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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. 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. Also 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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    Anime and Manga 

     Comic Book 
  • 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.
  • The Team 7 was an Elite Army team serving for International Operations (aka I/O, the CIA of 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 got rogue and deserted from I/O, killing all their persecutors that went after them. Eventually various of them became Vigilante Man or formed/became part of their own team, becoming the angular stone of groups like Wild CATS and WetWorks.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Bourne Series: The employers of the main character think 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.
  • From the James Bond series.
    • 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 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.
  • 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 lampshaded in its Honest Trailer video.
    • In the first Mission: Impossible, 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.
  • A major theme of Rōnin where 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.
  • 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 organisation.
  • Under Siege: William Strannix (Tommy Lee Jones) 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 climax of Rogue One has the team of rag-tag misfits-come-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.
  • The 1982 action movie 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.
  • 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.

  • 19 by Roger Hall: A peculiar variant was the title organization "19". Most of the members were still part of various U.S. intelligence agencies, but secretly working for a retired OSS officer (who'd been their commander during the war) to do the work of American counterintelligence more effectively than the official agencies could. Its existence was unproven, its makeup unknown, and although it was evidently working to protect the U.S., many U.S. security types were 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 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.
  • 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 by Barry Eisler.
    • 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 US 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?
  • The Bourne Series. An Invoked Trope by a CIA agent who has become The Alcoholic. When a US official is reluctant to speak to him because of his reputation, he claims that these are deliberate rumors being spread so his actions have Plausible Deniability if he's caught.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Mission: Impossible agents are of the deniable operative kind. This is made clear to them at the mission briefing at the start of every episode, and they apparently have the choice of refusing to accept a mission.
  • Jack Bauer in every season of 24 qualifies, though he remains on the side of good the whole time barring the end of the final season where he becomes an Anti-Villain. Nina Myers, Stephen Saunders, Christopher Henderson and Tony Almeida (in Season 7) are all villainous examples.
  • Faith in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. 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 was used in this role in his 3rd and 4th incarnations, as a deniable agent for when the Time Lords decide to break their own rules of non-intervention. The Doctor wasn'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 has tried to either kill or frame Harm several occasions.
  • 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 was 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.
  • A number of Division undercover agents decided to go rogue and stopped obeying orders from Division after Nikita took over in season 3.
  • 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. Also 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 had Jack going rogue and stealing technology from Earth's allies as part of a sting to capture the actual rogue NID agents.
  • 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 Omnicidal Maniac as he's helping an Alien Invasion that will Kill All Humans.


    Video Games 
  • The James Bond video game 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.
  • 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.
  • The Point Man is this by F3AR.
  • For the majority of Alpha Protocol, Mike Thorton is a rogue agent when he learns 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 completely bugfuck insane and thinks he is either of the above. A mail recovered from the CIA's Rome listening post implies it's option one.
  • Mass Effect
    • Mass Effect has Saren, the Council's most famous Spectre, going rogue. Of course it's later revealed 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, where Shepard detonates a Mass Relay to delay the imminent arrival of the Reapers, despite the fact this will mean sacrificing the lives of 300,000 Batarians in the system as a result. Hence why the third game appropriately begins with Shepard on trial for having essentially committed a war crime.
    • The first game had several encounters with Cerberus which painted 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Gabe Logan and Lian Xing go rogue at the end of the first Syphon Filter.
  • 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 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 fascist Empire that runs on evil so you can protect said evil Empire on your own terms.
  • This is the eventual fate of David in Telling Lies.
  • Time Crisis 5 reveals that Robert Baxter is the traitor within the VSSE in the True Mastermind Edition.

    Web Original 
  • Virtually every agent from Red vs. Blue's Project Freelancer goes rogue at some point. Given the group's extensive experiments with AI implantation, this is not the least bit surprising.
  • Hitler Rants. Willenbrock is a German U-Boat Captain who's made a career out of making Hitler's life miserable, and uses all his naval expertise to avoid being brought to justice.
  • 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 actually they were a black ops unit meant to carry out operations the Foundation couldn't officially be involved in. Then for reasons unknown they turned against the Foundation for real.

    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 The Other Wiki.

Alternative Title(s): Renegade Operation


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