In Star Trek: Insurrection, the crew of the Enterprise discover a cloaked Federation transport or dropship that had been hidden on a planet. From a story perspective, of course, this hints that there is something very wrong with the mission as it had been explained to Picard et al., but the origin of the cloaking device itself doesn't seem to get much attention.

The film Insurrection takes place between two episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. In that series, the acquisition and use of a cloaking device on the USS Defiant is a big deal, as cloaking technology had been forbidden to the Federation under the terms of the Treaty of Algeron.

How did Admiral Dougherty obtain the cloaking device that he was using as part of his plan? I can think of a few plausible possibilities:

  • The cloaking device was a highly secretive Federation design, possibly from the same source as the phase cloak that was (disastrously) tested on the USS Pegasus.
  • The cloaking device was one that Starfleet had previously captured, such as the one that Kirk brought back on the HMS Bounty.
  • The cloaking device was provided by the Son'a as part of their deal with Dougherty.

Has this ever been explained or explored in any medium?

In response to a comment by Valorum, I am aware that cloaking technology is not extremely arcane or difficult and that the primary limiting factor to developing and deploying cloaking tech in Starfleet is legal and/or political, not technological or scientific. The question, then, is how Dougherty bypassed Starfleet's internal checks and balances against violating the Treaty of Algernon. Did he get the same sort of deal with the Romulans that Sisko did (cloaking device in exchange for shared intel)? Did he get the cloak from Section 31? Did he build it himself in a dark cave on the far side of a remote colony world? Did he fish the Bounty's cloak out of San Francisco Bay? Did he buy it from Ferengi secondhand dealers in stolen Klingon ship parts?

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    Cloaks are not technically difficult to make. They're just banned.
    – Valorum
    Oct 31, 2020 at 19:54
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    @Valorum true, but since they are banned, one (even an admiral) can't presumably just beam onto a supply depot and say, "I can has cloaking device kthxbai???". Something that illegal would probably be more closely guarded. The question is what exactly did he have to do to get it? Did he build it himself? Did someone in Section 31 give it to him? Did he buy it third-hand from an Ferengi dealer in stolen Klingon goods who had purchased it from Orion pirates? Oct 31, 2020 at 19:57
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    Hmm. The fact that Data discovers it due to its neutrino emissions is a strong indicator that it's an actual cloak, not just a hologram like the duck blind uses.
    – Valorum
    Oct 31, 2020 at 20:09
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    "“That, Doctor, is a mobile environment simulator—a holoship, for want of a better word. The only one of its kind, in fact. It was custom-built in secret and illegally equipped with a cloaking device." - TNG: Section 31 - Abyss.
    – Valorum
    Oct 31, 2020 at 20:12

1 Answer 1


The Federation has known how to build a cloaking device since they stole one in TOS: "The Enterprise Incident". Their treaty with the Romulan Star Empire means that they voluntarily gave up building them, not that they don't know how. Since everything about Dougherty's mission to the Briar Patch was shady and Section 31-ish (if never explicitly attributed to that branch), it is hardly surprising that they would stoop to a cloaking device, whether or not it was legal.

It's also possible that the treaty stipulates legitimate applications of cloaking technology that amount to, "Don't use it on a warship," which by Romulan lights would include almost any general-purpose starship, but not a big holodeck box used to transplant a small community; nor on the blind used to observe them.

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    This isn't directed at you. But I am so tired of section 31 being used as a term for bad guys. They saved the entire quadrant in DS9 and then got turned into mustache twirling bad guys by far inferior later productions. Nov 10, 2020 at 23:20
  • This is true. lazy writing leads to bad generic plots.
    – MrInfinity
    Nov 24, 2021 at 17:24

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