Do You Know the Secrets of the Black Ops?

John Miller

What are "black ops"?

In governmental parlance, "black ops" are black operations. They are the top-secret missions that governments undertake for a wide variety of reasons … and the public may never find out about them.

The Office of Strategic Services was the precursor to which black ops masters?

Formed during World War II, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was the forerunner of the CIA. The CIA, of course, now runs many of the country's black ops.

What's one key trait of black ops?

Secrecy is a core component of black ops. And as such, the agency that orders the operation doesn't want to be linked to the mission in any way, particularly if it fails in spectacular fashion.

What happens during a "black bag" operation?

It's the stereotypical image -- a burglar carries his or her tools in a black bag. In a "black bag" operation, the mission is to sneak into a facility, grab vital information and then get away.

What's one thing the CIA's Special Operations Group would NOT do?

The CIA's Special Operations Group are true warriors, and they might arrive in war zones before anyone else, including the Marines or Green Berets. And you didn't hear that from us.

Which of the following units would be most likely to perform black ops?

SEAL Team Six is one of the military's most highly-trained units. As such, they delve into black ops, performing missions that few other soldiers can.

What is currently one of the primary purposes of American black ops?

Since the 9/11 attacks, counter-terrorism is at the top of America's list of military priorities. Many black ops are meant to thwart terrorists' plans all over the globe.

What's another key component of black ops?

Want to kidnap the leader of a foreign country? That's probably not legal. And that's why you'll need a black operation to pull it off.

Operation Zapata is better known as what?

In 1962, CIA-trained Cuban exiles attempted to overthrow Fidel Castro. The top-secret mission ended in catastrophe, as the exiles failed and made embarrassing headlines all over the world.

What's an example of a black ops mission?

Want to nab missile launch codes from a high-security facility? You'll need a black ops mission for that … and hopefully, the enemy will never find out.

Where does the CIA carry out its black ops?

The CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) is responsible for many black ops. It performs most of said operations overseas.

The U.S. has been conducting black ops since at least what year?

The U.S. has never shied away from black ops. It's been stealing secrets from other nations via black ops since at least the World War I era, when state secrets were a key to winning major battles.

What is SOCOM?

SOCOM is the United States Special Operations Command. Founded in 1987, it's in charge of many of America's top-secret missions, including a lot of black ops.

Some secret agents take part in "direct action"? What's that?

Some black ops agents are the stuff of action movies. They take part in direct action, hardcore sabotage and even assassinations meant to thwart the enemy.

The Special Activities Center is part of which U.S. agency?

The Special Activities Center, formerly named the Special Activities Division, is part of the CIA. The agents in this group carry out many of the CIA's most classified missions.

What's the purpose of black-bag cryptanalysis?

When you want to to snag communications secrets from an enemy, and you use burglary (or other non-computerized means) to do it, you need black-bag cryptanalysis. It's the old-school way to steal secrets.

Operation Gladio was a black operation that took place during which conflict?

As the Cold War got downright frigid, NATO allies left operatives in Europe to be on the lookout for a possible invasion by the Soviets and their minions. It was a "stay-behind" operation, in which cells of operatives conducted missions to make life harder for the Eastern Bloc's leaders.

Which organization conducts black ops on American soil?

The FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigations) weaves black ops into some of its duties. In doing so, the FBI can thwart all sorts of criminal wrongdoing, from drug trafficking to child abuse.

What's one way CIA operatives avoid being associated with the United States?

In the event that they are captured, CIA agents who perform black ops must ensure that they can't be linked in any way to the U.S. They don't have identification papers, job records, or even clothing that might be traced back to their real American identities.

How do authorities of targeted nations generally respond to black ops missions within their borders?

By definition, successful black ops missions are clandestine. The affected country may not know about the mission for days or weeks, and when they do find out, they don't have evidence to pinpoint the agency that conducted the mission.

What is one common black ops mission?

In the military, kill/capture missions are common. And because these missions often inflame local tensions, they're executed as black ops to avoid negative press.

In 1949, just after WWII, the Allies attempted the Albanian Subversion, for which purpose?

Albania's location near the USSR, along with its unstable politics, made it a candidate for civil war. The Allies infiltrated the area in hopes of causing major headaches for the Soviets.

How did the Albanian Subversion end?

Soviet spies caught on to the attempted Albanian Subversion. Most of the operatives were caught -- and hundreds of men who took part in the plot were killed.

When were the U.S. Special Forces founded?

Following WWII, America began formally organizing its Special Forces in order to counter threats of Communism. Special Forces take many forms, and some of them engage in black ops in far-flung locations.

How does the military pay for black ops?

How does one pay for black ops? With a black budget, of course. Black budget items are kept under tight secrecy, often under the guise of national security.

What's one task assigned to the Political Action Group, which is part of the CIA?

The Political Action Group of the CIA works behind the scenes to influence target countries. It often uses psycholoigcal warfare to affect the morale and overall effectiveness of enemy forces.

The U.S. conducted Operation Eagle Claw for which purpose?

In 1980, America's famed Delta Force unit attempted one of its first secret missions: to free embassy workers being held hostage in Iran. The mission was a catastrophe from the start and ended in the deaths of eight servicemen.

Men and women of the Political Action Group are a lot like what?

No, their lives don't play out like the "Bourne" movies. But Political Action Group agents are the closest thing that the U.S. has to James Bond-style heroes, doing the hard (or dirty) work of the government.

What are "black projects"?

Black projects are funded by black budgets. These projects might be anything the government wants to keep secret, from new weapons systems to special forces operations.

The Intelligence Support Activity is part of which branch of the military?

The Intelligence Support Activity group is part of the Army. This agency's job is to gather information for Special Operations, some of which fall into the "black" category.

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Image: Colin Anderson/ Blend Images/gettyimages

About This Quiz

In the middle of the night in Abbottabad, Pakistan, they landed their helicopters with deadly intent. Ten years after the September 11 attacks brought down the World Trade Center towers and sent the world reeling in horror, a top-secret mission was underway in hopes of capturing or killing the 9/11 mastermind, Osama bin Laden. It was a so-called "black ops" mission, one with secretive soldiers and high-tech weapons known only to America's intelligence leaders. And hours later, bin Laden's body was dropped - lifeless - into the sea. In this quiz, you too can peer into the dark waters of US black operations.

For decades, America's black ops have been the stuff of legend and lore.They are not really existent, they are not really on a United States payroll, and they are not truly part of the official military. Instead, they exist in a shadowy world in which missions are so dangerous and so politically sensitive that no one can know about them, not even the American taxpayers who foot the bills. Do you really think you know anything about how black ops are funded and planned?

Throughout World War II, the Allied used spies and secret missions to undermine the Nazis and the Japanese Empire. And after the war, they were doubled down, instructing undercover agents to chew political and social holes in the Communist bloc.

Take this cloak-and-dagger quiz now! Let's find out how little you really know about America's black ops!

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