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I am going to focus this question on the US, but I would love an answer that also includes the EU, or even the world.

Let's say we have a secret organization. Something like the MIB or the SCP Foundation, set in the modern day. Let's say they have effectively limitless resources, and can compromise or are supported at the highest levels of government. To make it easy let's say the US President is aware of and supports the organization.

How could these members be given clearance and the ability to request cooperation from any other government or law-enforcement organizations with minimal questions asked?

The goal here is to give someone access but involve as as few people as possible in the conspiracy. For instance, MIB badges would be out, because normal people would not know what they are.

FBI badges may be better, but would they open enough doors? Would police departments try to verify identities and many people in the Bureau would need to be in on the conspiracy to make any public inquiry not instantly reveal that these are not real agents.

I would also assume FBI means little to the US armed forces. The CIA may carry more weight, but the CIA does not carry badges. Their credentials again need to come from other sources.

So what would be the best, cleanest, way for a secret organization to set up its agents with all necessary power, but few channels to follow back?

Also, no mind erasing tech is available. We have to use what we have right now.

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    $\begingroup$ Lovely typo in title, or I'm confused. Are hats important? $\endgroup$ Jun 6 at 16:30
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    $\begingroup$ Historically, Major League Baseball has been better at keeping secrets than the US Federal Government...and has a higher approval rating. Does your Secret Monster Squad need to be Federal employees? $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Jun 6 at 17:01
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    $\begingroup$ I am very confused. Why isn't a Homeland Security Dep't badge enough? Maybe a particularly dumb policeman in the sticks doesn't know what happens when one refuses to follow the orders of a Homeland Security agent, but one or two well-publicised examples of people being sent to Gitmo for abetting terr'rism will solve this. About the army: the army does what it is told to do. Just have the Joint Chiefs issue a directive that Homeland Security Dep't badges are to be respected and obeyed without fail. (The point is that having a badge from a Dep't and actually working there are different things.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jun 6 at 17:01
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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps mutliple badges: FBI, CIA, NSA, ATF, WTF, USDA, OSHA... They could be attached one below the next. It would be the Mother of All Badges. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Jun 6 at 17:49
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    $\begingroup$ For the US specifically, the US Secret Service is probably the best cover story for this. If your Men In Black are bona fide Secret Service agents and can prove it, I imagine most US government employees would be willing to help with whatever facially-valid enquiry or request your Men In Black make. $\endgroup$
    – kaya3
    Jun 6 at 22:32
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The problem with "fake" credentials is: Even if they are essentially the real thing, a "real" FBI agent would probably notice that something is wrong, because "I never saw you at headquarters" or "How come you do not know this thing we learn in basic training?" It is extremely difficult to pose as a FBI agent if a real FBI agent is around, and your cover needs to hold for more than one or two hours.

So, camouflage by no camouflage. That is, give a bunch of your agents FBI badges and FBI training. And offices within a FBI building. For other FBI agents, they are just another department within the FBI. Maybe it is not exactly clear what they do, but the FBI has so many different levels of security clearances and things that are on a need-to-know basis that one more "Sorry, I can not tell you what exactly I am working on" is not suspicious. If your secret agents "pose as FBI agents" no one will notice. They are FBI agents.

Do the same at the CIA, the NSA, homeland security, and so on. Now, when you need someone to appear as a "figure of respect", just choose someone who can pose as a member of the organisation which is most useful in this instance.

I would stay away from handing multiple badges to the same person. Imagine you are a legitimate FBI agent. And there is this other woman, who claims to be a higher ranking FBI agent. You never saw her. She doesn't know about this one instructor at basic training, whom everyone remembers. And then, you accidentally see that she has badges from six different government organisations. I would contact headquarters and ask them to confirm that woman's identity. I would ask them to check whether there is any possibility that the badge was stolen and is used by a sibling or look-alike. I wouldn't rest until I figured it out. That is too dangerous for your organisation.

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  • $\begingroup$ I like this answer. The challenge I find is what do you do as the story unfolds. They team dealing with a specific problem goes somewhere and pretends to be NSA to request some data. Then they go another place they need to be FBI to take a suspect out of custody. Do they need to keep adding members to the core team who have the right badge? $\endgroup$
    – Andrey
    Jun 9 at 18:59
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You Need Sideways Access

The US intel community (and most intel communities for other major powers) are big in theory, but widely distributed into small groups. The FBI, for instance, only has about 60,000 people in it. What's more, each individual office has it's own territory, and crossing from one Area of Responsibility into another is a faux-pa at best, and a serious policy violation at worst. The individual offices are small enough (from a few dozen to a thousand-odd, and that includes "non-agent" staff) that everyone knows everyone. So your fake FBI employee would have to pretend to be from another office. BUT the further you get from the area's actual office the more suspicious it becomes, while conversely the closer you are the more likely you are going to blow it via not knowing who you should know. (ie: somebody claiming to be from the New York Office in the LA office's territory is going to raise a trillion red flags. Someone claiming to be from San Diego's office will raise a couple dozen red flags, and might get burned because agents from LA will know many agents from San Diego.)

Instead, I suggest two things:

1: Get your agency Universal Database Access. The USG has hundreds of databases with bespoke access. This one only the FBI has access too, this one DIA uses, this one CIA and TSA use but FBI has no access. This one FBI and DEA have access to but CIA doesn't, this one only state and local law enforcement have etc etc etc. However "read only" access would be trivially simple to set up, and would resolve 90% of your potential problems. After all, you don't need access to a CIA office if you can already see the recordings the CIA made and documented in their file! (this obviously wouldn't work as well in the 80s. But that just gives you some hand-wavy "back in my day" talk from older MIB Agents about having to fake being DEA Atlanta to send a file request to DEA New York and then intercept it etc etc. But nowadays everything is digital which means your life is easy!)

2: If you are out and about and run into, say, a DEA agent, you don't show them a DEA badge. You show them a FBI badge, or an ICE badge, or whatever. Which depends on circumstance. Some agencies have excellent "no questions asked" relationships with other agencies, either nationally (Say maybe DEA and FBI work well together all over, but the DEA HATES some other agency and only helps them grudgingly through formal channels) or at an office level (Maybe the FBI and CIA don't get along, but the New York FBI office gets along well with the CIA because of "reasons". Or maybe the CIA and FBI work great together EXCEPT the NY FBI office.) If you train YOUR agents in these sorts of byzantine quasi-political trust systems, you can easily get tons of cooperation without risking mis-steps based on not knowing a person's name you should or not knowing a normal bit of agency trivia.

As a sidenote, small obscure organizations are also great to fake. The Small Business Administration has a dozen-odd "Special Agents" that technically have all the investigative powers as FBI agents, but specific to SBA-related crimes. Faking one of these guys with a humble attitude could easily get you "in" with more "prestigious" organizations, as even a high-ranking FBI person is unlikely to know anything about his supposed equals in the SBA!

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Have the motives of the organization be secret, not the organization itself.

Do we really know what the CIA does? Or even the FBI for that matter? Sure, we have an idea, or we think we do. But how do we know there aren't secret motives revealed to a select few within those organizations where they're carrying out all sorts of objectives that we, the public at large, would totally object too? As a matter of fact I'd bet they are!

So, you're guys are actually real NSA, CIA or FBI agents, but secretly they're doing what you need done in your story.

Also, Interpol and the United Nations are things.

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  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, I know NSA does not barge into homes with swat teams, the FBI does not claim jurisdiction outside of US soil. The CIA can't claim to be working on a criminal investigation of a citizen unrelated to espionage or terrorism. There would be a big stink very fast if they tried to throw their weight around in the wrong arena $\endgroup$
    – Andrey
    Jun 9 at 18:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Andrey, that's why you have members of this secret cabal in every one of those organizations. Also, Interpol and the United Nations are things. $\endgroup$
    – Len
    Jun 9 at 18:55
  • $\begingroup$ Then that's just Alex's answer $\endgroup$
    – Andrey
    Jun 9 at 18:56
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    $\begingroup$ @Andrey, well if you're going to be like that just create a fictional organization that exists in your universe that does what you need. All the spy movies do it. Treadstone anyone? $\endgroup$
    – Len
    Jun 9 at 18:59
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If this secret agency is condoned by the federal government (United States) at the highest level, it has official sanction.

The US government already has procedures in place that allow other secret agencies to do essentially what you're asking. A call is made, a sheriff or a police chief is told people will be coming by, that they need the full cooperation of the local department, and even maybe that they will be taking over the investigation because of its sensitive national security nature.

This isn't the stuff of fiction, but is real. The name of the agency itself is in some cases not revealed. Explanations aren't necessarily given, or if given, aren't necessarily true. There will be no need to show badges or identity documentation. If they require someone to be arrested or warrants to be served, they will task the local police with that (or may even pull in the FBI to handle that part). Only afterward would the "suspects" be rendered from the jail to a facility where they had access (so-called black sites).

If the agency isn't officially sanctioned, it's unlikely they'd be able to operate in this manner without being investigated themselves in short order. (With either FBI counter-intelligence investigating if they were believed to be a foreign agency, and some other FBI unit if they were believed to be domestic. The feebs would even possibly get help from the CIA or other agencies if it was believed that they had something to add, but inter-agency cooperation is still rather abysmal.)

As for official sanction, the president could only operate in this manner for a few months before he pulled in the House and Senate intelligence committees. Otherwise, he risks them becoming aware of it, and depending on how they view this executive sanction, possibly impeached. However, if made aware of it and convinced of the urgency of the mission, it could then proceed indefinitely without ever requiring public and official recognition of its existence.

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  • $\begingroup$ How do the people getting the call know it's real? I get a lot of calls from the "FBI" telling me my social security number has been suspended $\endgroup$
    – Andrey
    Jun 8 at 1:14
  • $\begingroup$ @Andrey The call comes from someone with authority, someone whose authority they can verify. DOJ most likely, but could also be Homeland or even DOD. This person themselves having just got the call, presumably a short chain starting at the cabinet. $\endgroup$
    – John O
    Jun 8 at 13:13

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