The Covert Survey Bureau - An Imperial Intelligence Agency

Copyright 05/1983© Andy Slack

There are certain tasks which any government must perform, but to which it can never publicly admit; the secret and darker side of diplomacy, also called espionage. The Terran Empire is no exception, and it, too, has an instrument which performs distasteful tasks for the good of the state. This is the Covert Survey Bureau, usually referred to as the CSB; an obscure corner of the Imperial Terran Scout Service whose openly acknowledged brief is the survey of a newly-discovered cultures to assess the desirability and likely results of more formal contact, and the optimum methods of contacting the culture.

In addition to its stated task, the Bureau also sifts reports by serving and detached scout personnel; monitors and intercepts messages within and beyond the Imperial borders; creates and breaks codes and ciphers; prevents espionage by foreign powers against the Imperium; supports revolutionary, terrorist and pirate organisations whose actions further the state's ends; and conducts espionage operations beyond the Imperium borders. The CSB has a controlling interest in several medium-sized companies, including a merchant shipping line, to aid its operations.

Actual structure is fluid, but in four layers. At the top of the pyramid are administrators, responsible for overall strategy and policy.

The second layer is composed of case officers or directors, local commanders who control and pay agents on a day-today basis. These are rarely involved in any dirty work, and normally have a legitimate cover as, for example, an embassy official.

The third layer is that of the agents or operatives, who perform actual operations as directed by a case officer. Their main activity is developing contacts who can pass them useful information, typically by bribery, blackmail, seduction or threats. If sabotage or assassinations are required, these persons carry it out. Agents are normally native to the world of their employment, and frequently believe themselves to be working for someone other than their true employer. Agents are at the full mercy of the local authorities if caught, unlike the case officer, who will either have diplomatic immunity or work from the relative safety of the starport's extraterritoriality. Therefore, agents are told only what they need to know.

The lowest layer consists of contacts, couriers and cut-outs who obtain and transfer information, orders and so on for agents. These are invariably natives and often innocent of any treasonous intent, believing their tasks are legal and for respected citizens; either that, or they don't care who they work for, or think they are working for someone supporting their own ideological position.

Player character agents of the CSB will be to two kinds; the potential case officer and the roving paramilitary troubleshooter. Normally recruited from Imperial service in their thirties, player agents are trained for one year at the Covert Survey School; each year thereafter, there is a 1 in 6 chance that they will be recalled for further training, being groomed for promotion. Agents are paid a monthly retainer according to ability Cr250 for each point that the sum of their intelligence and education exceeds 16, plus a further Cr1,000 for each assignment to Covert Survey, Covert Survey School, or Intelligence School.

The CSB only hires freelance adventurers in the following cases: Where a sacrificial decoy is needed, if risks are too great for their own men, if there is no suitable CSB agent available, or if the Bureau cannot afford to be linked to the operation in question.

Inter-service rivalry between the CSB and the naval intelligence units is great, leading to much intrigue as the services try to discredit each other-this is mainly because they compete for appropriations for a limited budget.

Because of the sheer size of the Empire and the Bureau, different departments often work at cross-purposes; the secretive nature of their work compounds this.