Talk:Black operation

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This article should be deleted. What little "content" it has, at best, falls under the Covert Operations article. Presumably a black operation is nothing more than a covert operation that the executing organization or government can completely deny. Any covert operation may potentially fit this premise. If such a thing exists, it needs to be addressed in the covert operation article. Aside from the above, this article has been around since November 2004; no one has managed to find any credible citations and the creating user does not appear to have had any credibility on this subject. Will a user with permissions please mark this article for deletion? ---

Same request as above i call for a re deletion if someone knows how to tag it up please do. a black op may be marginally diffrent to a covert op but it barely deserves more thana mention on covert ops page152.91.9.153 (talk) 05:55, 12 June 2012 (UTC)

"In fiction": first stab at an edit[edit]

I've done some reworking of the "In fiction" section of this page, with an eye toward making it a little more coherent. I've tried not to remove much existing content, though a couple of sentences (one on cyberpunk in particular) got the chop.

Ultimately, I think the first paragraph in that section needs to be expanded a little bit to give a better perspective--and the list of examples needs to be cut waaaaay down. (I haven't yet edited said list very much for grammar etc.--not sure how much of it should even exist.)

That list, as a series of short unconnected paragraphs, used to more or less be the "In fiction" section; even as it now stands, though, I doubt that many of the things on it are illustrative/noteworthy enough. I don't want to start eliminating them myself right now--in part because I don't feel confident re my lexicographical abilities on this subject, in part because I don't want to annoy the folks who added 'em in the first place, in part because I don't actually have time, and in part because I've already done some replumbing that other interested parties should have time to react to. Iralith 22:14, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Isn't this article supposed to be called 'Black ops'?[edit]

Just asking. It seems to make more sense to me. JackSparrow Ninja 17:16, 22 January 2007 (UTC)

That's a plural. Doesn't really matter.Veritas Panther 06:34, 23 January 2007 (UTC)

because it is not politcaly corrict so the term black operation was used to set aside any further qustioning from both media and the pupblic. black ops is a term used to shorten a sentence or keep the discusion further from the subject.


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Defining "Black Ops"[edit]

The definition of the term "Black Ops" should include an option that says "a project which, due to national security interests, is kept secret to prevent a premature leak of information to the nation's enemies; for example, the building and testing of a prototype aircraft or weapon system which would be useless if the enemy learned how to prevent it's usefullness before it was deployed." This is the legitimate definition which, if absent, leaves only a definition bearing a tone of claiming that ALL Black Ops are illegal or illegitimate, which is not neccessarily the case. While we might agree that ALL weapons are immoral when used immorally, some weapons or operations might be purely defensive if used only in a defensive capacity, regardless of the actual history of defense systems being used offensively.

What are you even talking about? All "Black Ops" are illegal by the very definition: people commit crimes. Impersonating governmental agencies (and that is exactly what happens, since they are not proper authorities) does not help.

Non-fiction black ops[edit]

The above list seems like a decent list of real-world black ops. Why are there only fictional examples in the article? Smooth Nick 02:21, 9 November 2007 (UTC)

What article? Igor Berger (talk) 18:05, 5 January 2008 (UTC)

Black ops do not ask do not tell policy[edit]

set aside many other projest in wich case not all of the informaition can be made or prestnted to the media or puplic in wich case action is taken to sicure safty. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Aresofwar (talkcontribs) 07:56, 8 July 2010 (UTC)

Duplicate Article[edit]

Black Ops is an identical article, with one exception. One of the tags on this article isn't on that one. The tag is...

Has this been discussed for one of them to be deleted or merged? I can't find anything on it. Leobold1 (talk) 03:27, 13 February 2008 (UTC) I fully support merging. Don't know how though...--Heyitspeter (talk) 23:09, 9 June 2008 (UTC) You horse jockeys couldn't get it right even if you tried. Go back to eating mayo from the jar at mom's house. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:55, 13 December 2008 (UTC)

Criminal Nature[edit]

I don't think the criminal nature of black ops is being emphasized enough here. The degree of Machiavellian cunning and amorality involved is tyrannical and black ops are against the laws of war and all civil laws. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:37, 30 April 2009 (UTC)

not all are illlgeal, but simply highly secerate war-time missions. some are even simply recon missions. of course, the peace time missions where there are assasination and such are very illegal. (talk) 01:45, 12 February 2011 (UTC)

Is there ANY truth behind this?[edit]

The only way I know anything about supposed "black ops" operations is from the movies. Since this article cites no sources, is there any evidence at all, that this isn't just a fictional term?

I'm sure people will insist there are all sorts of secret machinations that happen in the shadows. However, this is an encyclopedia... and such secret machinations need to be publically sourced. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Petemyers (talkcontribs) 19:28, 5 May 2009 (UTC)

How do black operators recruit people? I mean, you probably don't just go somewhere to apply for black ops :P . Also, let's say black ops take place, organized by a government agency, why would it be illegal, because we don't know it takes place or would not approve it? Of course there is a truth behind this, assassinations take place all over the world without anyone knowing who did it or why. And when we're told that the one responsible for it is some random person, we have no reason to doubt it, but no reason to believe it either. I'm realy curious how people are recruited for black ops... some supercomputer checking everybodies internet history :P? Sorry for my english incase I misspelled something or so, I'm not from America. (talk) 22:57, 31 May 2009 (UTC)
- Special Forces members and Mercenaries.

~ most would be within military or para-military forces, so no groups gonna be posting on craigslist "need commandos for black ops mission" (talk) 01:48, 12 February 2011 (UTC)

seal squad 6 - the team that reportedly* killed Osama Bin Laden was undertaking a black op at the time (i say reported to ease any racial tensions). generally details of a black op will be sealed and not come to light publically unless something goes really wrong or super good and deserves recognition. several cold war ops could still cause international incidents today according to CIA representatives.

additional EDS CEO had an encounter in its early military days with a kidnapping attempt where a black op was done and busted by media. can not recall the name of operation but essentially a camera crew went in to negotiate and the camera and several tools where all disguised firearms.if i feel up to it later may hunt down name of this op.

also Australian SAS train for black op missions but no details have ever been made public if they have undertaken one or if so what missions.

in essence yes black ops exist and yes there are "clean up crews" for when things go bad but because of the nature of these things the examples will be few and far between. 05:44, 12 June 2012 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk)

Hello, Mr/Ms Anonymous,

While I was in the Air Force, I was recruited into the Raven FACs covert operation by answering an announcement tacked on my squadron bulletin board. The flier said I would get $16 per day Temporary Duty Pay. From what I knew, I was being promised six months in Bangkok with extra pay as opposed to staying in Saigon in the midst of a war. I spent one night in Bangkok, passing through, and spent the next 18 months in Luang Prabang, Laos.

Short version of a long tale, but it tells how at least one covert operator was recruited.

Pilots in the same program were recruited via the Steve Canyon Program; check link above.

Recruitment methods for covert ops may make an interesting addition to the article. Georgejdorner (talk) 17:56, 30 November 2012 (UTC)

Some Answers[edit]

Recruitment can be through normal army channels then individuals are specially picked for the units involved who frequently go under a cover name that implies a different role. Building a new weapon or plane is not a black op. Black ops are things like assassination of difficult journalists or false flag bombings aimed at promoting particular political causes. At a less serious level, as we know the CIA has appropriated funds for black ops on Iran. It is possible that the recent election problems were black ops. Previously I think 1952 the return of the Sha of Iran was a black op to promote US control of Iranian oil. This is of course also an objective today. Yes we can know about black ops through sources other than movies because quite a lot is now in the public domain even though those involved are not dead. However it must be clear to most people that those that carry out black ops would not consider the death of a few extra individuals to maintain secrecy, a job they would not do. I used to think that only communists and dictators did this kind of stuff but now its clear that many states do. Perhaps the only gauge as to the success of a state is the degree to which it does not lie to its people. Sadly people prefer sensational idiotic conspiracy theories to real black ops information. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:11, 19 January 2010 (UTC)


Please can sombody who knows how delete this tab —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:44, 20 January 2010 (UTC)


How is it that this article doesn't have any examples? Surely there are plenty of then-secret black ops from the Cold War that have subsequently emerged? Without examples this isn't a very good article at all.

ManicParroT (talk) 06:10, 22 February 2010 (UTC)

I think there are enough examples under Examples in recent American history--B. Srinivasa Sasidhar 07:36, 8 October 2010 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by Bssasidhar (talkcontribs)

The examples were added some time after the above comment was made. --MelanieN (talk) 23:08, 9 October 2010 (UTC)

Why I objected to the "proposed deletion" of this article[edit]

I removed the prod tag for several reasons. First, the rationale given was "non-notable," and that doesn't make a lot of sense. The concept is clearly notable. A more valid argument for deletion would be that this is mostly a definition and Wikipedia is not an encyclopedia. Another would be that it lacks references.

Second, this article has existed for nearly five years and has been edited by many different editors, most of whom clearly found it to be worthy of inclusion. Any article with that rich a history should not be prodded; it requires discussion and consensus and a chance at rescue. Suggestions on the talk page such as adding examples (with references of course), discussions of the morality or legality of black ops (again based on references), etc. could make this a valuable article. If that doesn't happen, and if consensus at AfD goes against it, it should be redirected to Special operations rather than deleted, so that the editing history will be preserved. --MelanieN (talk) 18:35, 4 September 2010 (UTC)

And one other point: the page view record shows 2000-3000 page views per day. Such an article should be improved, not prodded. --MelanieN (talk) 18:57, 4 September 2010 (UTC)
There, I went ahead and added some examples and references. Other editors please add more. I believe the article is worth keeping. --MelanieN (talk) 19:29, 4 September 2010 (UTC)


There has been a real rash of vandalism to this article lately by IP accounts. I have requested semi-protection for it. --MelanieN (talk) 13:41, 28 September 2010 (UTC)

It sure has been a lot quieter at this article since the semi-protection went in! We used to be reverting about one vandalism per day. Nice not to have to do that. --MelanieN (talk) 21:52, 10 October 2010 (UTC)

This is page was clearly a victim of vandalism once again, I reverted the changes but I'm pretty sure it will come under attack again, unfortunately. 14:29, 6 November 2010 (UTC)

Thanks for reverting the most recent vandalism. It's been happening about once a day. I asked an administrator to take another look at this page. --MelanieN (talk) 15:49, 6 November 2010 (UTC)


But just listing American Black Operations that article seems biased. Virtually every government in the world has done some sort of "black op", so it should be expanded and not just be an american black op page.

I completely agree. I originally created that section as "Examples in real life," but all the examples I could easily come up with were from recent America, so someone changed the title of the section. You are welcome to add more examples (with proper citation) and change the section title back. I also wanted a section "examples in fiction" and you are welcome to add stuff under that category as well. --MelanieN (talk) 14:50, 28 October 2010 (UTC)


The sources for this article are extremely weak, news publications and blog articles. The latter don't comply with Verifiability policy and the former don't really meet the needs of that policy with respect to robustness.

I'm inclined to cull out everything that's dependent on the blogs and rephrase some of the rest to reflect the weakness of the sources.


ALR (talk) 10:10, 26 November 2010 (UTC)

The news sources are fine. The part on Conspiracy theories however, I'm not sure about. The[9],[10], and[11] "sources" aren't trying to verify fact; they are establishing existence of occasional use of the term 'black op' to explain a lack of evidence in regards to Conspiracy theories. Which is probably true. So I'm inclined to leave it. It would be beneficial to have better/additional sources; but I don't think it's at a point where the content should be deleted. -- Aeonx (talk) 12:51, 26 November 2010 (UTC)
I would disagree about the media sources, they have no credibility, no demonstrable access to domain expertise. I would also pretty strongly disagree that use of blogs is justifiable, they're explicitly identified as unacceptable in the policy and as a result all they can be used for is to support a statement that the author of that page identifies something as a black op, there is no assurance of the authors credibility, and given the nature of the websites we can have a pretty clear idea that actually they don't have a clue what they're on about.
Starting from the top, the biggest issue is that there is no definition of the article, that's sourced. Without that there is no basis for an article. If we can't clearly identify the topic, and anchor it in a reliable source then we should be considering whether this is a reasonable article in its own right or whether it would more naturally be a topic within another article that is more robust.
ALR (talk) 03:42, 2 December 2010 (UTC)

Verification requirements[edit]

I highlighted the need for a sourced definition for this six weeks ago, quick as a flash nothing has happened. I've now added a number of requests for verification. I'd prefer that comes from a credible, reliable source and not some hysterical opinion piece from a newspaper. Given the number of degree courses in security studies there has to be some academic treatment of the issue and that would meet the requirements of wikipedia policies.

I've also removed the point about black budgets, it's probably more appropriate to the Black Projects article as a that's what the two sources applied to. Using it as a coathanger to include unrelated sources isn't a particularly productive approach to improving the article.

ALR (talk) 11:58, 3 January 2011 (UTC)

"media assertions of black ops in recent american history"[edit]

this section really should be revised. perhaps one about recent black ops in general. this is all about a couple american examples, which is automatically bisased. there should be examples of other operations by other nations just to preserve neutrality, e.g. some of the north korean infiltration tunnels and commandos, the french attack on the Rainbow Warrior, ect. those are the first examples that come to mind for me, but there a certainly ohters that should be posted. (talk) 02:02, 12 February 2011 (UTC)

I'd love to see some more examples and not just American. I posted the American ones because sources were available. Please WP:Be bold and add any other examples that you can find reliable sourcing for. And change the section title appropriately. Thanks. --MelanieN (talk) 16:48, 12 February 2011 (UTC)

Some months ago someone deleted this entire section without discussion. I didn't notice because I had stopped watching the page, but someone just called it to my attention. I am reinstating the section, with a simpler section title. If someone still thinks it should be removed let's discuss it here, per WP:BRD. --MelanieN (talk) 22:02, 7 June 2012 (UTC)

Personally I'm uncomfortable with re-including the section. Notwithstanding the regional focus it's essentially dependent on unreliable sources and unsupported assertions. All you can really say is that some ill informed journo says that something was a black operation. It doesn't add anything to the article. Even if it's retained it should be titled in such a way as to reinforce that it's unsubstantiated nonsense, rather than anything credible.
I'm also uncomfortable with your use of Geraghty as a source although the initial one might just qualify as credible.
ALR (talk) 22:07, 9 June 2012 (UTC)
I tend to agree with ALR. Dbrodbeck (talk) 01:03, 10 June 2012 (UTC)
You complain of "unreliable sources," "unsupported assertions" and "some ill informed journo." Actually one of the three items is sourced to the CIA itself and confirmed by the CIA director; it's hard to get a more reliable source than that! The other two are from ABC News and The Economist; both are "reliable, third-party, published sources with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy," which is Wikipedia's definition of a reliable source. No one seems to have complained that the ABC News and Economist items were inaccurate; on the contrary, ABC was criticized for possibly being too accurate! Your objections to these sources sound like a case of WP:IDONTLIKEIT which is contrary to WP policy. As for Geraghty, you don't say what your objection to him is, but in any case he is not sourced for anything controversial - only a fairly obvious comment about when you need deniability. I mainly added it because the article had been tagged as unsourced. Sounds like you preferred it that way? MelanieN (talk) 13:56, 10 June 2012 (UTC)
I'll treat this response as two sections, as part of my concern relates to the essentially unsourced nature of the article itself, and the other to the assertions section.
  • The article itself remains essentially unsourced. The usage of Smith is a tertiary source, and based on policy the use should be discouraged. My concern with Geraghty is that he doesn't actually identify what he means by Black Operation, and his book is about SF activities, rather than undeclared covert programmes. So that addresses the issue of sourcing the article itself. I've mentioned up the page about the potential to gain sources from one of the miscellany of intelligance and security academic programmes around, including one at St Andrews and I think Kings College London. Surely something might be available from the reading lists from those.
  • The examples section leaves me pretty cold. The three examples are of different things, and indeed we get into a degree of interpretation to suggest that these operations were black per se.
  • The first example, your CBS source, talks about the activities of the CIA over 20 or so years. Many of the activities discussed are/ were illegal, never mind undeclared. Whether one would describe them as black is probably up for debate, as some of them were known about at the highest levels of US government. I've got two books about these operations that provide a fuller account than the Guardian article but I wouldn't suggest that either of them support the assertion. What's you've got is a culture within an organisation that saw itself outside any form of governance in the US.
  • The second example leaves me very confused about what you think black operations actually are. Do you mean covert operations, in which case why don't we call them that, or undeclared operations happening without appropriate oversight? It may come as a surprise, but intelligence agencies conduct covert operations all the time, the usual usage of black operations would normally suggest something happening outside appropriate governance of those agencies, the article doesn't suggest that but in fact reinforces that governance was applied appropriately.
  • Again the use of the decapitation strategy in Iraq as an example of a black operation leaves me very confused. This was an operational direction that was appropriately governed. Do we know why the media describe it as black other than it being conducted away from the glare of the media and embedded journos?
My concerns remain about the whole article, and the assertions section. We haven't got a credible definition and without a credible definition any examples cited are meaningless, they have no context.
With respect to the piss poor wikipedia approach to source reliability, if you have to start relying on that rather than the content of the source itself, I'd suggest that your sources are weak. If they were credible sources then they'd be able to stand on their own.
ALR (talk) 15:53, 10 June 2012 (UTC)
Wikipedia has an accepted, consensus based standard for what is a reliable source. That is the standard I follow. You apparently reject this standard ("piss poor" was your description of it), but Wikipedia operates by consensus and this is the standard we have. You seem to prefer some kind of subjective standard of your own, where if you don't like the source or the quote, it doesn't count, no matter how "reliable" the source is per Wikipedia standards. That attitude has no basis in Wikipedia policy and is unlikely to prevail here. Perhaps you should express your feelings at a blog or some other outlet where you are allowed to apply your own standards and you don't have to get any other editors to agree with you.
You ask what my definition of black operations is. What I believe is not important; what is important is what reliable sources believe. (P.S. After some research I have added to the definition in the article.) You seem to be introducing some standard having to do with the presence or absence of government oversight or "appropriate governance". That is not part of the definition here or in the sources I found; I would have to consider it Original Research on your part unless you can substantiate it with Reliable Sources. If you can, please do so; it would enrich the article. --MelanieN (talk) 03:26, 12 June 2012 (UTC)
Charming, play the player not the ball...
Anyway, I've articulated above the concerns that I have with the various sources that you've provided, I'm still not impressed by your additional sources but since you haven't actually addressed the concerns I've articulated above I'm not particularly inclined to go into those in any more depth.
The Wikipedia approach to policy development is anything but consensus based, it's classic tyranny of the minority and any effort to base the policies in generally accepted standards of source analysis fell flat when it was attempted. We're left with essentially subjective acceptance of sources built on very weak foundations. But what would I know, I only deal with source analysis all the time in real life!
Anyway, my concerns remain. You're reliant on sources that are peripheral to the topic and don't have any demonstrable credibility with respect to the subject. You appear to share the belief that news media sources are inherently trustworthy and they musty be reliable because they're news media sources. Newspapers never tout fiction to fill their pages after all...
My standard for reliance is:
  • does this strike me as credible?
  • Does the source actually talk about the subject or are we inferring something from it?
  • does the author have anything in his/ her background that suggests that they know what they're talking about?
  • Does the author have any history of grinding axes with respect to he subject?
  • Is there any corroboration or do we appear to be single-sourcing?
The difficulty is that whilst I'm content that the term probably has some foundation, if not in policy at least in popular usage, so ticking the first point, none of the others can really be ticked off. We can't demonstrate that the authors are themselves informed, and in the case of Geraghty he has some history of grinding axes. We have no indication of where the comments are sourced from, probably a function of the mention being tangential.
Any chance you might address all of these rather than passing comment on my expectation of the lowest possible standard for source assessment?
ALR (talk) 18:56, 12 June 2012 (UTC)
Your removal of the section again, in the middle of a WP:BRD, discussion, was inappropriate and could constitute edit warring. Where we are is: someone boldly removed the section; I reverted it and opened a discussion which remains unresolved. My comments in this discussion have been based on Wikipedia policy, such as the definition of Reliable Sources. You have explicitly rejected the Wikipedia standard for sources and instead introduced your own, completely subjective standard (such as "does this strike me as credible?") This is an impossible approach on your part. There is no way to have an encyclopedia if every editor insists on his/her own standards and dismisses consensus-based standards as "tyranny of the majority". (That quote is from your userpage; here you said "tyranny of the minority"; it looks to me like you reject both majority and minority opinions, preferring the tyranny of your own sole subjective self. How else can we interpret your removing the section?)
But OK, let's talk about the three sources. The first is the CIA itself, which should certainly pass your criteria for credibility. It's not clear what your objection to that paragraph is, except that you seem to have some kind of unique definition of black ops involving the degree of oversight. (Still waiting for your sources on that definition.) The other two are major respected news sources (see WP:RS). That is not to say that major respected news sources never make mistakes, but rather that they have "a reputation for accuracy and fact checking", and they have mechanisms for correction if they are found to be in error. Neither of these two reports was ever denied by official sources or contradicted by later reporting, and as noted above, the main criticism of the ABC News report was that it was too accurate. In the first two examples "black operations" are the primary subject of the article; in the third it is more of a peripheral mention. As for expertise of the writer, that is not a requirement in journalism - journalists do not have to be an expert in every field they write about, merely to use sources that DO know what they are talking about. I have been a journalist myself, so I understand about sources. My reaction to any printed assertion is "who says so and how do they know?" - in other words, what are the sources for the information? With this kind of reporting, sources are often identified by description rather than name, which is accepted practice as long as the writer has convinced his/her editors that the sources are credible. The second assertion (Iran) has two citations, ABC News and The Telegraph. For the Daily Telegraph article, the sources for the black operations information are described as "intelligence sources," "security officials in Washington" and "a security source in the US". (Several official sources ARE cited by name in the article, but not as direct sources for the black ops assertion.) For ABC News, the sources are "current and former officials in the intelligence community" who "spoke on the condition of anonymity". In both cases the sourcing and the description of the sourcing meets accepted journalistic standards. The third assertion is cited to The Economist, but the McChrystal use of black ops is not specifically sourced to anyone, so I will agree to removal of that item until more solid sourcing can be found. As far as the first two examples are concerned, they are well sourced, failing only your subjective standards apparently, and I am going to restore them. --MelanieN (talk) 15:39, 13 June 2012 (UTC)
P.S. I find plenty of references to McChrystal and black ops, but most of them are offhand and none of them are sourced, so I'll leave McChrystal out unless something better turns up. --MelanieN (talk) 17:23, 13 June 2012 (UTC)
And again the focus on me, rather than a focus on the sources and what they're saying. Perhaps it would help if you had another look at what I've said, rather than concentrating on the personality. I make no apology for demanding a degree of critical assessment, particularly given that this is a subject that is both poorly understood and plagued by the black helicopter, tinfoil headgear fraternity. All I'm asking for is that we actually think about whether the sources are supporting the article or not. I was involved a long time ago in trying to bring the Wikipedia standard for sourcing up to a reasonable standard, but the decision at the time that some solid criteria, albeit setting a low bar, were preferable to a system whereby editors were expected to apply some critical thought to what they were using.
I note that you haven't really taken on board my point that I'm content that the article itself has some, albeit limited, credibility. It seems that you've acknowledged that there is a way to represent the weak sourcing by reflecting that in the opening line. I'm still concerned that the definition itself is reliant on a, discouraged in WP policy, tertiary source. That's probably what's causing the disagreement around the later section. Since we have no clear definition of what we mean by the term the later section is pretty much anything that happens to mention the words.
I do tend to frequent the Intelligence and Security sector within Wikipedia and it's an area where sources are generally pretty weak, reliant as they are on peripheral mention in news media, rather than anything that a serious student of the topics would consider to be even close to passable. I'm sorry that my frustration over trying to improve the situation offends you.
With all that in mind and notwithstanding that it's a tertiary source the Smith definition is probably the closest to being acceptable. Essentially what he's describing is a deniable operation, the assets used can't be attributed to the sponsor organisation. Would that seem to be a reasonable interpretation of what he says?
The two additional sources are not particularly robust and I'd suggest that your final two sentences in the introduction are probably straying into original research. You're certainly synthesising there and I'm uncomfortable that you can make the distinction between covert and black based on those. I find the final sentence actually to be unrepresentative of the source, a black bag op is not a single instance of black. That said black bag has some currency in the academic literature in a way that black operation doesn't.
with respect to the examples:
Are the operations in the first example black per se? we don't really know as we don't have a definition for what we mean by black. The general consensus in the majority of academic treatments are that they were clearly illegal in both US domestic and international law. This doesn't really meet Smith as there is no indication in the sources that the activities were unattributable, merely illegal. In some usages they would qualify. The fact that the highest levels of government in the US approved them, in many cases, means that they wouldn't meet other usages of the term. If we're working on a criterion that we can call them black because the news media say they are then that's fine. We say that and add an appropriate caveat to reflect the sourcing. If it's appropriately caveated then whilst I'm not particularly comfortable that it's reasonable for inclusion I can live with it.
With respect to the second example again we're in a situation where we don't know what we mean by black. Again we're probably in a situation where appropriate caveating might mean we can reach an acceptable form of words, although I probably have more reservations. We're probably closer to these activities being unattributable, although there is a degree of inference from what the articles say rather than being able to state that we're appropriately representing the sources.
Part of my discomfort would be that I don't share your confidence in journos obfuscating their sources. How much confidence have we that they're describing someone that we might consider to be informed as opposed to the cleaner? I've been quoted by a journo who both significantly overplayed my importance, and misrepresented what I'd said. I've also seen situations where they've tapped up a source who'd overplayed their own significance and as a result misinformed or misdirected the journo in question.
I'd observe that there is no consensus to retain the section or otherwise. It was deleted and stayed that way for some time. You've objected to that and I have some discomfort with how you're representing the sources that you want to rely on. I'm trying to understand why you want to represent the sources in the way that you do. I'm sure you could go any drum up some support to retain it, this field does tend to end up with a bias to include questionably sourced material. That would give you a majority in favour of retention, but not a consensus. Of course we could try to find a form of words that might lead to a degree of consensus.
ALR (talk) 18:42, 13 June 2012 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── I don't have time right now to answer your lengthy comments, but I would just point out that my repeated comments above are not about you personally; they are about the strength of your arguments. Arguments based on Wikipedia policy are supposed to be given more weight than arguments based on personal preference and unsupported assertion. But your own personal standards and your assertions are the basis for most of what you have said here. Your outright dismissal of established Wikipedia policies and definitions is especially troubling. I grant you your claimed status as an expert in the field, but that still doesn't mean you can determine the content of an article on your say-so alone. Reliable Sources are the standard here, and you have provided none to support your definitions and opinions. That, and not some kind of personal vendetta, is the reason for my repeated emphasis on the nature of your arguments rather than their content. If you refuse to accept Wikipedia conventions and insist on your own standards, we really don't even have a basis for discussion. --MelanieN (talk) 19:13, 13 June 2012 (UTC)

Might I suggest that an assumption of good faith might be in order, given that I've put some effort into amplifying on my reasons for some scepticism over setting the bar quite as low as it is in Wikipedia policy, with respect to the field of Intelligence and Security?
I am starting to find the repeated focus on me, even when you claim otherwise, to be increasingly tedious when I'm trying to find a way to achieve consensus.
ALR (talk) 19:24, 13 June 2012 (UTC)
Let's try a different approach. It's clear we can't find a common basis on which to discuss the reliability of sources, because you don't accept Wikipedia's criteria, and I don't accept (or even understand) yours. Let's set that aside and see if we can, from our different perspectives, simply agree on what ought to be in the article.
Here's a way to think about it: In the opening sentence you say that black operations is "a term popularized in media and fiction". I accepted that. Did you mean to say the term was invented by the media, and is not used by official sources? Because if the term is a media invention, then there is no official definition; it means what the media say it means. And in that case, the two examples are valid; the situations are described as black operations by multiple mainstream media, therefore they ARE black operations. (As you saw, I eliminated the third example because, although many sources refer to McChrystal in connection with black operations, none of them provide any detail, and none of them cite a source.)
And on the other hand, if the term is NOT a media invention and there IS official use of the term, then let's find examples of official use and put them in the article. OK? --MelanieN (talk) 00:26, 14 June 2012 (UTC)
I'm not convinced that we're going to get away from an understanding of what might constitute an acceptable source, but it might be useufl to stop conflating the article with the examples. Once we have an article that describes what we mean by the term then it can be populated with examples. There is probably a stylistic debate around how those are included, once we undersand what we're trying to amplify.
If we're content that what we're poentially talking about is a media colloquialism then what we need to do is support that assertion, using secondary sources. do you have anything in mind that might help with that?
ALR (talk) 14:24, 14 June 2012 (UTC)
The "examples" section actually is what I am talking about here, and that is the title of this "talk" section. I came here to debate the elimination or inclusion of the "examples" section; it was not my intention to rewrite the whole article, although I have tried to respond to your concerns along those lines. Still, I'd like to get some resolution of that one question - the "examples" section - and that is why I made my suggestion above. I was hoping we could reach agreement to include those two paragraphs, based on your assertion that this is a media-created term, and the logical conclusion that therefore a black operation is what the media say it is. Can you respond to that concept, please?
As to the whole article: in the course of this discussion you brought up your desire for a better definition (or "what we mean by the term"), so I have added material on that subject to the lead. As for whether it is a media colloquialism, you are the one who added that notation to the article; what did you base it on? --MelanieN (talk) 15:37, 14 June 2012 (UTC)
OK, I can see why the logic is attractive, but I'm struggling to see what the objection is to finding some form of definition for the article, and then elaborating on that.
My concern with the approach you're describing is that we end up agreeing that the existence of a Black Operations in popular culture section serves as a foundation for the article, rather than an amplification. If we do that then I'd suggest that it's an instance of synthesis. The vulnerability that gives us is that the incidental or trivial use in a a popular culture context leads to the article meaning anything one might happen to want it to mean. To consider what's already in the article, are you suggesting that black operation means illegal activities, undeclared to government activities or undeclared to target activities or deception activities? All four of those could be supported by the use of the articles you'd like to cite.
Given the current quality of the article I suspect we've got no more than a definition as there is no adequate secondary sourcing and a single, weak, tertiary source.
Essentially I don't see it as an acceptable basis for an article, we're almost in a situation where we have a Black Operations in popular culture article, without an associated subject article. I don't really see a huge issue with retitling the article itself to reflect that, although I suspect that will make it very vulnerable to deletion.
ALR (talk) 09:03, 24 June 2012 (UTC)
Sorry for the delay in replying, I missed your comments earlier because I was traveling. We are NOT talking about an "in popular culture" section or article. That would mean examples in fiction, movies, tv shows, etc. (See Wikipedia:"In popular culture" content). We don't have any of that in this article, although there is plenty that could be added it you wish - starting with the old "Mission:Impossible" TV series: "If any member of the IMF force is captured or killed, the secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions." I am not arguing for an "in popular culture" section, and the article does not currently contain one, and "in popular culture" has nothing to do with this discussion. My point was and is that you defined this as a media-created term, and thus when the media say something is a black operation, then it IS a black operation, by definition, QED. (Unless you want to revert your addition to the lead sentence that it is a "term popularized in media and fiction" - you never did say what you based that on.) You are apparently still insisting that the sources supplied give "no adequate secondary sourcing", whereas I still contend that the sources supplied are "reliable sources" per Wikipedia's definition and therefore acceptable. At this point we can either agree to disagree, call it a draw and leave the article the way it is, or else we can ask for outside help, perhaps a WP:Third opinion. Or you could nominate it for deletion, if that is what you are arguing for, and let the community consensus decide if it belongs here or not. --MelanieN (talk) 21:07, 9 July 2012 (UTC)

Black bag operations[edit]


As a former covert operator, I am baffled by WP's use of the term "black bag" as a description of a one-time covert operation. I have never known the term used except when the FBI illegally tapped American telephones via burglary on an ongoing basis during Watergate and COINTELPRO, or something similar. Likewise, I never experienced any distinction between the use of "black ops", "covert ops", and "covert operations"; they were all considered to be "in the black". The latter term was/is so prevalent that it has even become a book title.

I do not find the difference in definitions between Covert operation and Black operation to be particularly meaningful or distinct from one another. I believe it is because so many people get tied up in the legal versus illegal aspects of covert operations.

Let's face it. Every intelligence organization has to bend/stretch/break its own national laws and regulations to function. That does not make intelligence organizations illegal. But it is useful to realize that intelligence organizations are neither legal nor illegal; they must work extra-legally (outside the law) to function.

I hope this helps improve the coverage of intelligence operations.

Georgejdorner (talk) 18:44, 30 November 2012 (UTC)

Thanks for your input. The use of the term "black bag" is based on a Reliable Source, but additional sources are welcome. I don't find the "illegal" aspect to be an essential part of the definition, and I don't think the article says or implies that it is - merely that illegality is possible. The article does distinguish between "covert" and "black" by saying that "covert" is merely secret, while "black" involves a significant degree of deception, false-flagging, etc. Again that is based on a Reliable Source but could be expanded or explained more clearly. --MelanieN (talk) 19:03, 30 November 2012 (UTC)

Hello, Melanie,

Your Reliable Source is produced by one of the very agencies this article accuses of deception...but of course they are telling YOU the truth. They are just going to lie elsewhere, then turn around and tell you a truth that may get someone prosecuted, retired, or reassigned. I really don't think so, Melanie.

I repeat, in all my numerous experiences with the term, with the sole exception of this reference in question, the term "black bag" is used for illegal domestic surveillance by the FBI. More specifically, it tends to come up in discussions of Watergate and COINTELPRO.

And this article should be merged with covert operations. The distinction between the two articles is hairsplitting. I am sure the distinction is well intentioned, but it is so fuzzy as to be useless.

Georgejdorner (talk) 00:27, 3 December 2012 (UTC)

Actually the Reliable Source for the meaning of "black bag operation" is not from the CIA, although I would certainly consider them to be a reliable source when it comes to what they mean by certain words. The work cited, The Encyclopedia of the Central Intelligence Agency, is one in the series of Facts On File American History, published by Facts On File Inc., 132 West 31st St., New York. The definition they give would certainly include domestic surveillance by the FBI as well as other one-time operations, and the article would be improved by any citations of those FBI activities as a real-life example of "black bag".
As for the distinction between "covert" and "black," I don't find it fuzzy or hairspliiting; it is based on the degree of deception involved, or the effort put into establishing "deniability" as opposed to mere secrecy. I respect your personal knowledge of the situation, but unless you can find some source to support it, it remains Original Research. --MelanieN (talk) 07:06, 3 December 2012 (UTC)

Hello, Melanie,

Having rechecked the source, I find that you are indeed correct about origin of the source, and I withdraw my above comments concerning the Agency misleading you. My apologies for burdening you with replying to my error.

And I am not pushing any OR at you. I have yet to research anything on this article. I am trying to use my inside knowledge to help you.

If there were any history in this article, I believe it would become apparent that whether an operation is deniable or not depends on turn of events. When secret operations are threatened with exposure, they can go covert so they can continue. Thus your tidy little definition above kicks in only after it's all over. For instance, the CIA began secret operations in Laos in the late 1950s with uniformed Green Berets. When that was later exposed, the CIA programs in Laos were suddenly run by "civilians" in Post Exchange clothing and the bafflegab machine went into high gear to hide the socalled Secret War.

This leads to another troubling issue with this article. It seems entirely a top down view of theory, with no input from actual intelligence operators and veterans.

I did not realize I would get this deeply involved in this when I left a comment when passing through. I'll take a look for FBI black bag sources for you, but no promises. And I still disbelieve the CIA definition you are quoting.

Georgejdorner (talk) 16:12, 3 December 2012 (UTC)


I am aware that Google hits are not a basis for WP decisions. Nevertheless, Google book search returns 79 hits for "CIA black bag" versus 6240 hits for "FBI black bag". And yet "black bag" is purportedly a CIA term.

Georgejdorner (talk) 16:30, 3 December 2012 (UTC)

(Edit conflict - let me reply to your addendum in a minute) I appreciate your interest in this article, and you could certainly bring a needed perspective to it. Unfortunately Wikipedia doesn't allow us to write from our personal knowledge. That's what "original research" means; it doesn't mean actually doing research, in fact it means the opposite: putting in material for which you can't cite a source. This can be a frustrating thing at Wikipedia, where you may KNOW something from your personal knowledge, but you aren't supposed to add it unless you can attribute it to some Reliable Source. I'd love to see what we can come up with to expand this from a boots-on-the-ground perspective - maybe some CIA operative's published memoirs would qualify? --MelanieN (talk) 16:36, 3 December 2012 (UTC)
Reply to your addendum: I certainly think FBI operations can qualify as "black". The article doesn't say or imply that "black operations" are only CIA. In fact it says "by a government, a government agency, or a military organization. This can include activities by private companies or groups." The definition of "black bag" comes from a CIA-oriented publication but I don't think it is meant to imply that these terms are unique to the CIA. --MelanieN (talk) 16:38, 3 December 2012 (UTC)
P.S. I see that the wikipedia article Black bag operation refers only to FBI operations. We should mention that here. --MelanieN (talk) 16:40, 3 December 2012 (UTC)
There, I added a sentence to the article about FBI black bag operations. I also expanded the "deception" angle a little. --MelanieN (talk) 16:48, 3 December 2012 (UTC)
I found several sources that support your definition of "black bag" better than the one in the article; I have modified the article accordingly. I'm so glad you are taking an interest in this article! It is resulting in improvements. --MelanieN (talk) 18:03, 3 December 2012 (UTC)

Hello, Melanie,

Thank you for accepting my hints as being helpful. I have not edited this article, nor will I. And I am about to tell you about my only research for this article, and you can judge whether or not it is OR.

I checked out the Google hits I mentioned above, for the term "CIA black bag". The only references I found in Google book search mentioned that CIA black bag ops took place during Watergate and COINTELPRO. That search found no backing for the Facts On File source.

Finally, I scarcely expect that WP expects me to wipe my memory clean to come in here and edit, though the editors do. There seems to be a general trend in WP to treat anyone with personal knowledge of a subject as suspect of OR. This has been especially true when I mentioned being eyewitness to historic events that were wrongfully described. Not that I have ever tried to push these unsourced assertions into an article; instead I have tried to use them as a guide, as I have been with you. When I do write, any and every item I write into an article, I cite sources. However, bad faith toward my personal experiences seems to be the standard reaction from WP editors. It is a leading reason I have quit creating or editing articles recently. I am tired of being disrespected. I am a professional writer, and have no need to be here to take nonsense from the ill informed.

That makes your acceptance all the more welcome. Thanks.

Georgejdorner (talk) 17:33, 6 December 2012 (UTC)

I hear you, with your frustration about the "original research" thing. I have violated it myself, to tell you the truth, when I see something that I simply KNOW is false. In fact the first few edits I ever made on Wikipedia were when I found statements about things in my neighborhood that were simply wrong. I didn't need a source to change the assertion that MCRD-San Diego is located "on the Pacific Ocean" or that the San Diego Yacht Club is located on Shelter Island; I simply knew that wasn't true and I fixed it. I guess I was too naive at the time to recognize 'original research' when I committed it!
CIA black bag ops during Watergate? Surely that should have been FBI ops, if it was domestic? --MelanieN (talk) 17:47, 6 December 2012 (UTC)

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