Once it became clear who Palpatine/Sidious was, I got to questioning just how much the Trade Federation knew about the mysterious hooded figure who was ordering them around. At one point we have the exchange about landing troops on Naboo:

Nute Gunray: My lord, is that legal?
Palpatine: I will make it legal!

It must have seemed strange to them that the senator (at that stage at least) wanted them to first blockade his own planet, then invade it.

It is implied they knew something about him in that they accepted his assurance that he would make it legal. Unless he was the chancellor, or a very highly regarded or skillful senator, the claims of 'making it legal' would not have had much chance of convincing fearful underlings.

I figure that the group powerful enough to realize those claims must have consisted of less than 50 individuals in the entire senate. Probably half of those had Jabba the Hutt bodies or eye stalks, meaning they would not look close enough to humanoid and could be immediately discounted - so that leaves only around 25 individuals it might have been. Remove the female senators, and the men whose voices were completely different to that of their lord and you might have 3-4 left.

On the other hand, if they did not know who he was, why were they following his instructions?

  • @Null Thanks for the edits! My excuse for Jabba's incorrect spelling is that I was thinking in the back of my mind of Pizza the Hut.. ;) Aug 16, 2016 at 19:05
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    LOL I figured it was just a typo, but we'll go with Pizza the Hut as the villain here. :)
    – Null
    Aug 16, 2016 at 19:11
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    You could only rule out "Jabba the Hutt bodies or eye stalks" if you believed the holographic image to be the actual person's image. I expect it could be fairly easily faked with Star Wars level technology.
    – jpmc26
    Aug 17, 2016 at 3:03
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    @jpmc26 I'm not so sure. It was a long time ago. Aug 17, 2016 at 3:17
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    I worked out that Sidious was Palpatine based on his chin and his voice. But perhaps the Trade Federation don't see chins the same way I do. Aug 18, 2016 at 3:00

3 Answers 3


The Trade Federation knows Sidious is a Sith Lord. For example:

Nute: This is getting out of hand...now there are two of them.

Rune: We should not have made this bargain. What will happen when the Jedi become aware of these Sith Lords?

Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace script

They also know he has influence over the Senate, as implied by your quote and others. They almost certainly did not know Sidious was Palpatine, the senator from Naboo (as it would make no sense for a senator to order an invasion of his own home planet). They almost certainly did not know (or even suspect) Sidious was a senator, either. Sidious need not be a senator in order to have such influence. Recall what Dooku told Obi-Wan in Episode II about Sidious and the Senate:

Count Dooku: What if I told you that the Republic was now under the control of a Dark Lord of the Sith?

Obi-Wan: No, that's not possible. The Jedi would be aware of it.

Count Dooku: The dark side of the Force has clouded their vision, my friend. Hundreds of senators are now under the influence of a Sith Lord called Darth Sidious.

Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones, transcribed from a Youtube video of the scene

Dooku claims that Sidious has influence over the Senate (just as the Trade Federation knows) but he implies that Sidious' influence is based on his control of "hundreds of senators", not that Sidious is a senator (or Supreme Chancellor). In fact, it makes more sense to assume that Sidious privately controls hundreds of senators (e.g. by bribes, blackmail, etc.) than that Sidious is himself a senator: hundreds of senators are more powerful than a single senator (Sidious himself).

The Trade Federation was probably given the same implication that Sidious was (a) a Sith Lord who (b) had influence over many senators. There's no need or reason to tell the Trade Federation that Sidious is a senator, much less the Senator of Naboo.

The Trade Federation followed Sidious' instructions throughout the Naboo blockade and Clone Wars because Sidious got results for them in the Senate (e.g. by preventing the Senate from acting against the Trade Federation's blockade). They don't know how he got those results, but they don't need to.

As for why the Trade Federation followed Sidious' instructions before they took the risk of blockading Naboo, canon doesn't explain much. The Trade Federation probably just trusted Sidious' power as a Sith Lord. Legends has more background: the novel Cloak of Deception includes an incident in which Sidious engineered Nute Gunray's rise to power as Trade Federation viceroy. Interestingly, in Cloak of Deception Sidious used his alter ego Palpatine to propose a tax on Trade Federation trade routes in exchange for permitting the Trade Federation to build up their armed forces. The proposed tax benefited Palpatine/Sidious by giving the Trade Federation the means and motive to oppose the Senate and its taxes, and further ensured the Trade Federation would not connect Sidious' two identities (since Palpatine the Senator of Naboo was an enemy of the Trade Federation). As an even further bonus, the Trade Federation's anger at Senator Palpatine led them to attack Naboo, which ultimately gained sympathy for Palpatine and facilitated his rise to power as Supreme Chancellor. This was a win all around for Palpatine/Sidious and yet another way in which he proved himself a political genius able to manipulate both sides.

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    "They followed his instructions because he got results for them in the Senate (e.g. by preventing the Senate from acting against the Trade Federation's blockade)." Is there a suggestion they knew of his power before that event? (I'll take it from just about any source: legends, comic books, word of God..) I'm surprised he had enough influence over them that he could even talk them into starting the blockade. Aug 16, 2016 at 18:14
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    @AndrewThompson I added some more information which should address your comment.
    – Null
    Aug 16, 2016 at 18:48
  • Wow. Good answer before the edit, superlative answer after it. :) Aug 16, 2016 at 18:56
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    @AndrewThompson Happy to help. Thanks for the compliment and acceptance.
    – Null
    Aug 16, 2016 at 19:00

The Trade Federation didn't seem to have any intelligence corps capable of identifying Sidious, only hapless droids. It got all its "intelligence" from the Sith. So it was in no position to ask the Sith who they really are.

Then a gain, droids have facial recognition. Any of them that saw Sidious' face and Palpatine's face would know that's the same person, but would not care.


The other answer is correct - the trade federation leaders knew Darth Sidious as a wealthy, influential Sith Lord and didn't know his true identity, only that he had political connections.

To add to the other answer - regrettably I don't remember the details anymore, but the novel Darth Plagueis talks extensively about Palpatine's master Darth Plagueis and Palpatine's rise to power, and it talked some about their relationship with the galactic banking clan and trade federation. I would recommend you read it if you want to find out more details about this.


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    Welcome to sci-fi stack exchange! Could you please elaborate on which other answer is correct so we don't have to infer if new answers are posted? It would be helpful too if you could provide a more specific quote or plot from the book you cited.
    – Ram
    Aug 18, 2016 at 19:41

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