"They've been known to kill for less."
- -Odo, on the Obsidian Order
The Obsidian Order was the primary intelligence agency of the Cardassian Union. One of the most ruthless and efficient organizations in the quadrant, the Obsidian Order eclipsed even the Romulan Tal Shiar in intelligence gathering and covert operations. Almost all Cardassians lived in fear of the Obsidian Order, whose constant surveillance had led to the sudden eliminations of numerous "traitors". It was said that a Cardassian citizen couldn't sit down to a meal without each dish being duly noted and recorded by the Order. (DS9: "The Wire", "Inquisition")
The Obsidian Order was formed in the 19th century, under the theoretical authority of the civilian Detapa Council. However, in practice it and the Central Command operated with complete autonomy. The Obsidian Order was responsible for matters of security and espionage, and was therefore forbidden from interfering in military operations. The Obsidian Order and the Central Command frequently came in conflict with each other, particularly since members of the Cardassian military were not immune to Obsidian Order inquiries. The only restriction that the Order had was that it was explicitly forbidden to possess military equipment of any kind. (DS9: "Defiant")
The organization of the Obsidian Order was separated into semi-autonomous cells, which are insulated from each other so that the capture of any particular operative has a limited ability to compromise the organization. (DS9: "When It Rains...") Certain agents of the Order were also equipped with cranial implants so that they could better resist torture. (DS9: "The Wire") They also developed a substance called promazine, which its operatives used in case of capture. (DS9: "Covenant")
In 2371, the Obsidian Order was responsible for the abduction and surgical alteration of Kira Nerys, in an operation to expose Legate Tekeny Ghemor as a sympathizer to the Cardassian dissident movement. (DS9: "Second Skin") The Order also sabotaged the USS Defiant's attempt to vaporize a silithium-laden comet headed for the Bajoran wormhole, hoping to undermine the peace treaty between Cardassia and Bajor. (DS9: "Destiny")
Also that year, the Obsidian Order was engaged in a major operation to mount a joint attack with the Tal Shiar on the Founders' homeworld. Masterminded by former Order head Enabran Tain, the Order assembled a number of warships in the Orias system, without the knowledge of the Central Command. (DS9: "Improbable Cause") The attack, however failed due to a changeling infiltrator, and the entire fleet was destroyed in an ambush by the Jem'Hadar. This failure crippled the capabilities of the Obsidian Order, essentially causing it to cease to exist. (DS9: "The Die is Cast")
With the looming threat of the Dominion, and without the Order's tight control over popular dissent, a civilian uprising overthrew the Central Command in 2372, reinstating the authority of the Detapa Council. (DS9: "The Way of the Warrior") After the Cardassian Union joined the Dominion, the Obsidian Order's role was assumed by Dominion security and the Cardassian Intelligence Bureau, who by all accounts were just as efficient. (DS9: "Rocks and Shoals")
|First Order • Second Order • Third Order • Fourth Order • Fifth Order • Sixth Order • Seventh Order • Eighth Order • Ninth Order • Eleventh Order • Twelfth Order • Obsidian Order|
The non-canon novel A Stitch in Time provides extensive detail about Garak's recruitment into the Order and several of his missions. As a further example of the friction that existed between the Order and the Central Command, it is revealed that Garak was exiled to Deep Space 9 after he was caught having an affair with the wife of a prominent military officer.