From all the episodes on TNG and DS9 I always get the impression of Section 31 and its operatives as being part of a secret underground organization that is not part of or sanctioned by the official government. In some instances we see Starfleet officers trying to sabotage and expose Section 31 operations. However in another episode we see O'Brien working for them.

Out of universe it seems to have lots of similarities with the CIA (plausible deniability, protection from foreign threats, etc.); however the CIA is an official and sanctioned agency in the states.

What is the exact status of Section 31 within the Federation? Is it a completely rogue and underground organization? Is it an officially sanctioned organization? Or is it an unofficially sanctioned group that does, however, count on the approval of the government?

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    IIRC one of the episodes makes mention that section 31 is built into the federation constitution. – Xantec Sep 21 '15 at 17:01
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    Section 31 is an unofficial group that is based on an extreme interpretation of section 31 the paragraph – Gaius Sep 21 '15 at 17:10
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    "...all the episodes on TNG..." I am curious where Section 31 was ever mentioned in TNG. – psubsee2003 Sep 22 '15 at 0:26
  • @psubsee2003 Not TNG sorry, I recalled watching it in another show but it was on Enterprise – Jorge Córdoba Sep 23 '15 at 8:33

As Xantec points out in a comment on the question, Section 31 is allegedly an autonomous branch of Starfleet, which derives its authority from the Starfleet Charter:

Sloan: We don't submit reports or ask for approval for specific operations, if that's what you mean. We're an autonomous department.

Bashir: Authorised by whom?

Sloan: Section thirty one was part of the original Starfleet charter.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Season 6 Episode 18: "Inquisition"

I say "allegedly" because the information comes from Luther Sloan, a character who is unreliable at best. Sisko confirms later in the episode that Section 31 has some kind of relationship with Starfleet, but we're not sure exactly what it is:

Sisko: There's no record of a Deputy Director Sloan anywhere in Starfleet. And as for Section thirty one, that's a little more complicated. Starfleet Command doesn't acknowledge its existence, but they don't deny it either. They simply said they'd look into it and get back to me.

Bashir: When?

Sisko: They didn't say.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Season 6 Episode 18: "Inquisition"

This relationship is further confirmed in a later episode:

Sisko: Officially, Starfleet Command has said that they are appalled at the very notion that an organisation like Section Thirty one might exist, and that they plan to get to the bottom of this entire business.

Bashir: And unofficially?

Sisko: They have quietly pushed the investigation aside, which means either they don't take Section Thirty one seriously or someone at Starfleet Command is protecting them.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Season 7 Episode 16: "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges"

Unfortunately, Section 31 is wrapped up in so many layers of lies and deception that it's hard to know who is telling the truth, and when. About all we can confirm is that Starfleet allies with them at least occasionally, as Admiral Ross does in "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges":

Bashir: And how long have you worked for Section Thirty One?

Ross: I don't.

Bashir: Oh. Just a temporary alliance, is it?

Ross: Something like that.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Season 7 Episode 16: "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges"

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    From the Enterprise episode Divergence: "Re-read the charter: Article 14, Section 31. There are a few lines that make allowances for bending the rules during times of extraordinary threat." "What threat?" "Take your pick. Earth's got a lot of enemies." - Harris and Archer – BMWurm Sep 21 '15 at 17:38

epic, EPIC latepost, but i couldn'tt resist >.> officially? Section 31 doesn't exist. in reality? its an obsolete black-ops unit that went rogue quite likely immediately after its creation, and given how many of its operations have backfired, or inherently run counter to Starfleet and the Federation's interests, it will eventually blow its cover badly enough to warrant violent, and permanent disassembly regardless of the number of people they blackmail >.>

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    Please add sources for this. – Mithrandir Sep 12 '16 at 12:28
  • “epic, EPIC latepost” — not particularly late by our standards. – Paul D. Waite Sep 12 '16 at 13:05

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