Section 31, the secret, black ops division of Starfleet, is a mysterious organization that frequently influences the Star Trek universe. The organization was first introduced in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9). Agents of Section 31 also appeared in the Star Trek prequel series Star Trek: Enterprise and Star Trek: Discovery.
According to Enterprise, Section 31 was created as part of the original Starfleet charter, meaning the black ops group has been around as long as Starfleet. However, as DS9 established, by the 24th century Section 31 was no longer sanctioned by Starfleet. Though they were considered a rogue group, Starfleet still called on them to handle more unsavory tasks.
Agents of Section 31 operated in complete secrecy, sometimes even from other agents. Throughout the later Star Trek series, a few notable Starfleet officers revealed themselves as agents of Section 31.
One fan theory suggests that one of the non-Starfleet residents of Deep Space Nine was actually a Section 31 agent planted on the station to pass information to the organization.
Did Section 31 Have an Agent on Deep Space Nine?
Elim Garak was a Cardassian who lived on the Cardassian space station Terok Nor, which became Deep Space Nine when the Cardassian occupation of Bajor ended. Garak was exiled to Terok Nor for betraying his father, a powerful political operative on Cardassia Prime. When Terok Nor was taken over by Starfleet and the Bajoran Provisional Government, Garak was the only Cardassian who remained on Deep Space Nine because he couldn’t go back to Cardassia Prime.
His continued presence on Deep Space Nine was a constant source of mystery for the Starfleet officers and Bajorans who lived on the station. Garak was not imprisoned on Deep Space Nine. He had the freedom to hop on one of the many freighters that frequented the station and head anywhere in the Alpha or Gamma Quadrants. However, he chose to remain on Deep Space Nine where, as a Cardassian, he was not particularly welcome. The fan theory suggests that the reason Garak remained was that he was planted there by Section 31.
As later episodes of DS9 showed, Section 31 was keeping a close eye on the space station, which makes sense because of its huge strategic importance. As the first episode of the show revealed, the station was at the mouth of a stable wormhole that allowed for travel into the Gamma Quadrant. The station was also a key location for the Federation as they assisted the Bajorans with the termination of the Cardassian occupation.
So, it makes sense that Section 31 would want an operative on Deep Space Nine.
Why the Theory Makes Sense
The theory that Garak was a Section 31 agent isn’t farfetched, especially because he had previous experience working for a black ops organization. When he lived on Cardassia Prime, Garak was an agent of the Obsidian Order, a CIA-like intelligence agency that did the dirty work of the Cardassian government. Given the fact that the Cardassian government was perpetrating a violent occupation, one can only imagine the heinous things they needed a black ops division for.
Garak, who was known by all around him as a compulsive liar, never gave any straight answers about his work for the Obsidian Order. He told many stories, but as he told his friend, Dr. Julian Bashir, “I never tell the truth because I don’t believe there is such a thing.”
However, it was a known fact that he was a member of the organization and that he’d maintained some of his contacts on Cardassia Prime. Those contacts would be incredibly valuable for Section 31, but it would have been difficult for a non-Cardassian operative to access them. So, recruiting an operative that already had his own contacts would be a smart move for Section 31.
Garak’s position on Deep Space Nine also gave him unique access that others didn’t have. He wasn’t aligned with Starfleet, Bajor, or the Cardassians, supposedly. This meant that he could cultivate relationships with people all over the station without the baggage that came with those associations. This would allow him to dig up information that others wouldn’t be able to find. However, his ability to access information from others living on Deep Space Nine was hampered by the fact that pretty much everyone believed he was a spy and knew him to be a liar. Still, he managed to gain enough trust from certain people on the station that he became a confidant.
Another indication that Garak may have been working for Section 31 was his close relationship with Dr. Bashir. In the episode “Inquisition,” Section 31 tried to recruit Bashir because of his genetic enhancements. Garak could have developed his friendship with Bashir as a way to scout him for Section 31.
Being an agent of Section 31 could also explain why Garak didn’t get into more trouble on Deep Space Nine. As the sole Cardassian on a space station in orbit around Bajor, Garak was asking for trouble just by existing. However, he seemed to avoid conflict more often than not. It could be argued that this was because people feared he was a Cardassian spy. It could also be argued that this was because Section 31 provided covert protection.
Unless one of the people who worked on the show confirms it, fans will never know whether Garak was actually a Section 31 operative. However, if he was, it would explain a lot.