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Cloak & Dagger
Spy Agencies in Real Life are largely dull bureaucracies that exist to gather vast amounts of minute detail, then sort through it for anything interesting. Ian Fleming and the Cold War as a whole changed all that by creating a vast horde of glamorous secret agents devoted to fighting for Queen and Country (or whatever leadership of whatever nation).

Cloak & Dagger groups are those that have no real relationship to existing organizations but exist to conduct this kind of clandestine fun.

See Fictional Counterpart for examples of how many groups attempt to skirt around real world Geopolitics. See also Spy Fiction. A Sub-Trope of Government Agency of Fiction.

Not to be confused with the Marvel Comics characters Cloak & Dagger.


Examples

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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Black Organization in Detective Conan seemed to have this going on, but subverted by some of its members decided to continue having relationships and friendships. Akemi and Shiho (because they are sisters), Rena and Shuichi, Vermouth and "Ano Kata." Others perceive fellow members as tools (Gin).
  • The eponymous Absurdly Powerful Student Council of Best Student Council is so powerful that it has its own intelligence unit, Covert Squad.
  • Of course, England from Axis Powers Hetalia would be the best spy for the allies.

    Comic Books 
  • Checkmate in the DC Universe is part of the greater Department of Metahuman Affairs and has a chess motif.
    • Motif is perhaps not as apt a phrase as weird cheesy obsession. For example, there are two heads of the agency, the Black King and the White King (not as racist as it sounds ... the White King was for a while, and may still be, Mr. Terrific, who is black). Depending on the writer/time period, this is explained as either a division into ops/intel, or normal/superpowered. (I guess you need a superpowered team to fight superpowered baddies, and you need a normal team to keep an eye on the supers because you're paranoid.)
    • Opposing the good guys in this are H.I.V.E and Kobra.
  • S.H.I.E.L.D. is a fictional agency employed by the United Nations (and formerly, the US government) to fight terrorists.
    • Also, S.W.O.R.D. and, briefly, H.A.M.M.E.R., Norman Osborn's replacement for S.H.I.E.L.D.
      • Opposing the good guys in this is Hydra, Leviathan, the Secret Empire, AIM, the Sons of the Serpent, and the Hand.
  • The Global Peace Agency was one of these for OMAC. Sort of, it's...complicated.

    Film 
  • The SPECTRE of James Bond had a short run in the Ian Fleming novels and was Bond's full-time archenemy in the movies for a while. Effectively, it is the first known example of a Rogue Intelligence agency devoted to its own profit.
    • The organization Quantum has filled it and SMERSH's role for the Daniel Craig Bond movies.
    • The real-life MI6 is not known to have a "00 Section" made up of specially appointed assassins. In the films not only is it a major part of the organization, it's big enough to have its own section in MI6's headquarters and its own logo (as per The World Is Not Enough).
  • Star Trek Into Darkness: Section 31, the Federation's clandestine black-ops group, which was first revealed in the TV series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine..
  • True Lies had "The Omega Sector" which seemed to be directly inspired by SHIELD up to the point of having Charlton Heston appear in an eye-patch.

    Literature 
  • The titular organization of Tim Powers' Declare, in which an agent's catechism includes the question, "Would you fight magic with magic?"
  • The Bureau, the 'deniable' British intelligence service of the Quiller series by Adam Hall.
  • Kim is more realistic, but the "dagger" part shows, especially around Mahbub Ali. He's still annoyed to no end when someone tries to kill him and it's not personal.
  • In the later Honor Harrington books, Victor Cachat and Anton Zilwicki fill this role, ostensibly on behalf of the Kingdom of Torch. This is somewhat complicated by the fact that officially, Victor Cachat is an agent of the Republic of Haven, and Anton Zilwicki is an agent of the Star Kingdom of Manticore, two nations which are actually at war with each other Until Mission of Honor. They tend to team up to go after their nations' mutual enemies, primarily the Mesan Alignment. Their respective governments rarely sanction these efforts, and at worst are occasionally frustrated to learn they have no idea just what their agents are up to, but they are more than happy to reap the benefits.
  • The Culture series novel The Hydrogen Sonata is a cloak and dagger espionage thriller fought by Sufficiently Advanced Alien AI starships over a secret left behind by even more Sufficiently Advanced Aliens.
  • The Nexus Series: Imagine a cold war based around mind-hacking instead of nukes and you're halfway there.

    Live Action TV 
  • Airwolf had The Firm, although it was an obvious stand-in for the CIA.
  • Alias had SD-6 and an ever increasing number of strange terrorist organizations arrayed against it.
  • Control from Get Smart is an example as is its opponent Kaos.
  • La Femme Nikita was characterized around an organization known as Section One.
  • The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is another example.
  • Section 31, the Tal-Shiar and the Obsidian Order are the cloak and dagger organizations of the Federation, Romulans and Cardassian. One episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, however, shows Bashir and Garak (The first is British, the second is an actual spy) stuck in a James Bond style holo-program. When Bashir says that he is under cover as a rich playboy, Garak says that he joined the wrong intelligence agency. Mostly played straight otherwise, though Section 31 serves more to raise the question of whether it is okay to betray your principles in order to preserve it than anything else. Starfleet Intelligence (the actual, openly admitted intelligence agency of the Federation) slides into this on the few occasions they get involved with the captains' missions.
  • The Good Guy agencies on Chuck are nominally the CIA and the NSA, though they bear little resemblance to their real-world counterparts. The Bad Guy organizations, Fulcrum and the Ring, seem largely made up of rogue espionage agents.
  • The Canadian series Adderly never did make quite clear whether "ISI", International Security and Intelligence, was a US, Canadian, or bifederal agency.
  • In the 2010 Nikita, the government agency Nikita used to work for is called Division.
  • The organization of burned spies in Burn Notice.
  • The Agency filled this role for Scarecrow and Mrs. King.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Forgotten Realms, due to the nature of this setting, has a lot of secret and semi-secret organizations ranging from information brokers to assaassin guilds to Hero Secret Service groups. The most important ones made it into a sourcebook quite appropriately named Cloak & Dagger.
    Ed Greenwood: But there's another sort of secret society that we can't spotlight in the rules [...] : We ruin its secrecy by talking about it. These small, local, lowdown cabals of crooked merchants are a vital, ongoing, many-layered (as in "You shouldn't have just one at a time") part of the "home" Forgotten Realms campaign, and in many, many lively, long-running D&D campaigns set in any world. They're just the thing for framing or hiring PCs and plunging them throat-deep into unexpected and usually unwanted adventure.
  • The Eberron setting has some of its own. Breland in particular has a couple of them, and then there's the former Karrnathi one, the Emerald Claw ("former" refers to its status as an official government agency; the group itself is still ... I'd say "alive", but "not dead" might be more accurate, given the nature of some of its members). The Breland groups are basically Bond types; the Emerald Claw is more like SPECTRE with real spectres.
  • Delta Green had the titular agency as the Renegade branch of the US government that had broken away to fight the Old Ones. Still working for the USA was Majestic-12. Opposing them included the Karotechiaand numerous other fictional spy agencies.
  • The Old World of Darkness had Project: Twilight which was a supplement detailing real-life government agencies reactions to the supernatural. However, they included the SAD which was a well-funded "X-Files" in the FBI and several secret societies in the NSA.
    • The Technocracy is one HUGE example of this.
  • The d20 based game Spycraft existed for no other purpose than Cloak & Dagger advernturing.

    Video Games 
  • City of Heroes has the Malta Group, a international coalition of intelligence agents formed during the Cold War to get around their government's unwillingness to conscript superheroes into the intelligence community.
  • FOXHOUND, anyone?
  • Reliable Excavation Demolition, meet Builders League United. Possibly a subversion in that neither group has any real idea what they're fighting for or why they would need a small, color-coded briefcase from the opposing company.
    • The name is referenced by the Spy class weapon "Cloak and Dagger"
    • The Spy's official class role, as given in the original 2006 gameplay trailer, is "Uncloak and Dagger".
  • The Office of Naval Intelligence, best known for creating The Hero, Master Chief.
    • And it's named after a Real Life agency with much more mundane objectives.
  • The VCI from Alpha Protocol seem to work mostly by blowing things up. The G22 are a wee bit more discreet, but still do more ass-kicking than data-milling. The eponymous organization exists to carry out missions that the United States doesn't want to be officially involved with.
    • While G22 and Alpha Protocol have no excuse, the VCI is actually a mercenary organization, not an espionage organization.
  • Deus Ex had UNATCO serves as this at the start of the game. They're actually puppets of The Conspiracy, leading you to defect halfway in.
  • Splinter Cells and Third Echelon in general serve this role. While technically they're strictly in human intelligence, Fisher nonetheless aggressively pursues information and has, at least once per game, been called on to assassinate a specific person.

    Webcomics 
  • Secret Agent Men spoofs this type of organization, even calling its two separate sections "Cloak" (for overt, glamourous work) and "Dagger" (covert dangerous work, like special ops).

    Web Original 
  • In The Gamers Alliance, there are several groups spying on other groups. SAVAGE, Maar Sul's elite military corps, has the Covert Operations Department, the Grand Alliance has the Blades of Vigilance who are heavily involved in spying on the factions which oppose the Alliance, the Crimson Coalition has the Mullencamp spy network which monitors the Coalition territory and any non-Coalition faction it can gain access to, the Magicracy of Alent has Shadowstrike which keeps tabs on Alentian criminals but is also involved in internal affairs within the Anti Mage Police. Then there are also underworld organizations which use cloak and dagger methods, most notably the Union Workers, the Order of the Black Rose and the Dwarven Triad.
  • Each of Open Blue's major nations has one of these.
  • In the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, this is the function of Tarot's Wands Division. One CIA analyst compared the Wands to "the KGB in the good old days of Communism... except the Wands have supervillains."

     Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • SMERSH (Smyert Shpionam {Смерть шпионам}, "Death to Spies")was a Real Life agency. It was a subsection of the then-NKVD during World War II, whose existence was devoted to halting espionage within the USSR. The organization was disbanded — officially, that is — shortly after the end of the war, but Ian Fleming appropriated it and used is as what amounts to a terrorist organization funded by the KGB.
  • Real Life spy agencies often have little in common with their depictions in media, in small part because of ignorance but also because real life spy-work is rarely so glamorous. Some fun facts that have been ignored by the media are:
    • The real-life portfolio of the U.S. National Security Agency is signals intelligence and cryptanalysis (codebreaking). That hasn't stopped screenwriters and others from depicting "NSA agents" engaging in espionage fieldwork which in reality would be handled by personnel of the CIA, FBI, or various military intelligence agencies.
      • Examples: "Jinx" Johnson (Halle Berry) in Die Another Day, Xander "Triple-X" Cage (Vin Diesel) in xXx, and John Casey (Adam Baldwin) on Chuck; none of whom seem to be information analysts as their primary role (Cage and Casey are specifically recruited as adaptive enforcers, while Jinx is a straight-out assassin of similar stature to James Bond).
    • The KGB in real life are often called "Dzherzhinsky Square", after the street where the headquarters are located (which in turn is named after the first head of its predecessor, the Cheka). (Lubyanka is a prison). They are also generally depicted as having the same power and nightmarish disregard for life as the real life NKVD, their predecessor in the Stalin era.
    • MI6 is actually an agency called SIS, with James Bond as the most egregious producer of this inaccuracy. It hasn't been called that since World War II, well before Ian Fleming served. The agency now has to use the title in its recruitment advert. Still, no apparent hard feelings as SIS has allowed its real-life headquarters building to be featured in the Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig films as the home of MI6 and its 00 Section.
    • Contrary to popular belief, Canada does have its own intelligence agency, called C-SIS (Canadian Special Intelligence Service). As with most Canadian agencies, it doesn't get much publicitynote . The girl at the end of Quantum of Solace is the only one that comes to mind. The Bond film Quantum of Solace has 007 encountering an agent for Canadian intelligence.
      • A Season 4 episode of Stargate Atlantis went to great lengths to point out how "stupid" a name C-SIS was for an intelligence agency ("That's the best you could do?"), but this is also completely in check with the rest of the tongue-in-cheek Canadian bashing on the show (most of the cast and crew is Canadian, and the entire franchise is filmed in Vancouver).


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