals sentenced to die and turns them into assassins.

    Tabletop RPG
    • Conspiracy X. The main opponent organization for the PCs is a secret government agency called the National Defense Directorate AKA the Black Book.
  • December 12, 2012
    Chernoskill
    Soldier Of Fortune has The Shop, a covert government organisation that conducts black operations around the globe.
  • December 12, 2012
    czfjrod
    Film -- Live-Action
  • December 12, 2012
    StarSword
    @Arivne: Just for reference, Point of No Return was a Trans Atlantic Equivalent of the original Nikita, which I already posted.
  • December 12, 2012
    Gatomon41
    Tabletop RPG

    • The eponymous Delta Green was originally an official non-existent government agency. When it was disbanded, its members continued to operate covertly and illegally, becoming an unauthorized No Such Agency.
  • December 12, 2012
    mythbuster
    SEAL Team 6 apparently doesn't exist, but they were real enough to kill Osama bin Laden.
  • December 12, 2012
    Koveras
    Last hat, anyone?..
  • December 13, 2012
    Arivne
    ^^ Has the U.S. government ever denied that Seal Team Six exists, or have they just tried to keep as much information as possible about it hidden?
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=z98fg3laocr7388jefc4s109