Black Ops

Black Ops

"Black ops" is shorthand for "black operations," covert or clandestine activities that cannot be linked to the organization that undertakes them. The term is a highly problematic one, for a number of reasons. First, by definition, many activities conducted by organizations such as the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) are never intended to be linked to the agency itself. Second, a known example of a successful black operation would be a contradiction in terms.

Third, and perhaps most important, is the fact that the term "black ops" itself is much more likely to be used by novices than by members of the intelligence community. A member of the CIA or any such agency would not likely use such a term in describing a true black operation for obvious reasons; agents would be much more likely to disguise the nature of their undertaking with innocuous language. On the other hand, the intriguing sound of the phrase "black ops" makes it highly appealing to conspiracy-theory buffs and others whose interest is more in fantasy than in the often mundane reality of intelligence work. A search of the term "black ops" on the Internet is likely to turn up material from the organizational fringes (some of it tongue-in-cheek), rather than any serious investigation of clandestine activities.



Kahaner, Larry. Competitive Intelligence: From Black Ops to Boardrooms: How Businesses Gather, Analyze, and Use Information to Succeed in the Global Marketplace. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996.

Nutter, John Jacob. The CIA's Black Ops: Covert Action, Foreign Policy, and Democracy. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2000.


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