Mr. Laser Beam wrote:
It makes one wonder whether, with Section 31 gone, the Federation might suddenly find itself on much dicier ground.....
Just because their methods are distasteful doesn't mean they weren't effective!
Then it's up to the Federation to make
Starfleet Intelligence that effective - and, unlike S31, do it within the bounds of the law. Don't tell me they can't do it, either. There's nothing S31 can do illegally that SI can't do legally. And if there is, it shouldn't ever happen in the first place.
Heck Kirk and Spock were able to pull off a sort of black op to get a cloaking device and they didn't need some amoral criminal organization to pull it off, so SI shouldn't have trouble doing as they have way more resources.
Of course in some instances like sneaking into hostile territory to steal or destroy some horrible weapon or other power balance changing piece of tech they could use Section 31's name a reputation to give the federation plausible deniability if they can't play the crazy commander card.