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State Sec(urity) is something akin to the Secret Police, but on steroids. The secret agents and cloak and dagger stuff are but one subset of this organization. Other divisions can include a full-blown paramilitary division to keep the regular army in check and act as a regime protection force, a political and administrative division, a propaganda division, an R&D division, you name it.

The trope gets its name from the Honor Harrington book series, where State Sec has its own Space Navy, Space Marines, Army, various intelligence organizations, etc... This was in turn inspired by the Real Life Schutzstaffel of Nazi Germany, which had the elite Waffen-SS which was pretty much a second German Army for the Nazi party, the Allgemeine-SS which ran the damn thing, and many more. A full list can be found at Wikipedia. Needless to say, this trope tends to coincide with Putting on the Reich a lot.

State Sec is autonomous from the regular government and military. This and favoritism can lead to Interservice Rivalry. Often, the organization is on the side of evil, being used as the personal army of the main villain. However, this is not always the case.

Also, it's very common in Real Life and has been throughout history. Mega Corp is State Sec's counterpart in the economic sphere. NGO Superpower is when a Non-Governmental Organisation wields similar power.

Examples of State Sec include:


Media in General

  • In general, if The Spanish Inquisition, or a group along similar lines in fantasy, shows up in media, it's likely going to be one of these.


Anime & Manga

  • Hellsing - In the anime, the Hellsing Organization not only is an anti-vampire organization, but has paramilitary elements as well. It has a number of well armed and equipped soldiers used to take out said vampires. Contrasted in the manga and OVA, were they're limited to being the Redshirt Army.
  • The Titans, the main antagonists of Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam. They eventually take over the regular Federation Forces and become a de facto military dictatorship. They manage to be even more Nazi-like then their predecessors, the Principality of Zeon from Mobile Suit Gundam (ironically, their original stated purpose was to eliminate Zeon remnant groups).
  • The A-Laws from Mobile Suit Gundam 00, who are obvious expies of the Titans. They're autonomous from the regular military, with access to secret police, and under the direct command of Ribbons.
  • Black Cat has Chronos, a world-wide peacekeeping organization that amongst other things has a division of elite assassins (which the main character Train was once a part of), units of special forces troops, a world-wide intelligence network and multiple R&D divisions working on various research projects (like nanotech).
  • Phantom in Innocent Venus specializes in putting down "rebellions", which basically means help the plutocracy oppress the poor. With Humongous Mecha.
  • Rare heroic example in Ghost in the Shell, as the protagonists are part of Public Security Section Nine. They operate with great autonomy, are only ever seen reporting to the Prime Minister or the Minster of Home Affairs, regularly violate laws which would bind other governmental organizations, and thanks to virtually no oversight, almost never get caught doing so. While Section Nine itself is only a small elite team of mostly ex-military operatives with a small support staff and a lot of cutting-edge equipment, they are still only one of at least eight other Public Security Sections, each with a different structure and area of responsibility
  • NERV from Neon Genesis Evangelion. They are not only funded directly by the UN (but actually controlled by SEELE), they have special legal protection and are the sole organization operating Evas. There was one instance where an American admiral was forced to cooperate by a NERV captain which shouldn't be possible in real life; in another example, the same captain requested a prototype weapon from the Japanese military and immediately got it without any red tape. It is said that their expenses involving Eva repairs and collateral damage could immediately bankrupt a small country. They also happen to have an Elaborate Underground Base as their main headquarters, a Captured Super Entity in the basement, as well as control over an entire city.


Comicbooks

  • Green Lantern - The recently created Alpha Lanterns of the Green Lantern Corps fit this trope. Created to act as an Internal Affairs force for the GLs, they are armed with two power rings, made into cyborgs with Manhunter technology that allows them to drain other rings of power, have built in power batteries to negate the need to recharge, and have their personalities erased in favor of a direct mental link to the Book of Oa and Central Power Battery, thus removing any impurities which may color their interpretation of the Guardian's laws. Which may prevent them from becoming Knight Templar Well Intentioned Extremists powerful enough to take down the entire GLC (seriously, with the rest of that description they're practically asking for it), but doesn't make the Guardians look particularly heroic...
    • As it turns out, hasn't prevented that at all, especially not with Cyborg Superman taking control of them. Earth's GLs, quite understandably, gave a collective What The Hell Guardians somewhere between "Manhunter technology" and "personality erased". (Although the Alpha Lanterns themselves insist their personalities haven't been erased, just intensely focused; but then, they would think that, wouldn't they?)
    • Their extreme resemblance to the Manhunters shows that even when you are semi-omniscient and immortal, you can't learn from history.
    • And then in Final Crisis, Granny Goodness possesses Alpha Lantern Kraken, captures Batman, and tries to steal the Central Power Battery. Real infallibe, and Hal Jordan points it out.
  • S.H.I.E.L.D. from Marvel comics is a intelligence and counterterrorist agency, that has some pretty spiffy military hardware, including a flying aircraft carrier armed with an ICBM and a squadron of jets.


Fan Fiction

  • In Aeon Natum Engel and its rewrite Aeon Entelechy Evangelion has a such efficient State Sec that it makes the state sec of the source material, Cthulhu Tech, look downright lazy. It also makes the "Everything is falling apart" scenario from the latter's sourcebooks impossible.
  • In the Daria Fanfic Expanded Universe, look no further than the organization known as DELPHI, with the motto Praemonitus, praemunitus (' Forewarned is forearmed '). If your favorite spy shtick hasn't been yet used by or about DELPHI - just you wait...
  • In Star Crossed, it is revealed that Section 31 actually has a powerful fleet of warships... real warships, not the normal Federation universal purpose vessels. They get a few shots at the invaders, but generally suffer rather badly from the Worf Effect. Also a bad case of What the Hell, Hero?.
  • True to the games,Tiberium Wars portrays the Brotherhood of Nod's Black Hand as this. They're a separate army that operates under its own command structure, answering only to Kane. One of the GDI intelligence reports states that Black Hand units are dispatched to troubled areas with civil unrest to reestablish order, among other things, and Black Hand officers of significantly lower rank are able to overrule high-ranking Nod officers.


Films


Literature

  • The Trope Namer is the Office of State Security (State Sec) of the People's Republic of Haven in the Honor Harrington universe. FBI, CIA, and Department of Corrections in one, with its own parallel army and navy, prison planets, political officers, and thought police. It is not coincidental at all that they're commonly referred to as "SS".

    They were the follow-on to Internal Security, the previous regime's Secret Police, after that regime was overthrown. The Legislaturists were not as well organized though, and used multiple services, including the Mental Hygiene Police. State Sec is also a Committee of Public Safety Reference
  • The Culture has Contact and Special Circumstances, which typically serve as its diplomatic and secret service organizations, serve a military role during wartime.
  • Vorkosigan Saga - The Barrayaran Ministry of Political Education. Emperor Ezar's right hand during much of his rule, they thought themselves to be the power behind the throne, until Ezar made them one of the scapegoats for the failed Escobaran invasion. His left hand, Imperial Security, is a much more constrained organization wholly dedicated to the continuation of the Barrayaran Imperium, but also bound in what they can do by Barrayaran tradition.
  • The Acts of Caine - The story is set in a Sick Sad World. The mirror masks of the Social Police are iconic of this.
  • Hinted in Vengeance for Nikolai by Walter M. Miller Jr. America is taken over by a fascist government which starts a war with the Soviet Union. Separate from the Army are the Blue Shirts, who are overly nationalistic and brutal in their interrogations of Soviet POWs.
  • The Seekers in Terry Brooks' The Heritage of Shannara are the Secret Police of The Federation (actually The Empire), dedicated to tracking down political enemies and magic users. They also have their own elite military units, and hold the leashes of The Creepers, the most effective weapon in The Federation's arsenal. Throw in the massive clout that their leader, Rimmer Dall has, and it's easy enough to see why the Seekers are so feared.
  • Dreamland from Dale Brown books are a top secret USAF unit who, while sometimes seconded to regular commands, frequently act beyond the remit of the conventional military, engaging in black ops around the world with the aid of Cool Planes and other advanced technology. In their Night Stalkers/Sky Masters, Inc./Scion/Whatever-it-is-today incarnations they are more of a NGO Superpower. They're the heroes, though generally seen as loose cannons by others.


Live-Action TV

  • The Romulans of Star Trek have the Tal Shiar, which not only act as the intelligence agency, but have their own ships and ranking system. Similarly, the Cardassians have the Obsidian Order, which has elements of this trope despite being officially restricted to Secret Police level. Both organizations compete enthusiastically with their government's official military. However, during the Dominion War, they worked together to attempt wipe out the Dominion, only to find out the hard way they are fell right into their enemy's trap and got their clocks thoroughly cleaned.

    Also the Ferengi, but they have a hypercapitalist culture, so it should come as no surprise that their equivalent (the Ferengi Commerce Authority or FCA) has more in common with the IRS than most secret police forces in fiction.
  • The lengthy Doctor Who serial "The Dalek Master Plan" has Space Security. Although human, and opposing the Daleks and their evil plan, these black-clad paramilitary agents of the year 4000 execute people at the drop of a hat (one even kills her own brother simply because she's been ordered to). Notable for the presence of Nicholas Courtney who went on to play The Brigadier, as well as the fascist 'Brigade Leader' in an alternative universe (Inferno). Ironically Space Security were to be the heroes of the never-made spin-off series Daleks. Another SS-like force are the Kaled guards led by Security Commander Nyder in Genesis of the Daleks.
  • Babylon 5 had the Psi Corps; and to a lesser extent Nightwatch. The authority of the Psi Corps is officially limited to matters dealing with telepaths. The Nightwatch is a more straightforward example, with them being a purely political organization by the dictatorial Clark regime. Word of God has that Nightwatch even absorbed Homegaurd, an well armed terrorist group opposed to alien affairs.
  • In Kamen Rider Dragon Knight, there is a secret organization called the No Men. Their job includes protecting the world from potentially dangerous aliens and even capture one of the heroes who they feel could be a threat. They've even gone to the length of infiltrating a blogging site to play down the conspiracies that are being uncovered.
  • The United Nations Special Service Unit in Amerika.


Tabletop Games

  • The Imperium of Warhammer 40000, being incredibly vast, has several to varying degrees, among them the Inquisition, the Adeptus Arbites, the Officio Assassinorum, the Space Marines, the 'deptus Mechanicus and the Adepta Sororitas.

    Technically speaking, Adeptus Mechanicus isn't Imperium at all, it's the separate (semi-)independent human empire that just happens to be in personal union with The Emperor himself. The original and most iconic Imperium's State Sec, the Inquisition, is highly suspicious about them, and not always without a reason.
    • The Adeptus Mechanicus has its own State Sec - the Divisio Mandati, and the Divisio Mandati has its own State Sec, the Ordo Sinister.
    • The Ecclesiarchy has the Frateris Militia, as well as the Witch Hunters (who are not to be confused with the other witch hunters, the Ordo Hereticus, who are part of the Inquisition).
    • There is also the Officio Sabatorum and the Templars Psykologis.
    • The Administratum has the Logis Strategos.
  • Cthulhu Tech gives us the Office of Internal Security and considering the type of world its in you know that they have to have a lot of firepower.
  • The Old World of Darkness had the Technocracy, a group of mages that was very much interested maintaining the world's current status quo. Amongst other things it included New World Order Men In Black, cyborg Super Soldiers, genetically engineered monsters and whole bunch of other crap.
  • Many of the governments in BattleTech have such organizations. Some of the most notorious are the Capellan Confederation's Maskirovka, and the Lyran Commonwealth's Loki. The latter almost took over their government.


The Verse

  • In the Star Wars Expanded Universe, COMPNOR (Commission for the Preservation of the New Order) basically is the Empire's equivalent of the SS. It has an executive committee, its own military and intelligence wings, a social engineering agency, and its own youth group.

    The Imperial Security Bureau was notable for its ability to take over entire Imperial Navy Star Destroyers at whim, running the Navy through illegal tests of character without telling anyone, and killing anyone who fails the tests without going through any procedures. Or at least they did... until Vader himself cracked down on them. ISB also had plants on every ship with orders to kill head officers and take over if they mutinied or deserted.

    There's also Corellia's Public Safety Service, which used to be the nobler law-enforcement agency the Corellian Security Force.
  • In some ways, Jedi act this way given the allegiance to the Republic as opposed to simply the light side of the Force. In addition their level of power gives them a fearsome reputation that they are willing to use to their advantage in both TPM and AOTC as "keepers of the peace".


Videogames

  • In the Command and Conquer games, the Black Hand of Nod fits the trope. It started out as Kane's personal body guard, developed into a religious secret police and special ops group, then eventually became a subfaction of its own. By the Third game expansion, the Black Hand have their own military, political and religious wings, and act as a second army of Nod. Also, it's not a coincidence that it shares the name of the organization that was behind the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which started The First World War. It's pretty much stated that that was them.
  • The Spectres in Mass Effect may fall under this trope. Its not completely apparent how much authority they have over commandeering Citadel military forces to execute their objectives, but it would appear to be absolute. Saren, except for the whole 'not working for the Council', was pretty much a one-man version of this.
    • The Special Tasks Group are basically the Salarians' version of this.
  • The Sentinels of Hallifax in Lusternia are a fantasy variant of State Sec. Amongst other things, the Sentinel Company are elite soldiers, Secret Police and Time Police designed to rein in the many paradox-causing experiments of sister organization The Institute. Hallifax in general encourages this trope as part and parcel of its dual futuristic-Communist motif.
  • In Prototype, we have the poster child(ren) for Evil Army, Blackwatch, a black-ops style organization that may or may not have authority superseding that of the President. Their stated purpose is to prevent the spread of bioweapon infection (specifically Redlight and Blacklight), but given that every other person in their group is a Sociopathic Soldier, they're using the USMC as Cannon Fodder, and they have a plan to nuke Manhattan if they think they're losing, they're more clearly this trope.
  • In the Crusader games, SecCart (Security Cartel) handles defense and security for all WEC facilities and personnel. Given the corporate-fascist nature of the game's setting, this means they also handle police, intelligence, and so on.
  • Homeland Security (subtle) in Vega Strike theoretically "exist for internal policing and control, especially in cases crossing between the jurisdictional boundaries of member states of the Confederation". On our side of the Fourth Wall, it exists to feed Black Comedy with its unsubtle creepines, especially IntelSec. Like this or this (DXT images). To see the humourous part, consider that propaganda they intercepted may be sent and received because of malware in the first place (Luddites are big on Hypocritical Humor too). In chat, they say things like "Wrong-thinkers are everywhere, keep a lookout, friend", or (almost verbatim) Move Along, Nothing to See Here.
  • Shinra's Turks exist in a weird realm between this, normal Secret Police, and The Men in Black, with a pinch of ninja. A Turk operation with SOLDIER muscle thrown in resembles this particularly. That they are the long semi-secret arm of an electric company means they have certain freedom from responsibility vis-a-vis the public and international community that more standard governments do not enjoy, so their structure is somewhat unusual to reflect this.
  • In The Elder Scrolls series, about the timeframe of The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim, the Aldmeri Dominion is ruled by a faction known as the Thalmor, who maintain their Nazi-style fascist government by having their own special military branch. Thalmor troops are directly responsible for maintaining the ban on worshipping the god Talos within the Empire of Tamriel and have the legal right to do so thanks to a rather lopsided peace treaty between the Empire and the Dominion signed after a massive war between them.
  • In EV Nova, The Federation's Bureau of Internal Investigation started life as a domestic intelligence agency (maybe akin to MI-5), formed in response to (likely unfounded) public fears of Auroran infiltrators. Within a handful of years, it had suborned the entire government, turning the Federation into The Empire, and now operates its own fleet.
    • Part of the mission statement of the Polaris' Mu'hari caste is to ensure the survival of the Polaran people, whatever the cost. This means that they take on the State Sec/Secret Police role at times by necessity, but since they're treated as benevolent caretakers, this counts as a subversion.
  • Grand Theft Auto IV has NOOSE [1], an ersatz-Department Of Homeland Security, with a little NYPD-ESU thrown into the mix. They serve as the game's high-level law enforcement response, being called in at 3 wanted stars onward. Aside from this, the in-game fluff shows that they are responsible for immigration matters, distributing the loads of patriotic and anti-terror propaganda flooding Liberty City, and placing the whole city on lockdown early in the game's plot for barely any reason other than "Fucking Terrorists".


Web Originals


Real Life

  • The Schutzstaffel of Nazi Germany, better known to Westerners by the abbreviation "SS". Particularly notable is that the SS included the Orpo (ORdnungsPOlizei = Order Police), Kripo (KRIminalPOlizei = Criminal Police), Gestapo (GEheimeSTAatsPOlizei = Secret State Police) and Sipo (SIcherheitsPOlizei = Security Police), several of which (at various times) became users of this trope in their own right. Then, when Germany was split after the war, East Germany got the Stasi (STAatsSIcherheitsdienst = State Security Service), practically a literal German translation of this trope's name, although the derivation runs the other way. It should be noted that the SS were originally only a group of bodyguards and were subordinate to the SA, the brown-shirted stormtroopers. It was only by a series of successful power plays that the leader of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, was able to expand his power base to practically controlling or at least threatening every aspect of German society. The Waffen-SS (literally, weapons SS) were the military wing of the SS, with a separate command structure from the Wehrmacht. However, they were subject to the Army High Command while in the field.
    • Many historians have gone so far as to call the SS a "state within a state", because at their height they not only had their own police, army, intelligence service, administration of the death camps and the Einsatzgruppen death squads (who shot over one million Jews). They had their own schools, clubs, a medical corps (which included Josef Mengele), a science corps, a women's corp (which were auxillary, or assistant personnel, as women were not allowed to be members), a Cavalry Corps (which were really just riding clubs), and even their own courts. They were intentionally geared towards being an elite society within but apart-from the rest of Nazi Germany, one that would need as little contact as possible with outsiders. If a member of your family was in the SS, then you basically moved into a completely different social circle.
  • The KGB had the Border Guards Chief Directorate, which consisted of 200,000 troops armed with its own tanks, aircraft, and ships. Although their chief task was sealing the border, not army action. Internal Troops, the Interior Ministry gendarmerie corps, would be closer, but they were glorified cops administratively, and thus had much less authority. In addition, the KGB had their own Spetsnaz and the Kremlin Guard Force.
  • North Korea: ever since the economy began to fall apart in the early 1990's the military has shown signs of this. Black markets have appeared that are run solely by the army and navy. Also, the secret police agencies are involved in black market activities such as the printing of superdollars.
  • Iran's Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution, better known as the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) or just the Revolutionary Guards. They have their own Navy, Air Force, and ground forces, separate from the regular Iranian military. They also control the Iranian rocket forces and military-oriented nuclear research, meaning that should Iran get nuclear weapons, they would presumably all be under IRGC control. Also part of the IRGC is the Quds Force, which provides covert aid to foreign Islamic extremist movements. They also control the Basij, a paramilitary organization consisting chiefly of fanatical thugs, whose responsibilities consist of enforcing religious law (keeping women in headscarves, breaking up mixed-sex parties, keeping unrelated men and women separate, etc.) (sometimes violently), breaking up protests (usually violently), and generally intimidating people (how you can do that without at least the threat of violence in these circumstances is somewhat unclear to us). The IRGC has various other, more subtle secret-police like duties as well, but Iran being Iran, we don't really know too much about it.
    • To illustrate the Guards' position, back during the Iran/Iraq war they were recruiting school kids to the regular army with the express aim of 'being martyred' as cannon fodder. The Revolutionary Guards took advantage of this, but themselves employed things like tactics, and did not die in droves.
  • The Cardinal's Guards (well-known from The Three Musketeers) were actually such an organization. The guardsmen of Cardinal Richelieu were Musketeers. One company of Musketeers was assigned to the King, and one was assigned to the Cardinal. While there was no doubt some mild rivalry between the two companies, they were ultimately part of the same organization.
  • Rome had the Praetorian Guard -- trope namers in their own right - a military force separate from the regular Roman legions that was charged with protecting the Emperor and other important Roman officials. They were heavily involved in politics and on more than one occasion chose who got to be Emperor of Rome (by killing them, such as Caligula, in some cases).
    • It should be noted that the Praetorians, if not outright stating it, may well have been the ultimate example for "Loyalty to the throne first, to the man who sits on it second." You could insult the senators, piss off the generals, whip the public into a furor.. But the one thing all (remotely sane) Roman Emperors took care to avoid was making the Praetorians think that an assassination that would cause mass social upheaval would be the Lesser of Two Evils compared to letting you keep your job/life.
  • One of the scarier early examples of the trope was the Oprichnina of Ivan the Terrible. It was a semi-monastic fraternal order that was created to terrorize and depower the Boyar nobles who schemed against the Tsar. Its operatives wore black robes, rode horses with symbolic brooms and dog heads attached to saddles, and were formed into paramilitary terror squads that wiped out both manor homes and peasant villages. Aside from these operatives, the Oprichnina also owned vast tracts of land, had merchants working to finance it, and generally was a state within a state. By the end of the Oprichnina, Ivan's enemies were gone, but so was a large chunk of Russia's population. Some people think that the Oprichniks were the source of inspiration for Stalin's NKVD (Ivan the Terrible was Uncle Joe's favorite historical character).
  • The Romanian State Sec, Securitatea, was probably among the most brutal paramilitary societies ever. One could expect them knocking at/down the door of one's home and taking one and one's family to be beaten/shot for something like a half-finished Ceauşescu joke heard by one of the neighbors.
  • Turkey during the political instability of the 1970s did not have an actual State Sec (Secret Police is another question though). However, almost every political party that vied for supremacy had a paramilitary wing to conduct their morally dubious operations. More often than not, when the Government, the Army or the National Intelligence Agency needed its dirty work done, it would use one of these organisations. The most notorious and only surviving example is the nationalist Grey Wolves who have been involved with some of the blackest of government and army operations. These days, they're on the news regarding their part in a suspected military coup.
    • Armed political parties are a recurring theme in the Middle East. The kindling for Lebanon's Civil War was that every political force had a paramilitary organization, making it easy for the Arab-Israeli Conflict to light the fire; Hamas and Fatah's armed forces allowed them to fight a rather embarrassing civil war in 2006-7, and Hamas uses its armed wing as a secret police in Gaza; and any political party worth its salt had a militia under the Egyptian monarchy (before the July Revolution of 1952).

Notes

  1. National Office Of Security Enforcement
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