They are top-secret missions manned by specially trained intelligence and military elite. Covert operations using unconventional tactics outside the standard protocol. This episode uncovers the clandestine activities and state-of-the-art training of the U.S. Special Forces that undertake the most dangerous surveillance, reconnaissance, and intelligence collecting missions on Earth. What makes a mission a Black Operation or Black Op? Who approves a mission--and how much does the President know? What secret training prepares a soldier for these life and death assignments? How is the CIA involved in Black Ops? From cloak and dagger spy games to hand-to-hand combat, Black Ops are shrouded in secrecy...until now.
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. A black operation typically involves activities that are highly clandestine and often outside of standard military/intelligence protocol, sometimes against the law. 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).
A single such activity may be called a "black bag operation"; that term is primarily used for covert or clandestine surreptitious entries into structures to obtain information for human intelligence operations. Such operations are known to have been carried out by the FBI, the Central Intelligence Agency, Mossad, MI6 and the intelligence services of other nations. 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". In May 2007 ABC News, and later the Daily Telegraph, reported that United States president George W. Bush had authorized the CIA to undertake "black operations" in Iran in order to promote regime change as well as to sabotage Iran's nuclear program. ABC News was subsequently criticized for reporting the secret operation, with 2007 presidential candidate Mitt Romney saying he was "shocked to see the ABC News report regarding covert action in Iran," but ABC said the CIA and the Bush Administration knew of their plans to publish the information and raised no objections.