A black operation or black op is a covert operation by a government, a government agency, or a military organization. This can include activities by private companies or groups. Key features of a black operation are that it is clandestine, it has negative overtones, and it is not attributable to the organization carrying it out. The main difference between a black operation and one that is merely clandestine is that a black operation involves a significant degree of deception, to conceal who is behind it or to make it appear that some other entity is responsible ("false flag" operations).
"Black" may be used as a generic term for any government activity that is hidden or secret. For example, some activities by military and intel agencies are funded by a classified "black budget," of which the details, and sometimes even the total, are hidden from the public and from most congressional oversight.
Reported examples of black operations
In 2007 the Central Intelligence Agency declassified secret records detailing illegal domestic surveillance, assassination plots, kidnapping, and infiltration and penetration of other "black" operations undertaken by the CIA from the 1950s to the early 1970s. CIA Director General Michael Hayden explained why he released the documents, saying that they provided a "glimpse of a very different time and a very different agency".
^Popular Electronics, Volume 6, Issue 2–6. Ziff-Davis Publishing Co., Inc. 1974, p. 267. "There are three classifications into which the intelligence community officially divides clandestine broadcast stations. A black operation is one in which there is a major element of deception."
^Djang, Chu, From Loss to Renewal: A Tale of Life Experience at Ninety, Authors Choice Press, Lincoln, Nebraska, p. 54. "(A black operation was) an operation in which the sources of propaganda were disguised or mispresented in one way or another so as not to be attributed to the people who really engineered it."