One thing I want to know: What keeps a super secret agency, that is not accountable to anyone but itself, from taking over the Federation (covertly or overtly) in order to protect it?
With The collaboration between StarFleet Command and Section 31 we can presume they are accountable to StarFleet Command and the Admiralty. Section 31 is outside StarFleet Intelligence and Starfleet security. I believe Section 31 is only invested in protecting Earth and humanity above all else. They are sanctioned in the first Earth starfleet charter. Taking over the entire Fed would be a challenge with the hundreds of worlds and not every starfleet vessel is run only by humans. They could theoretically take over Earth and by extenstion the Fed like that one Admiral did in DS9 Paradise Lost. But expect a resitance nd secession from the Fed if that happened.
Outside of the books, and I'm going by what I've read hear in this thread, Starfleet Command had no knowledge of Section 31. Whether the books are canon is still a debate as pieces of the books have appeared in some series.
Aside from that a covert take over of the Federation is a strong possibility from an organization that is so super secret. They could get their own man in the Presidency, their own people in key positions in the Federation Council. Someone they control, the power behind the throne.
It's not unprecedented. In the history of the United States First Lady Edith Wilson, wife of President Woodrow Wilson who had had a major stroke, controlled what he saw and who saw him. She controlled what legislation "he" pushed for. For all intents and purposes she was running the Executive Branch.
With S31 guys in places of power, S31 would have control of the Federation Government and the Federation. Any S31 agent who thought it was wrong, having never existed in the first place would be killed, any Starfleet officer as well.
Rome fell from within before it was conquered. An over simplification, yes, but it is still basically true.
Danger Ace wrote:
Their power and effectivness lay in them working in the shadows and that is a limiting factor in-and-of itself. For them to rise to power and exert themselves as a political force of control they would have to shed much of what allows them to do what they do and transform into a whole different beast. That is not something they could do unnoticed and without allies.
Being in the shadows is not limiting, it's empowering. They do have the ability to blackmail, and like I said to put their own people in key positions. The best way to protect something is to control it. Someone in S31 would eventually realize that in order to truly protect the Federation, they must take over its government. Covertly, the power behind the throne. And if they do a good job they could be like Egypt's Hatshepsut, and come out in the open.
This is how my mind works at 2:45 in the morning.