There are 16 official members of the United States Intelligence Community. The world is well aware of the actions of the likes of the CIA, NSA and DOD. The world, and the Intelligence Community are not well aware of Agency 17.
Agency 17 (A17) is rumored to report directly to the President, and even the agents it employs are left in the dark as to true scope and nature of their employers. Agency 17 values its secrecy dearly, being able to spy indiscriminately on US allies, the other Intelligence Community members and the American people with little scrutiny or red tape.
It's said even the Director of National Intelligence might not know that Agency 17 exists.
What is known is that A17 hires from a wide swath of supremely skilled and talented individuals. The vetting process is tough, only selecting candidates who are prime physical and mental specimens who are up for some of the most covert work available. A17 largely recruits from other Intelligence Agencies, secretly courting members. Some hope to escape office politics, others jump at the chance to come out of a forced retirement to get back in the game. Others see Agency 17 as a way to do some good in the world, unhindered by petty concerns like accountability.
It's also known that secrecy comes at a price, and A17 operates on a shoestring budget that frequently leaves extravagant gear requests unanswered. Agents also have to give up their entire lives, being willing to travel across the world, into some of the worst hot spots for terrorist and criminal activity, all without being able to have a wife and kids waiting at home.
This campaign follows a number of Agency 17 spooks as they begin operating as a team for the mysterious government organization.
Of course, the players and their characters are not aware of something, a fact that I've known since the beginning of the campaign. The organization that they've been working for- Agency 17- is a doppelganger, a group operating under a false flag.
Some powerful and dangerous individuals stumbled upon the existence of Agency 17, and made a decision. They would make a criminal and terrorist organization in the guise of the legitimate Agency 17, competing with it for the same pool of recruits, clients and resources. By becoming a dark reflection of the most secretive US Intelligence Community member, the founders of the Criminal Agency 17 hoped to stymie the group they were modeled after- and remain in the shadows themselves.
The players have no clue that they're ultimately working for a terrorist organization much like SD-6
from Alias. Each mission they have done or will go on will have some kind of twist or nefarious bent where all is not what it seems and their actions, while appearing just on paper, are just creating more misery and mayhem for the world.
I can't wait to see how pissed the players (and their characters!) get when they figure that out.