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Rogue Agent

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Sergei: I'm sorry about the unfortunate incident. It was excessive, and more to the point it was foolish. Mikhi did it without consulting me.
Gregor: He turned rogue and can't be controlled? Is that it?

A member of a government intelligence agency who starts operating on their own authority. Often this is merely a cover for activities the government in question would denounce if anything went wrong. If more than one person is involved, it will be described as a "renegade operation" or "rogue elephant".

For writers, this is a good way to have a villain with all the skills and knowledge of the heroes, should they also be spooks or special forces soldiers. It's also useful if you're Backed by the Pentagon, as you're not disparaging the organization as a whole, just a "bad apple". Likewise, Irish terrorists are often described as being from rogue factions to avoid having to deal with The Irish Question.

For the group version of this, see Renegade Splinter Faction. See Renegade Russian and Terrorists Without a Cause for specific examples of this trope. Compare From Camouflage to Criminal and Rogue Soldier.


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    Comic Books 
  • Double Duck has a few:
    • Axel Alpha/Agent Zero used to be a member of the Agency and fight villains until his various encounters with the Organization caused him to go his own way and become a freelance spy, doing jobs for whoever pays him more, to the point that in his namesake story, he steals the entire database of the Agency and then summons representatives from the Agency, the Organization and a second villainous syndicate to auction it off. He's actually Donald in disguise, and the whole affair is the Agency and the Organization working together to nip a new syndicate in the bud, but Axel Alpha actually exists and when he eventually appears, he's still engaged as a rogue agent.
    • The Crossover with Paperinik New Adventures features T32, a rogue agent of the Time Police being hunted down by his superiors. He and Axel Alpha get their hands on a database of Time Police technologies and go on to create the 23rd century Organization, that Axel named after the syndicate that inspired his Face–Heel Turn.
    • When the Direction replaces the Agency, it inherits all of the Agency's assets and promptly releases the identities of almost all their agents — almost because they haven't fully decoded the database with their names before it's destroyed by Donald. After that debacle, Donald, Zig Zago and a few others who escaped being exposed go on to reform the Agency, as someone has to do the job.
  • Every surviving member of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen severs ties with the British government between Vol. 2 and The Black Dossier. The ones who decide to carry on fighting crime do so with the backing of the original Leaguer, Prospero, who lives in a storybook kingdom at the North Pole.
  • Team 7 was an Elite Army team serving for International Operations (aka I/O, the CIA of the WildStorm universe) who went around the world finishing jobs that another military teams couldn't. After becoming Human Weapons against their will during one mission, all the survivor members of the team went rogue and deserted from I/O, killing anyone who went after them. Eventually, various of them became vigilantes or formed/became part of their own team, becoming the angular stone of groups like the Wild C.A.T.s (WildStorm) and WetWorks.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Bourne Series: The employers of the main character think that he's done this, but he's actually suffering from Easy Amnesia.
  • Brooklyn Tide: Jonathan Clay is a former FBI agent who was imprisoned for taking dirty money, and as revenge, he intends to cause a nuclear disaster.
  • Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore has the eponymous Kitty Galore be a former agent (playing into Renegade Russian tropes) of the cat human-protection agency (MEOWS) who turned rogue after a mission resulted in her falling in a vat of hair remover, causing a Humiliation Conga. This is the reason the movie ends up with an unprecedented dog-cat cooperation: MEOWS claims jurisdiction over stopping Kitty Galore because she's a rogue agent of theirs, and the dog human-protection agency PAWS claims jurisdiction because stopping cats threatening humanity and dogkind is their job.
  • The Equalizer 2: The villains turn out to be Robert McCall's former colleagues from the DIA assassination team he used to be part of, who have now become killers for hire after the US government decided their services were no longer required.
  • James Bond:
    • Licence to Kill: Bond goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge after his friend, Felix Leiter, is mutilated by a South American drug dealer and his wife was murdered on their wedding night. Other British agents try to forcibly bring him back.
    • Goldeneye: Alec Trevelyan, agent 006, who was believed dead and turns out to be the Big Bad.
    • Die Another Day: Bond is imprisoned by M and has his Double-Oh status revoked after being framed for spilling secrets under duress. Bond escapes and pursues the Double Agent who framed him.
    • Quantum of Solace has Bond acting independently of MI-6 for much of the film, though whether this is a Roaring Rampage of Revenge for Vesper Lynd's death in Casino Royale (2006) or simply 007 pursuing Quantum on his own when it appears MI-6 may be compromised — or a bit of both — is at least somewhat ambiguous.
    • Skyfall: Raoul Silva, the Big Bad, is a former MI6 agent.
    • Spectre: Bond goes rogue from the very start of the film, albeit with a twist: he's actually following orders from a Video Will of the late M, who died in the previous film.
  • The Matrix: In The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, Agent Smith drops his "agent" position and simply becomes "Smith" when he goes rogue and takes over the Matrix.
  • A recurring element of the Mission: Impossible Film Series, which is parodied in its Honest Trailers video.
    • In Mission: Impossible (1996), Ethan Hunt is framed to be a rogue agent after an operation gone wrong, and the rest of the film he has to clear his name by finding the real rogue agent, who is Jim Phelps, the protagonist of the original TV series, in one of the most infamous Face Heel Turns in the history of cinema.
    • In Mission: Impossible II, Sean Ambrose is a rogue IMF agent. In a break from the rest of the series, Ethan is not.
    • In Mission: Impossible III, Ethan Hunt is accused of being this once again halfway through the film, with the real rogue agent being an IMF operative who is The Mole.
    • In Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Ethan's whole team is declared rogue agents after a mission gone wrong, and they have to catch the Big Bad on their own to clear their names.
    • Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation is full of rogue agents, appropriate considering the title itself. Ethan Hunt becomes a rogue agent yet again (see a pattern now?) after the CIA forces the IMF to shut down, tracking the leader of the Syndicate, Solomon Lane, who is revealed to be a rogue agent of MI6 himself, a product of a top-secret project consisted of rogue agents gathered from all over the world that later forms up the Syndicate. Also, other agents who support Ethan in his mission are also declared rogue agents by CIA as well.
    • Mission: Impossible – Fallout has Solomon Lane again, but there is also August Walker, who is in reality John Lark, the leader of the Apostles. Also, despite helping detain Solomon Lane in the previous movie, the British Government considers Ilsa Faust as this, thusly her trying to clear her name during the movie.
  • The climax of Rogue One has the Ragtag Bunch of Misfits-turned-rebels steal (back) an impounded Imperial shuttle they had earlier stolen, dub themselves with the call sign Rogue One, and start an attack/espionage mission on Scarif so that they could retrieve the plans to the Death Star after the Rebel Alliance refused to take Jyn's word on the fact that stealing the plans would be valuable or even helpful. Once they're already on the ground, however, much of the rest of the Rebel Alliance joins them, thus sanctioning their actions.
  • A major theme of Ronin (1998), as the characters are former Cold War spies and special forces operatives working as mercenaries, but at least one — and possibly others — are still secretly working for their own governments. Likewise, the terrorist Seamus is disavowed by Sinn Fein as a 'rogue breakaway operative' after he fails to get his hands on the mysterious suitcase.
  • The Soldier is about a deniable government dirty tricks team, but when their contact in the CIA is murdered, they have to become rogue agents for real because no one else in the US government knows they exist. Appropriately they're fighting KGB agents who themselves turn out to be rogue.
  • Star Trek:
    • In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, the Klingon Ambassador tries painting Captain Kirk as a "renegade and terrorist" due to the events of the previous film. The likely reason why the Ambassador doesn't claim the entire Federation is on a conspiracy to "annihilate the Klingon species" is political tact.
    • In Star Trek Into Darkness, Harrison was Starfleet's best agent before a perceived betrayal by his superiors sent him on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the entire Federation. It's a cover story for his work at Section 31 and his true identity.
  • Three Days of the Condor: The murders turn out to be a result of members of the CIA trying to hide a renegade operation from their own organization.
  • William Strannix from Under Siege is a renegade/rogue former CIA agent, as is Travis Dane in the sequel. The latter was merely fired, but as the former turned traitor, they tried (unsuccessfully, of course) to have him killed. Both are murderously unhappy at their respective plights.

  • The titular organization from 19, by Roger Hall, is a peculiar variant. Most of its members are still part of various U.S. intelligence agencies but are secretly working for a retired OSS officer (their commander during the war) to do the work of American counterintelligence more effectively than the official agencies can. Its existence is unproven, its makeup unknown, and although it is evidently working to protect the U.S., many U.S. security types are determined to break it.
    "Are you talking about a penetration?"
    "Literally speaking, yes. But not by the opposition. If 19 exists, it's on our side. Although some of the things it's done, if it did them, were enough to give me the inside sweats."
  • The Bourne Series: Invoked by a CIA agent who has become The Alcoholic. When a U.S. official is reluctant to speak to him because of his reputation, he claims that these are deliberate rumors being spread so that his actions have Plausible Deniability if he's caught.
  • The protagonists of The Brotherhood of the Rose, by David Morrell, are Chris and Saul, two CIA assassins who are the surrogate children of CIA spymaster Eliot. Chris turns rogue when he kills someone in a Truce Zone in violation of an agreement by the world's espionage agencies. Eliot has Saul blow up a conference and then frames him as a rogue agent working for Mossad. Chris, Saul and a Mossad agent then have to team up to find out why. Eliot himself turns out to be running a rogue operation in collusion with spymasters from other countries to keep the Cold War under control.
  • The Executioner: Mack Bolan starts as a Vigilante Man, gets recruited by the US government as Colonel Phoenix for the Cold War in The '80s, then goes rogue again after his Love Interest is killed. He still does the occasional 'deniable' for his old colleagues.
  • Flight of the Intruder: A protagonist example, with the two main characters going on a renegade bombing mission to hit Communist Party Headquarters. They miss, succeeding only in blowing out some of the windows.
  • Several in the John Rain series:
    • In Hard Rain, the CIA station chief in Tokyo is running a covert operation that's been officially shut down, using his subordinate as the Fall Guy by arranging to frame him as a rogue.
    • Tatsu is running his own Cowboy Cop operation to assist reformist elements of Japanese society. He tries to recruit Rain as his assassin, with limited success.
    • Jim Hilger is a CIA agent running the deniable kind of operation, who's eventually revealed to be a Well-Intentioned Extremist and genuine Rogue agent.
    • Daniel Larison is an ISA operative who plans to blackmail the U.S. government for a fortune in diamonds by threatening to release videos of Muslim prisoners being tortured.
    • Colonel Horton's role in The Detachment is ambiguous for much of the novel. Is he trying to stop an American coup, like he claims, or is he one of the conspirators looking to advance his own interests?
  • Warhammer 40,000 Expanded Universe: The protagonists of the Eisenhorn and Ravenor series become Rogue Agents in, respectively, Hereticus and Ravenor: Rogue. It's necessary under the circumstances, but Eisenhorn kills at least one man whose only crime is trying to stop him.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Jack Bauer of 24 qualifies as this in every season, though he remains on the side of good the whole time (barring the end of the final season, in which he becomes an Anti-Villain). Nina Myers, Stephen Saunders, Christopher Henderson and Tony Almeida (in Season 7) are all villainous examples.
  • Blake's 7: Because it didn't seem plausible for The Dragon to keep pursuing and losing Blake without consequence, in Season B, the writers had Space Commander Travis go renegade to avoid court-martial by the Federation. Servalan decides to aid him covertly just in case he does manage to get Blake or the Liberator, but in the season finale, it turns out that Travis is a genuine rogue and Misanthrope Supreme, as he's helping an Alien Invasion that will Kill All Humans.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Faith becomes a rogue Slayer upon her Face–Heel Turn in the third season, working for the Mayor. This causes problems for the Watcher's Council as until she dies, the line of Slayers can't continue; they do their best to rectify the situation in Angel.
    • Wesley tries to reinvent himself as a rogue demon hunter after being fired. Nobody really buys it (at least not initially).
      Cordelia: What's a rogue demon?
  • Doctor Who: The Doctor is used in this role in his third and fourth incarnations, as a deniable agent for when the Time Lords decide to break their own rules of non-intervention. The Doctor isn't happy about it, as he'd rather be a genuine rogue.
  • Farscape: The Peacekeeper Crais goes rogue to hunt down John Crichton, whom he blames for the death of his brother.
  • The Game (2014) plays with this with Joe Lamb and his revenge plot running occasionally against the official operations underway.
  • JAG has Clark Palmer, a former DSD agent who tries to either kill or frame Harm on several occasions.
  • Mission: Impossible agents are of the deniable operative kind. This is made clear to them in the Mission Briefing at the start of every episode, and they apparently have the choice of refusing to accept a mission.
  • NCIS has Mossad agents Ari Hassari and Michael Rivkin. The former is a Double Agent who turns out to be Evil All Along; the latter is called a rogue but is actually acting under Director Eli David's full authority. Yet another example comes later with Deputy Director Ilan Bodnar, who goes rogue to assassinate Director David.
  • Nikita: A number of Division undercover agents decide to go rogue and stop obeying orders from Division after Nikita takes over in the third season.
  • The Professionals:
    • In "Rogue", a member of CI5 turns out to be corrupt and commits a couple of murders to conceal this. Cowley doesn't take it well, as he was an old war buddy and his first choice for recruitment into CI5.
    • In "Wild Justice", Cowley realizes that Bodie is planning to avenge a friend who had been murdered by an outlaw biker gang and ends up putting a gun to Bodie's head to prevent him committing murder and destroying CI5 in the process.
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • Rogue NID agents become the standard human villains. In fact, it turns out that the majority of the NID are rogue agents, making it very difficult for the few loyal agents (even with the help of Stargate Command) to actually clean up the organization.
    • This role is very occasionally played by SG-1 itself, notably at the end of Season 1, when the Stargate program is being shut down just as Daniel has knowledge from an alternate timeline that Goa'ould are about to devastate Earth. Since he turns out to be right and they stop this from happening in the main timeline, they're forgiven, and everything goes back to normal.
    • Another episode has Jack going rogue and stealing technology from Earth's allies as part of a sting to capture the actual rogue NID agents.

    Video Games 
  • Alpha Protocol:
    • For the majority of the story, Mike Thorton is a rogue agent after learning that his own agency tried to kill him after he recovered the "stolen" missiles.
    • Of the people you meet during the game, Conrad Marburg is an ex-rogue agent turned civilian contractor (and also something of Mike's Evil Counterpart). And then there's Steven Heck, who may be a rogue agent. He may also be a non-rogue agent for a particularly deep-cover (and indiscriminate) part of the CIA... or he may be a complete lunatic who thinks that he's either of the above. A mail recovered from the CIA's Rome listening post implies that it's option one.
  • GoldenEye: Rogue Agent involves, as you'd expect, an MI6 agent going rogue after being discharged due to "needless brutality" and being recruited into SPECTRE by Goldfinger himself.
  • Mass Effect:
    • Mass Effect has Saren, the Council's most famous Spectre, going rogue. Of course, it's later revealed that he's actually been indoctrinated by Sovereign, but at the same time, it's clear that he was pretty much fond of Kick the Dog behavior even before he got indoctrinated.
    • The galaxy sees Shepard as one in Mass Effect 2 when s/he's forced to work with Cerberus, particularly in the Arrival DLC, in which Shepard detonates a Mass Relay to delay the imminent arrival of the Reapers, despite the fact that this will mean sacrificing the lives of 300,000 Batarians in the system as a result. Thus, Mass Effect 3 appropriately begins with Shepard on trial for having essentially committed a war crime.
    • The first game has several encounters with Cerberus which paint a rather horrifying image of the organization. When Shepard is forced to work with them in the second, every person speaking for them tries to downplay all of the less savory things they've done. Some new ones are encountered, but Miranda and the Illusive Man are very quick to claim that these were all the work of rogue elements. A Paragon Shepard, especially one benefiting from the Overlord DLC, can see some definite hints that these claims are Blatant Lies, or in Miranda's case, completely blind idealism for a group that she feels saved her life. She eventually sees past it as well.
    • In the second game's Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC, Shepard encounters Tela Vasir, a Spectre who works as The Dragon for the Shadow Broker.
  • Splinter Cell: Conviction has protagonist Sam Fisher on the run, regarded as a rogue agent by his own people. Killing your boss/best friend to maintain cover may have something to do with it.
  • StarCraft:
    • Raynor was charged with treason for aiding the Sons of Korhal with evacuating a city.
    • Tassadar was marked a traitor after he decided to work with Terrans to defeat the Zerg.
  • In Star Wars: The Old Republic, the Imperial Agent can become this at the end of their story by bringing the Black Codex to the Minister of Intelligence, who uses it to erase your identity so that you can act as an independent agent who protects the Empire without Sith jurisdiction. It's a mixed bag, since you're freeing yourself of a fascistic... well, empire that runs on evil so that you can protect said evil empire on your own terms.
  • Gabe Logan and Lian Xing go rogue at the end of the first Syphon Filter.
  • Time Crisis 5 reveals that Robert Baxter is the traitor within the VSSE in the True Mastermind Edition.


    Web Original 
  • Hitler Rants: Willenbrock is a German U-Boat Captain who's made a career out of making Hitler's life miserable and uses all of his naval expertise to avoid being brought to justice.
  • Red vs. Blue: Virtually every agent of Project Freelancer goes rogue at some point. Given the group's extensive experiments with A.I. implantation, this is not the least bit surprising.
  • SCP Foundation: The Chaos Insurgency does both versions of the trope. Ostensibly, they are a Renegade Splinter Faction that broke off from the SCP Foundation in 1924, but in truth, they were a black ops unit meant to carry out operations which the Foundation couldn't officially be involved in. Then, for reasons unknown, they turned against the Foundation for real.
  • Waldo The Movie: Waldo becomes one, going on a rampage and shooting civilians in a crowd after someone says that they "found Waldo" while pointing at him, with the rest of the trailer focusing on him arming himself and playing cat-and-mouse with other agents. It's not explained what he wants or why he's trying to take out spy agency that hired agents, except for speculation that he "finally snapped".

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Frank Terpil was dismissed from the CIA in 1971 for financial misconduct and used his expertise to aid various dictators including Muammar Gaddafi, Idi Amin and Fidel Castro.
  • Ex-CIA agent Edwin P. Wilson was convicted of selling arms to Libya, though he was able to overturn the conviction after a long legal battle, claiming that he'd been working for the CIA the entire time. Details are on Wikipedia (linked above).

Alternative Title(s): Renegade Operation