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I'm not asking:

Consider what Sloan said:

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"

Operating the way S31 does doesn't mean private intelligence don't exist. Consider that with the CIA and NSA private intelligence agencies still exist.

It does lead to some interesting questions and possible plots. Consider the private agencies have no obligation to share what they know with Starfleet.

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    "Consider the private agencies have no obligation to share what they know with Starfleet" — they could be all like "We know some great stuff! Pay us and we'll tell you!" And Starfleet could be all like "We don't use money." And they could be all like "Oh. We didn't think this through." Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 8:53

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