A government agent is someone who represents the interests of a government. While many people associate government agents specifically with law enforcement, they can actually work in a wide variety of capacities. To be a government agent, someone usually needs to be a citizen of the government he or she works for, and be able to pass a background and character test, because he or she represents the government at all times and is expected to adhere to a very high standard of conduct.
In a law enforcement capacity, a government agent can act in the interests of the government to investigate, prosecute, and prevent crimes which are believed to be harmful to the government. Government agents also enforce standards and codes, such as agents who work for government health services, environmental agencies, and so forth. In addition to enforcing standards set by the government, government agents can be be involved in the formulation of new policy. Many government agents work as examiners to determine whether or not citizens are complying with the law, whether they are inspecting tax records or visiting factories to test emissions.
Diplomacy is also conducted by government agents, although they may not necessarily be referred to as agents. These highly trained agents negotiate on behalf of the government in international disputes, promote cooperation with other nations, and assist citizens of the government while they are abroad. Diplomats can avert wars, negotiate trade deals, and work as neutral parties to help achieve a treaty or agreement between two other nations. Specialized government agents gather intelligence which may be useful or relevant to national security, both at home and abroad.
A government agent may also represent other government employees. For example, employees of certain agencies can contact a government travel agent when they need to travel for the government, with the agent making travel arrangements on behalf of those employees. Agents can also specialize in tasks like providing financial advice and assistance to government workers, helping government workers make retirement plans, and representing government employees in court.
Many governments offer certain protections and rights to their agents which may not be available to average citizens. For example, refusing an inspection by a government agent can be grounds for legal penalties, and assaulting a government agent is usually treated as a more serious crime than assaulting a civilian. Government agents often enjoy expanded powers which they are expected to use professionally and responsibly, and lapses in behavior may be severely penalized.