Talk:Covert operation

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Pox Blankets[edit]

What documentation exists for the pox blankets claim?

The article has a clear anti-religious POV that builds to absurdity in the last paragraph. Were the Catholic church's activities against the Soviet bloc really covert ops? Was the church doing work for other states that was not a normal part of church business? Was the Inquisition all that covert? Please clarify. Gazpacho

I am not the original author, but I added an external link to a web page disucssing smallpox blankets and also an internal link to the article on Jeffery Amhurst, which also mentions the smallpox blankets.

I do not see any anti-religious POV in the article nor any mention of the Inquisition. I assume these issues have been corrected.

I think that this article needs fleshing out. I think there is probably much more to say on the subject. That is why I added the stub flag, even though it is longer than the typical stub. --Lenehey

Yes, I have removed the anti-religious sections. Gazpacho 00:43, 13 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Agree with Lenehey that this needs fleshing out. Tried to do a bit today. See below sections. --Dredeyedick 23:47, 5 August 2006 (UTC)

External Links Section Added[edit]

Added section, and some links to related materials. --Dredeyedick 23:47, 5 August 2006 (UTC)


902 Military Intelligence Group infiltrates Quakers[edit]

Added this section with a short description, a representative quote, and links, as an example of an ongoing covert operation that has been covered by the media and in at least one public congressional hearing. Added links to pdf and html versions of 901 MI Group spreadsheet of protests. At first tried to include footnote ref tags, but I could not get them to work properly. The existing footnote ref doesn't seem to be done in the recommended way, and I figured the time I had available to work would be better spent adding new content. I'm still new and studying footnotes, wikitags and stuff. Even so, tried to clean up and make a bit more regular to bulleted list of examples of covert actions, without changing each to full blown sections (which they should probably / might eventually be). --Dredeyedick 23:47, 5 August 2006 (UTC)

See Also items added[edit]

Added a few related items to 'See Also' section. (Some don't yet have articles, but are related topics, imo).--Dredeyedick 23:47, 5 August 2006 (UTC)


Forced TOC for this page[edit]

Added magic "forcetoc" tag to generate TOC for this talk page. --Dredeyedick 23:47, 5 August 2006 (UTC)


Merging with Black Ops?[edit]

On the question of whether this entry for covert opertations should be merged with Black ops- shouldn't it be the other way around? As I understand it, Black Ops is more of an intelligence community jargon for covert ops, so wouldn't it make more sense to subsume black ops into covert ops? The decoy 15:45, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

No, black ops and covert ops are not synonymous. Covert ops are those planned as to permit plausible denial by the sponsor. The person involved could be in plain sight. The term "black operation" is a broader term described in the Wikipedia article on Special Access Programs (SAP) and elsewhere. A SAP doesn't have to be covert. It is a program in which because of its sensitive nature the normal security measure offered to Top Secret and Sensitive Compartmented Information (TS/SCI) are insufficient and must supplemented by significantly expanded efforts to protect the integrity of the program. Also of note, the term "clandestine operation" should not be confused either--it is an operation so planned and executed as to insure concealment of the operation itself--no one even sees it (i.e. the clandestine insertion of special operations forces via HALO jumps or SEAL Delivery Vehicle). Anonymous1111 19:51, 20 September 2006 (UTC)

SCI and SAP are separate tracks. The former is under the intelligence community, and, before the DNI was created, were governed by DCI Directives. SAP are Defense Department programs that in principle are NOT under the intelligence community, although there is room for slop when it comes to tactical intelligence programs. In the leaked and generally available Official Use Only supplement to the National Industrial Security Program Operations Manual, three SAP classes are identified: Acknowledged, which may have general references and even budget figures in a Congressional document, Unacknowledged, which do not appear in appropriations documents but are still briefed to cognizant committees in executive session, and Waived, which are briefed only to eight members of Congress. There is a parallel category of exceptionally sensitive intelligence operations that are also briefed only to eight members of Congress (Senate Majority and Minority Leaders, Speaker of the House, House Minority Leader, and chair and ranking minority members of the relevant oversight committees). Hcberkowitz 03:59, 19 April 2007 (UTC)

Title rethink[edit]

The topic of Covert Ops in an increddibly broad one; it includes everything from the most mundaine contact handeling in Afganistan (which is by no means illegal) to some outrageous Bond film. In fact, most Covert Ops are well within the confinds of (inter)national laws and are part of everyday militairy and civil normal framework operations. The Covert Ops described in this article are notable exeptions to the rule and due to their nature capture our imagination and form unrealistic views on the subject. Therefor I suggest the article be renamed something along the lines of: "Popular views of Covert Operations" or "Covert Operations in contemporary media". --Brisbane2000 21:21, 27 December 2006 (UTC)

Clandestine Vs Covert[edit]

I think there is a distinction between Clandestine and Covert operations. Clandestine is roughly equivalent to 'hidden' whereas Covert is more like 'disguised'. Is this about right? 12.10.127.58 05:02, 29 December 2006 (UTC)


As I learned it in intelligence classes, that is a pretty fair distinction, not always followed. For example, the CIA Directorate of Operations, which includes paramilitary operations, is now the National Clandestine Service. It's pretty clear that if someone is shooting at you, the fact of that usually can't be concealed. The weapons and the identity of the shooters may well be hidden, making the attack a covert but not clandestine operation.
Another distinction is propaganda, which obviously can't be hidden if it is to be absorbed. White propaganda clearly identifies its source. Black propaganda tries to appear as if it is coming from a different source, or a fake one such as a simulated group inside a larger one, the small group objecting to the national policy (e.g., Soldatensender West in WWII). Gray propaganda has many shades, but it may have no obvious identified source, or a source may be suggested but not be explicit.
Clandestine operations tend to focus on espionage, disinformation, and sabotage (before it goes boom). Covert operations include military direct action and propaganda. Somewhere inbetween may be economic warfare, secret coordination with friendly or enemy intelligence organizations, and electronic/computer warfare.

Hcberkowitz 14:54, 14 March 2007 (UTC)

The distiction that is used between the words "Covert" and "Clandestine" in a military operations, is based on the intended outcome of its exposeure.

Covert Operations: Activity is undetected with the desired outcome detected. e.g., small unit inserted to destroy a target. Clandestine Operations: Activity is undetected and outcome is undetected. e.g., small unit inserted to abtain copies of plans. No one knows they were even there. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Gcookz (talkcontribs) 22:45, 19 March 2010 (UTC)


I do NOT think that is it particularly useful to merge the article Covert operations with Clandestine operations because there is a well-recognized dichotomy between covert and clandestine operations.

Covert operations ("covops") are those operations which are organized and executed under strict operational security, so that the public and target have little or preferably no notice in advance of the operation or while it is ongoing; however, the outcome of the operation is such that it is likely to be publicly known after execution. Operation Eagle Claw, Operation Urgent Fury and the apprehension of Osama bin Laden are all examples of covert military operations.

Clandestine operations are those operations which are organized and executed under strict operational security as above, but which by their character should ideally never become publicly known and are almost never publicized after their execution - mainly because they use sources and tradecraft which are only useful if held secret. All espionage and other intelligence gathering - particularly human source intelligence gathering (HUMINT), overhead imagery, and signals collection (SIGINT) is clandestine by necessity. Once a intelligence gathering activity becomes known to the public or its target, it can be defended against by counterintelligence activity, camouflage, communications security measures, and other ways. The activities of CIA mole Aldrich Ames, FBI mole Robert Hanssen, GRU officer Pyotr Semyonovich Popov, the Cambridge Five in Britain, interception and decrypting of sensitive electronic communications (such as the WikiLeaks cables disclosure of several hundred thousand sensitive documents from a secure US diplomatic cable database by a US Army private) and the use of overhead satellite and aerial photography are all examples of successful and highly consequential clandestine activities.

Covert operations, on the other hand, are not limited in this way. Not infrequently, covert operations can be mounted in support of clandestine operations. Generally covert operations are intense activity performed in a purposefully brief time span.

Let's say a human intelligence source (a "spy" or "agent") or intelligence case officer has been burned - his or her identity made known to the target country and has either been apprehended or is likely soon to be apprehended. This is an example of a clandestine operation which has ended because the intelligence source can't provide more intelligence and is in danger of being killed or imprisoned, often with interrogation that would reveal the identity of the case officer and his or her nation if successful. Extraction of the human intelligence source and his or her family before their apprehension and processing by the target country's security forces would be an example of a covert operation, with only the most sensitive aspects of the extraction (escape routes and the existence and identity of persons or groups in the target country who assisted the operation, or the nature and type of special ops equipment used) withheld from publicity afterward.

"Henry S.A. Becket," a former US intelligence officer writing under a pseudonym, defines this crucial dichotomy in his "The Dictionary of Espionage: Spookspeak into English." (ISBN-13: 978-0812830682)[1] loupgarous (talk) 02:55, 28 June 2011 (UTC)

== Work needed == whoever thro us under the bus needs smacked in the mouth!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I did a quick copyedit b/c the article is fairly weak in substance. Also, because the subject is "covert operation" (singular), the introduction had to reflect this. I think the topic is better served in the plural "Covert operations" because it covers a broader range of issues surrounding the term. The singular form is too narrowly specific. I would like to see content moved to Covert operations and Covert operation become the redirect, but I don't know if that can be done without losing the edit history and discussion. Alcarillo 21:54, 4 January 2007 (UTC)

NNPOV of categories??[edit]

While I appreciate that all covert operations are not espionage, as the article previously was categorized, I also would be hesitant to categorize all covert operations as state terrorism, as in the edit today of the category. Espionage, in trade terms, is more clandestine than covert. Howard C. Berkowitz 20:18, 30 June 2007 (UTC)

Taking blame[edit]

I am taking blame for my action in putting a ahem ... unconventional tag citation requested because I am not confident enough to challenge the material. However, I think that it might be challenged in the future. Thus, I request we go ahead and add citation for the statement if possible. Different opinions are always wel-come. Regards, Kushal --Click me! write to me 17:10, 18 September 2007 (UTC) Click me! write to me

Not a bad question, really. I'd have to defer to a Briton to know what they use for a dictionary of military terms. What I can provide is the US definition by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Joint Publication PUB1-02, Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms:
covert operation — An operation that is so planned and executed as to conceal the identity of or permit plausible denial by the sponsor. A covert operation differs from a clandestine operation in that emphasis is placed on concealment of the identity of the sponsor rather than on concealment of the operation. See also clandestine operation; overt operation. (JP 3-60)
contrast with
clandestine operation — An operation sponsored or conducted by governmental departments or agencies in such a way as to assure secrecy or concealment. A clandestine operation differs from a covert operation in that emphasis is placed on concealment of the operation rather than on concealment of the identity of the sponsor. In special operations, an activity may be both covert and clandestine and may focus equally on operational considerations and intelligence-related activities. See also covert operation; overt operation. (JP 3-05.1)
I would be very surprised if these aren't the NATO definitions as well, but have no source on thatHoward C. Berkowitz 18:37, 18 September 2007 (UTC)

Inaccurate/obsolete legal information[edit]

The article currently says:

The CIA was also designated as the sole authority under the 1991 Intelligence Authorization Act and in Title 50 of the United States Code Section 413(e).

However, there is no 50 USC 413(e) or 413e, and nothing in any part of section 413 relates to the CIA being a sole authority for covert action. On the contrary, the section says that the President may empower any government office to undertake covert action, on a case-by-case basis. The wording also implies that the CIA holds this condition by default, exclusively, but it doesn't actually say that. --216.145.71.126 (talk) 22:41, 2 June 2010 (UTC)

  1. ^ Becket, Henry S. A. (1986). The Dictionary of Espionage: Spookspeak into English. Stein and Day. p. 203. ISBN 978-0812830682.