covert operation
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A covert operation is a military operation intended to conceal the identity of (or allow
plausible denial ''Plausible Denial: Was the CIA Involved in the Assassination of JFK?'' is a 1991 book by American attorney, Mark Lane (author), Mark Lane that outlines his theory that former Watergate scandal, Watergate figure E. Howard Hunt was involved with the ...
by) the party that instigated the operation. Covert operations should not be confused with
clandestine operation A clandestine operation is an intelligence Intelligence has been defined in many ways: the capacity for logic Logic (from Ancient Greek, Greek: grc, wikt:λογική, λογική, label=none, lit=possessed of reason, intellectual, dialec ...
s, which are performed in secret and meant to stay secret. Covert operations aim to secretly fulfill their mission objectives without anyone knowing who sponsored or carried out the operation, or in some cases, without anyone knowing that the operation has even occurred.


Impact

According to a 2018 study by University of Chicago politician scientist Austin Carson, covert operations may have the beneficial effect of preventing escalation of disputes into full-blown wars. He argues that keeping military operations secret can limit escalation dynamics, as well as insulate leaders from domestic pressures while simultaneously allowing them communicating their interest to the adversary in keeping a war contained. He finds that covert operations are frequently detected by other major powers.


Laws

Under U.S. law, the
Central Intelligence Agency The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA; ), known informally as the Agency and the Company, is a civilian foreign intelligence service of the federal government of the United States The federal government of the United States (U.S. fed ...
(CIA) must lead covert operations unless the president finds that another agency should do so and properly informs Congress. Normally, the CIA is the U.S. government agency legally allowed to carry out covert action.''Executive Secrets: Coved the Presidency'', William J. Daugherty, University of Kentucky Press, 2004, page 25. The CIA's authority to conduct covert action comes from the
National Security Act of 1947 The National Security Act of 1947 (Act of Congress, Pub.L.]80-253 61 United States Statutes at Large, Stat.]495 enacted July 26, 1947) was a law enacting major restructuring of the Federal government of the United States, United States government' ...
.William J. Daugherty, ''Executive Secrets: Covert Action and the Presidency'', University of Kentucky Press, 2004. President
Ronald Reagan Ronald Wilson Reagan ( ; February 6, 1911June 5, 2004) was an American politician who served as the 40th president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government of the Un ...

Ronald Reagan
issued
Executive Order 12333 Executive Order 12333, signed on December 4, 1981 by U.S. President Ronald Reagan Ronald Wilson Reagan ( ; February 6, 1911June 5, 2004) was an American politician who served as the 40th president of the United States from 1981 to 1989 ...
titled ''United States Intelligence Activities'' in 1984. This order defined covert action as "special activities", both political and military, that the US Government could legally deny. The CIA was also designated as the sole authority under the 1991
Intelligence Authorization Act The Intelligence Authorization Act was implemented in order to codify covert, clandestine operations and defines requirements for reporting such operations to the Congress. The American Constitution states, in Article 1, Section 9, that "a regul ...
and in
Title 50 of the United States Code Title 50 of the United States Code outlines the role of War and National Defense in the United States Code. * : Council of National Defense * : Board of Ordnance and Fortification * : Alien Enemies * : Espionage Act of 1917, Espionage * : Photogra ...
Section 413(e). The CIA must have a "Presidential Finding" issued by the President of the United States in order to conduct these activities under the Hughes-Ryan amendment to the 1991 Intelligence Authorization Act. These findings are then monitored by the oversight committees in both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives. As a result of this framework, the CIA "receives more oversight from the Congress than any other agency in the federal government". The
Special Activities Division The Special Activities Center (SAC) is a division of the Central Intelligence Agency The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA; ), known informally as "The Agency" and "The Company", is a civilian intelligence agency, foreign intelligence servi ...
(SAD) is a division of the CIA's Directorate of Operations, responsible for Covert Action and "Special Activities". These special activities include covert political influence and paramilitary operations.


Military intelligence and foreign policy

Covert operations and
clandestine operation A clandestine operation is an intelligence Intelligence has been defined in many ways: the capacity for logic Logic (from Ancient Greek, Greek: grc, wikt:λογική, λογική, label=none, lit=possessed of reason, intellectual, dialec ...
s are distinct. The ''
Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated TermsThe ''Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms'' is a compendium of terminology used by the United States Department of Defense The United States Department of Defense (DoD, USDOD or DOD) is an United States federal exec ...
'' (Joint Publication JP1-02), defines "covert operation" as "an operation that is so planned and executed as to conceal the identity of or permit
plausible denial ''Plausible Denial: Was the CIA Involved in the Assassination of JFK?'' is a 1991 book by American attorney, Mark Lane (author), Mark Lane that outlines his theory that former Watergate scandal, Watergate figure E. Howard Hunt was involved with the ...
by the sponsor. A covert operation differs from a clandestine operation in that emphasis is placed on concealment of a sponsor rather than on concealment of the operation". The
United States Department of Defense The United States Department of Defense (DoD, USDOD or DOD) is an executive branch department of the federal government A federation (also known as a federal state) is a political entity characterized by a union of partially self-g ...
definition has been used by the United States and
NATO The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO, ; french: Organisation du traité de l'Atlantique nord, ), also called the North Atlantic Alliance, is an intergovernmental military alliance between 30 European and North American countries. Th ...
since
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved —including all of the great powers—forming two opposing s: the and the . In a total war directly involving m ...
. In a covert operation, the identity of the sponsor is concealed, while in a clandestine operation the operation itself is concealed. Put differently, ''clandestine'' means "hidden", while ''covert'' means " deniable". The term '' stealth'' refers both to a broad set of
tactics Tactic(s) or Tactical may refer to: * Tactic (method), a conceptual action implemented as one or more specific tasks ** Military tactics, the disposition and maneuver of units on a particular sea or battlefield ** Chess tactics ** Political tactic ...
aimed at providing and preserving the element of surprise and reducing enemy resistance and to a set of
technologies Technology ("science of craft", from Greek , ''techne'', "art, skill, cunning of hand"; and , '' -logia'') is the sum of Art techniques and materials, techniques, skills, Scientific method, methods, and Business process, processes used in the ...

technologies
(
stealth technology Stealth technology, also termed low observable technology (LO technology), is a sub-discipline of military tactics and passive and active electronic countermeasures, which covers a range of methods used to make personnel, aircraft An airc ...
) to aid in those tactics. While secrecy and stealthiness are often desired in clandestine and covert operations, the terms ''secret'' and ''stealthy'' are not used to formally describe types of missions. Covert operations are employed in situations where openly operating against a target would be disadvantageous. Operations may be directed at or conducted with allies and friends to secure their support for controversial components of
foreign policy ''Foreign Policy'' is an American news publication, founded in 1970 and focused on global affairs, current events, and domestic and international policy. It produces content daily on its website, and in six print issues annually. ''Foreign Polic ...
throughout the world. Covert operations may include
sabotage Sabotage is a deliberate action aimed at weakening a polity, effort, or organization through subversion, obstruction, disruption, or destruction. One who engages in sabotage is a ''saboteur''. Saboteurs typically try to conceal their identitie ...
,
assassination Assassination is the act of murder, deliberately killing a prominent or important person, such as heads of state, head of government, heads of government, politicians, Monarchy, royalty, celebrity, celebrities, journalists, or CEOs. An assassina ...

assassination
s, support for coups d'état, or support for
subversion Subversion (from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the R ...
. Tactics include the use of a
false flag A false flag operation is an act committed with the intent of disguising the actual source of responsibility and pinning blame on another party. The term "false flag" originated in the 16th century as a purely figurative expression to mean " ...
or
front group A front organization is any entity set up by and controlled by another organization, such as intelligence agencies An intelligence agency is a government agency responsible for the collection, Intelligence analysis, analysis, and exploitation of ...
. The activity of organizations engaged in covert operations is in some instances similar to or overlaps with, the activity of
front organization A front organization is any entity set up by and controlled by another organization, such as intelligence agencies An intelligence agency is a government agency responsible for the collection, Intelligence analysis, analysis, and exploitation of i ...
s. While covert organizations are generally of a more official military or paramilitary nature, like the DVS German Air Transport School in the
Nazi era Nazism (), officially National Socialism (german: Nationalsozialismus; ), is the ideology and practices associated with Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party (german: link=no, Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, NSDAP, or National Socia ...
, the line between both becomes muddled in the case of front organizations engaged in terrorist activities and organized crime.


Law enforcement

Undercover To go "undercover" is to avoid detection by the entity one is observing, and especially to disguise one's own identity or use an assumed identity for the purposes of gaining the trust of an individual or organization to learn or confirm confident ...
operations (such as
sting operation In law enforcement, a sting operation is a deceptive operation designed to catch a person committing a crime. A typical sting will have an undercover law enforcement officer, detective, or co-operative member of the public play a role as crimi ...
s or infiltration of
organized crime Organized crime is a category of , national, or local groupings of highly centralized enterprises run by criminals to engage in illegal activity, most commonly for profit. While organized crime is generally thought of as a form of illegal busines ...
groups) are conducted by
law enforcement agencies A law enforcement agency (LEA), in North American English, is any government agency responsible for the law enforcement, enforcement of the laws. Outside North America, such organizations are usually called police services. In North America, some o ...
to deter and detect
crime In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper ...

crime
and to gather information for future
arrest An arrest is the act of apprehending and taking a person into custody (legal protection or control), usually because the person has been suspected of or observed committing a . After being taken into custody, the person can be and/or . An ...

arrest
and
prosecution A prosecutor is a legal representative of the prosecution in states with either the common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tr ...
. The FBI's domestic operations were defined on September 29, 2008, by the "Attorney General's Guidelines for Domestic FBI Operations".(31 January 2017). "The FBI's Secret Rules series:Domestic Investigations and Operations Guid
The Intercept
Retrieved 27 July 2021.


Examples

* Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group * Creation of Bangladesh *
Operation Wrath of God Operation "Wrath of God" ( he, מבצע זעם האל ''Mivtza Za'am Ha'el''), also known as Operation "Bayonet", was a covert operation directed by Mossad to assassinate individuals involved in the 1972 Munich massacre in which 11 members of th ...
*
Operation Storm-333 Operation Storm-333 (russian: Шторм-333, Shtorm-333) was a covert operation A covert operation is a military operation intended to conceal the identity of (or allow plausible denial by) the operation. Covert operations should not be confused ...
*
Operation Gladio Operation Gladio is the codename for clandestine " stay-behind" operations of armed resistance that was organized by the Western Union The Western Union Company is an American worldwide financial services and communications company A compa ...
*
Operation Anthropoid On 27 May 1942, Reinhard Heydrich, the commander of the Reich Main Security Office and acting governor of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, was assassinated in Prague by Czechoslovak resistance operatives Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš. Hey ...
*
Huston Plan The Huston Plan was a 43-page report and outline of proposed security operations put together by White House The White House is the official residence and workplace of the president of the United States. It is located at 1600 Pennsylva ...
*
Lavon Affair Pinhas Lavon The Lavon affair was a failed Israeli covert operation A covert operation is a military operation intended to conceal the identity of (or allow plausible denial by) the operation. Covert operations should not be confused with clan ...
* Iran-Contra affair * Project MKULTRA * Operation CHAOS *
CIA The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA; ), known informally as "The Agency" and "The Company", is a civilian foreign intelligence service of the federal government of the United States The federal government of the United States (U.S. ...

CIA
Project Cherry *
Vang Pao Vang Pao ( RPA: ''Vaj Pov'' , Nyiakeng Puachue: , Pahawh: , Lao: ວັງປາວ; 8 December 1929 – 6 January 2011) was a major general in the Royal Lao Army. He was a leader of the Hmong American community in the United States. ...
's Clandestine Army *
Palace DogPalace Dog was a United States Air Force covert operation to support the Royal Laotian Government in its military operations during the Laotian Civil War portion of the Vietnam War. Palace Dog, Project 404, and the Raven FACs principal task was the s ...
*
Raven Forward Air Controllers The Raven Forward Air Controllers, also known as The Ravens, were fighter pilots used as Forward air control during the Vietnam War, forward air controllers (FACs) in a covert operation in conjunction with the US Central Intelligence Agency in La ...
*
Black operation A black operation or black op is a covert or clandestine operation by a government agency, a military unit or a paramilitary organization; it can include activities by private companies or groups. Key features of a black operation are that it ...
s *
False flag A false flag operation is an act committed with the intent of disguising the actual source of responsibility and pinning blame on another party. The term "false flag" originated in the 16th century as a purely figurative expression to mean " ...


In popular culture

Covert operations have often been the subject of popular films (''
Zero Dark Thirty ''Zero Dark Thirty'' is a 2012 American thriller film Thriller film, also known as suspense film or suspense thriller, is a broad film genre that evokes excitement and suspense in the audience. The suspense element found in most films' plots i ...
'', ''
Argo Image:Lorenzo Costa 001.jpg, ''The Argo'' (), painting by Lorenzo Costa In Greek mythology, ''Argo'' (; in Ancient Greek, Greek: ) was the ship on which Jason and the Argonauts sailed from Iolcos to Colchis to retrieve the Golden Fleece. Name ...
'', ''
The Falcon and The Snowman ''The Falcon and the Snowman'' is a 1985 American spy drama Drama is the specific Mode (literature), mode of fiction Mimesis, represented in performance: a Play (theatre), play, opera, mime, ballet, etc., performed in a theatre, or on Ra ...
'', ''
The Kremlin Letter ''The Kremlin Letter'' is a 1970 American American(s) may refer to: * American, something of, from, or related to the United States of America, commonly known as the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the ...
''), novels, TV series, and comics. The Company is a fictional covert organization featured in the American TV series ''
Prison Break ''Prison Break'' is an American television program, television serial (radio and television), serial drama created by Paul Scheuring for Fox Broadcasting Company, Fox. The series revolves around two brothers, Lincoln Burrows (Dominic Purcell) an ...

Prison Break
''. Also other series that deal with covert operations are '' Mission: Impossible'', ''
Alias An alias is an alternative name, such as a pseudonym. Alias or aliasing may also refer to: Arts and entertainment Comics * Alias (comics), ''Alias'' (comics), an American comic book * Alias Enterprises, a United States publishing company, includ ...
'', ''
Burn Notice ''Burn Notice'' is an American television series created by Matt Nix Matthew E. Nix (born September 4, 1971) is an American writer, producer, and director. He is best known for creating the USA Network USA Network (on-air simply as USA, st ...
'', ''
The Unit ''The Unit'' is an American action-drama television series created by David Mamet that aired on CBS from March 7, 2006, to May 10, 2009 with the total of four seasons and 69 episodes. The series focuses on a top-secret military unit modeled ...

The Unit
'', '' The State Within'', ''Covert Affairs'', ''Air Wolf'', ''24 (TV series), 24'', ''The West Wing'', ''The Blacklist (TV series), The Blacklist'', ''Scandal (TV series), Scandal, Strike Back (TV series), Strike Back series, and Vagabond (TV series), Vagabond.''


See also

* Operation Cyclone * Black project * Church Committee * Counter-intelligence * Counterintelligence Field Activity * ''Covert Warfare (book), Covert Warfare'' * Filibuster (military) * HUMINT (Clandestine HUMINT, clandestine (Clandestine HUMINT operational techniques, operational techniques)) * Manhunt (military) * Military intelligence * SO10 * Spy fiction * Spy film * Task Force Falcon (US), Task Force Falcon


References


Further reading


Statutory Procedures Under Which Congress Is To Be Informed of U.S. Intelligence Activities, Including Covert Actions by Alfred Cumming, 18 January 2006 (HTML)
– Congressional Research Service


External links





20 January 2006 (HTML) via thewall.civiblog.org

20 January 2006 (HTML) via thewall.civiblog.org * [https://web.archive.org/web/20070707201837/http://thewall.civiblog.org/rsf/big_brother_talons_on_you.html "Big Brother is Watching You Part 1 - 902 MI Group TALON Project Summary, Spreadsheet, Rep. Wexler response, and News Coverage collection] (includes Shane Harris's "TIA Lives On") via thewall.civiblog.org
Steath Network Operations Centre
– Covert Communication Support System
Covert Warfare
{{DEFAULTSORT:Covert Operation Military intelligence collection Intelligence operations by type Covert organizations Secrecy Covert operations,