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Your guide to made-up government agencies

By Los Angeles Times staff writers

The mystery surrounding the real Central Intelligence Agency and other top-secret organizations has led TV show creators to fashion many fictional, often outrageous, government unit creations over the years. They’re usually put together to save the world, mete out justice, do the things others won’t do, etc. One of the latest of these is a group of rogue CIA agents who work in the made-up Clandestine Administration and Oversight Services. But there are many more.

As seen on: “Chaos”

Mission: To combat threats to national security amid bureaucratic gridlock, rampant incompetence and political infighting.

Worth the taxpayers’ money? Sure, if they can really fulfill their mission statement. If not, they’d be just another unit in the department-of-redundancy department. (Sergei Bachlakov / CBS)
Philadelphia Police Department cold case division
As seen on: “Cold Case”

Mission: No victim will be forgotten.

Worth the taxpayers’ money? Yes. Homicide detective Lilly Rush (Kathryn Morris, right, with Danny Pino) and her fellow officers managed to solve 247 cold cases between 2003 and 2010. By revisiting old cases, finding fresh clues and applying new technology, the Philadelphia team brought closure to many families. (Monty Brinton / CBS)
Department of External Services (DXS)
As seen on: “MacGyver”

Mission: To collect foreign intelligence and advise policymakers.

Worth the taxpayers’ money? Yes. With a gadgeteer extraordinaire like Angus MacGyver on staff, the DXS agency was able provide covert ops on a budget -- and without a lot of casualties. (ABC)
Fringe division of the FBI
As seen on: “Fringe”

Mission: To investigate and solve crimes and unexplained phenomena involving fringe sciences, such as telepathy, dark matter and teleportation. Also tasked with stopping an invasion from a parallel dimension.

Worth the taxpayers’ money? Sure. An invasion from a hostile parallel dimension is a very bad thing, and since one of the Fringe division team members, Walter Bishop (played by John Noble, pictured), is directly responsible for the intent to invade, they’re the best people for the job. The team also gets significant private sector support from the company Massive Dynamic, providing a great example of private-public collaboration to achieve big goals. (Barbara Nitke / Fox)
X-Files division of the FBI
As seen on: “The X-Files”

Mission: To investigate and explain UFOs and UFO-like encounters. Also includes some vampire/ghost/mutant/weird science type investigative work, where needed.

Worth the taxpayers’ money? Absolutely. The entire division is two agents (David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson) who don’t even stay in nice motels when they’re on the road. Who cares if most of their cases never actually get solved? (Diyah Pera / Associated Press)
Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU)
As seen on: “24"

Mission: To identify and eliminate terrorist threats to the United States.

Worth the taxpayers’ money? Not really. Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) alone is worth the entire budget of CTU. The rest of the organization is too prone to political in-fighting, hiring unstable double agents and getting blown up to be really effective. Rename CTU “JBU” (Jack Bauer Unit), bump up his salary and give him a really nice car, and the terrorists will never stand a chance. (Richard Foreman / FOX)
Torchwood Institute
As seen on: “Torchwood”

Mission: To protect the Earth (mainly England) from extraterrestrial threats.

Worth the taxpayers’ money? Yes. Under the leadership of Capt. Jack Harkness (John Barrowman, pictured), the Torchwood team took on any number of threats. In real life, the BBC-funded “Torchwood” had its taxpayer funds cut for the third season. It ran for five episodes under the title “Torchwood: Children of Earth,” but got surprisingly high ratings and won multiple awards. (BBC)
United Network Command for Law and Enforcement
As seen on: “The Man From U.NC.L.E.”

Mission: To maintain political and legal order anywhere in the world, and oppose the dastardly machinations of THRUSH (Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity).

Worth the taxpayers’ money? Sure, there’s always a need for an international espionage and law enforcement agency. After all, the combined leaders of the U.S., USSR, England, the Netherlands, Greece, Spain, Italy and Yugoslavia thought it was needed. Even the real CIA has props on exhibit from spies and counterspies on the show. (MGM-TV)
American Policy Institute
As seen on: “Rubicon”

Mission: The API is an agency that is being used to provide research and information for a secret society that has the power to influence world events.

Worth the taxpayers’ money? Not entirely. When an expert trained to look for espionage -- James Badge Dale’s Will Travers, pictured -- is slow to look at his own company, you might initially have some doubts. (Matthew Welch / AMC)
As seen on: “Get Smart”

Mission: Would you believe Don Adams’ Maxwell Smart (a.k.a. Agent 86, pictured) was part of an elite counter-intelligence agency charged with protecting us from certain demise? Neither would we. But we do appreciate the resourcefulness of a shoe phone.

Worth the taxpayers’ money: Despite his clueless nature and unending ability to miss things “by that much,” Maxwell Smart did usually end up saving the world (and himself) from evil rival group KAOS. (Talent Associates / CBS)
The Initiative
As seen on: “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”

Mission: To protect the world from, research and contain supernatural entities. And, secretly, to create a race of hybrid supernatural/cybernetic/human soldiers.

Worth the taxpayers’ money? Definitely. The Slayer can’t be everywhere, and demons cause trouble worldwide, so the help from skilled soldiers (such as Riley Finn, pictured with Buffy) is necessary. But let’s get rid of that secret mission. Adam, the Initiative’s experimental soldier, killed his creator and decided that his new race should replace the others. (The WB)
The Democratic Order of Planets (D.O.O.P.)
As seen on: “Futurama”

Mission: The exact reach of D.O.O.P. is somewhat of a mystery, but the organization is a collective of planets that strive to achieve some sort shared governance.

Worth the taxpayers’ money? Sorta. Zapp Brannigan is a beloved figure around the universe who manages the order’s fleet of ships. He gives a celebrity face to D.O.O.P., but only a select few realize that he’s largely inept. (Twentieth Century Fox Film / Matt Groening)
The Alpha Division
As seen on: “RoboCop: Alpha Commando”

Mission: The federal technology group Alpha Division has re-activated RoboCop to take down terrorist groups and evildoers the world over.

Worth the taxpayers’ money? Yes. A RoboCop taking over the “war on terror”? Spend away. (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Animation)