|Faction:||National Security Agency|
|Base:||Fort George G. Meade, Maryland|
|Leader:||Colonel Irving Lambert|
|Motto:||" Let Vigilance Be Our Sword"|
Third Echelon is a top secret division within the National Security Agency based in Fort Meade, Maryland. Established in 2003, Third Echelon is called upon when standard intelligence gathering is no longer attainable, sending in highly trained field operatives codenamed Splinter Cells. These operatives take on a more classic form of espionage, physically infiltrating sensitive locations to collect intelligence vital to U.S. security. Third Echelon has been instrumental in not only protecting the United States from international and domestic terrorists, but also in preventing the outbreak of world war.
- Irving Lambert (Leader/KIA) (If Sam killed him or not)
- Anna Grímsdóttir
- Sam Fisher
- Vernon Wilkes, Jr. (KIA)
- William Redding
- Frances Coen
- John Hodge (KIA)
In the fall of 2004 Third Echelon discovered a campaign of systematic ethnic cleansing against the Muslim population of Azerbaijan, (with the use of Splinter Cell agent Sam Fisher), brought upon by the neighboring Georgian President Kombayn Nikoladze. Nikoladze's plan was to eventually seize control of Azerbaijan's vast petroleum resources.
After NATO intervened against Nikoladze, he went underground in order to retaliate against the US using computer algorithms developed by Canadian hacker Philip Masse, Nikoladze caused an information crisis which wreaked havoc upon US electronic infrastructure.
It was discovered that Nikoladze had allied himself with Kong Feirong, a rogue general in the People's Liberation Army, developing nuclear suitcase bombs. Several of these bombs were smuggled onto US soil but were never activated due to Third Echelon's successful assassination of Nikoladze in his palace.
In 2006 the United States had established a military presence in the newly independent nation of East Timor to train the new country's military forces in their fight against anti-separatist Indonesian guerrillas. Foremost among those Indonesian militias was the Darah Dan Doa or Blood and Prayer, led by Suhadi Sadono.
Sadono had been trained by the CIA to help fight Communist influences in the region but had grown resentful of American support of East Timor and its interference with his nation's sovereignty. He organized a suicide bombing on the U.S. Embassy to Dili, capturing a number of U.S. military and diplomatic personnel including Douglas Shetland. Shetland was founder and president of Displace International, a Private Military Corporation.
Third Echelon sent in Fisher to infiltrate the embassy and gather intelligence on the Darah Dan Doa Succeeding in his mission the embassy was retaken by Delta Force but Sadono escaped, forcing the US to launch a military campaign on Indonesian soil in an attempt to hunt him down, much to the protests of the Indonesian government.
Third Echelon discovered Sadono's scheme known as "Pandora Tomorrow", placing biological bombs equipped with the smallpox virus on American soil. Every 24 hours, Sadono made encrypted calls to each of the bomb carriers to delay the release of the virus. If he was killed or detained, the virus would be released and millions of Americans would die. Because Sadono was fighting on the front lines during the conflict, the Americans could not risk killing him, and was forced to withdraw their forces.
Fisher was sent in to infiltrate Darah Dan Doa strongholds in order to learn the location of the smallpox bombs. He was assisted in this endeavor by Displace International and its president, Douglas Shetland. Fisher ultimately leared the location of the bombs, and Shadownet spies were sent in to neutralize them, bringing an end to Sadono's threat against the United States.
Fisher managed to capture Sadono, however Third Echelon learned that a rogue CIA agent, Norman Soth had acquired the last smallpox bomb, and intended to detonate it in Los Angeles' LAX airport. Soth intended to get revenge on America for a perceived betrayal which cost him his leg years earlier. Fisher infiltrated LAX, killing Soth and his group of terrorists, preventing the detonation of the last smallpox bomb. The LAPD Bomb Squad was called in to perform a controlled explosion of the device.
In the summer of 2007 tensions run high between China, South Korea, North Korea, and Japan, when Japan forms an Information Self Defense Force (I-SDF). The world considerd this to be a violation of Article 9 in the Post-World War II Constitution. Chinese and North Korean forces established a blockade in the Yellow Sea stopping Japanese shipping. Because Japan and the United States are allies, the US Navy dispatched its newest advanced warship, the USS Clarence E. Walsh, to the Yellow Sea. The US hoped this show of strength would keep China and North Korea at bay.
Meanwhile, Third Echelon dispatched Sam Fisher to locate Bruce Morgenholt, a computer programmer who was captured by a Peruvian separatist group called "The People's Voice", led by Hugo Lacerda. Lacerda was working on deciphering the algorithms devoloped by Philip Masse. Masse, whom Sam assassinated in 2004, was a genius far ahead of his time, and the algorithms he used to launch his attacks on US had been extensively studied by the United Nations. The resulting Masse Kernels were being toured as the superweapon of the 21st century.
Morgenholt's death could not be stopped and Fisher was unsuccessful in stopping the release of the Masse Kernels. Infiltrating the Maria Narcissa, Fisher assassinated Hugo Lacerda and Third Echelon tracked the weapon deliveries to find out who they were dealing with. While continuing the investigation, an unknown party used the algorithms to black out Japan and the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. Japan had previously suffered a similar attack that crashed its economy, and Admiral Otomo of the I-SDF contacted Third Echelon and warned that North Korea and China were likely responsible.
Meanwhile, Third Echelon sent Fisher to New York to investigate Abrahim Zherkhezi, a man who worked with Morgenholt on Project Watson. There he discovered that Displace International was protecting him. Fisher broke into Displace offices and learned of Milan Nedich, later identified as "Milos Nowak", a Bosnian war criminal. Nowak secretly relocated him to Hokkaido. Fisher traveled to Hokkaido and met with Shetland, who claimed Nedich was clean. Regardless, Fisher infiltrated Zherkezi's hideout and witnessed Shetland murdering Zherkezi with either a katana. Shetland escaped capture and went underground.
In the Yellow Sea, the American show of force backfired when the USS Walsh was destroyed by a North Korean anti-ship missile on July 4, initiating a war between North Korea and South Korea/United States. Since North Korea claimed the missile was launched unintentionally, Third Echelon sent Fisher to the Korean Peninsula to determine if North Korea was truly responsible for sinking the USS Walsh, or if the Masse Kernels were involved.
There he learned that the entire war had been orchestrated by Displace International. Displace used the Masse Kernels gained from Zherkhezi to hijack North Korea's missile systems and destroy the USS Walsh, in order to draw the U.S. into a war from which Shetland could profit through its status as a leading American PMC. Ultimately, Third Echelon sent Fisher to spy on a meeting between Shetland and his unknown accomplices, who turned out to be the I-SDF. At the meeting, the I-SDF betrayed Shetland, and a firefight subsequently broke out between Shetland's soldiers and I-SDF assault troops. Amidst the chaos, Fisher pursued Shetland to the roof, where, after a tense Mexican standoff, Sam killed Shetland.
Admiral Otomo of the I-SDF had unfortunatly acquired a copy of the Masse Kernels from Shetland, and attempted to return Japan to Imperial rule by blackmailing the Japanese government officials and senior JSDF officers. Otomo threatened to use the algorithms to launch a North Korean missile against a Japanese city because North Korea would be supported by China, and Japan would be backed by the US sparking World War III. Although Otomo's loyalist I-SDF soldiers managed to fight off the JGSDF commandos sent to stop him, Fisher infiltrated the I-SDF's lowest levels and manages to put an end to Otomo's plans. Otomo attempted to commit seppuku, but Sam saved his life and captured him. Otomo stood trial at the United Nations and took full responsibility for the entire Korean crisis, returning stability to the Far East.
Later that year, Third Echelon sends Fisher and John Hodge, a rookie Splinter Cell in training, to Iceland to investigate suspicious activities at a geothermal plant. There they discover Islamic terroists prepping a nuclear missile for launch. Fisher was able to stop the launching of the missile, but the bad news is Agent Hodge was killed after he's not listen an order to stay hidden.
When Mexican rebels crossed the border into El Paso Texas, Third Echelon informed General Keating that the rebel's Kashmiri Missiles could hit anywhere in the country, including cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and even Washington DC. The rebels were stopped however when Ghost Lead, Captain Scott Mitchell, designated the target with missiles in order for Black Jaguar lead to take them out.
At the conclusion of the conflict between the United States and Artemis Global Security, Third Echelon provided vital intelligence on the location of the company's CEO, Adrian Dewinter. Using the intelligence gathered, H.A.W.X leader David Crenshaw tracked Dewinter's location in an F-22 Raptor and destroyed his hideout, killing him and his board of directors.