WASHINGTON—Members of the brilliant, highly trained, and dedicated team of elite professionals who work tirelessly behind the scenes to protect our nation and keep its citizens out of harm's way announced Tuesday that they do not exist.

"I know most Americans like to believe there are selfless, ultra-intelligent operatives like me out there watching over everything from an underground control room," said the Rhodes Scholar Navy SEAL national security official who for the past 10 years we have all mistakenly presumed to be an actual human being. "Unfortunately, though, I'm not employed by the U.S. government, I'm not working at all hours to foil terrorist plots, nor am I part of some secret network of sharp, capable agents, because no such network exists."

"And again, neither do I," the imaginary man added.

According to the utterly nonexistent super-geniuses who we've been telling ourselves are keeping our nation safe with their superior technology and lightning-fast decision-making abilities, there are currently no living people who resemble them at the Pentagon, CIA, FBI, DHS, TSA, or any other federal, state, or local law enforcement agency, and there never really have been at any point in American history.

Millions of Americans bear the humiliation of airport security every day, erroneously believing there are real people currently protecting our nation by monitoring Yemeni terrorists from a subterranean control room near Denver.

Fictitious sources also confirmed that the so-called "masterminds" behind our country's security and strategic defense are in fact people of moderate to reasonably above-average intelligence just like us who perform their jobs with more or less the same degree of competence and zeal as any regular person with a job would.

"Obviously, it would be very comforting, and pretty cool, if there were stealth groups of resourceful, naturally gifted secret agents like me scouring the planet, rooting out terrorist sleeper cells, and tracking down Osama bin Laden," said a multilingual computer/ explosives/espionage expert who most Americans actually believe is a real guy out there. "I'm not denying that would be amazing; my only point is that it just isn't true."

"Believe me, I wish I existed, too," the fake man added. "I would probably be great."

Following the announcement, reporters learned that the all-seeing satellite cameras and invisible eyes that millions of Americans assume are diligently watching every square-inch of the country like a silent sentinel are either not up there at all, or are being monitored by a tired, modestly educated man reading Road & Track magazine in a tiny office.

And, despite the widely held belief in some sort of all-knowing superagency that secretly controls all the other intelligence branches from above, attempts by reporters to contact such an agency were unsuccessful, as there is no way this is actually a thing.

"Look, I understand your psychological need to invent someone like me so that you can stop worrying about imminent disasters and get some sleep at night," said the hyper-articulate, Princeton-educated political-scientist jujitsu-master we're all imagining. "But the reality is most of the smart, qualified people in this country are wasting away in assistant professorships at struggling public universities or making millions of dollars in some venture capital group. In fact, that's exactly the kind of job I would have right now if I were a real person. Which I'm not."

"But good luck with everything," he added, or rather didn't add, because he neither said anything nor even ever existed at all.

In response to the announcement, members of the actual team of government workers in charge of keeping our country safe each day sought to reassure the American people that the nation's welfare is in good hands.

"Oh, yeah, don't worry about it," said the underpaid 28-year-old GED recipient who makes you take off your shoes and throw away your water bottle before you get on an airplane. "We got all kinds of crazy computers and shit to monitor things, so there's no way anything can go wrong. We got you covered."