The Difference Between Clandestine Operations and Covert Operations

Since most people aren’t familiar with “spookspeak,” you may be wondering what the difference is between a “clandestine” operation and a “covert” one. The simple definition is that a clandestine operation is an intelligence or military operation carried out in such a way that the operation goes unnoticed by the general public, while a covert operation is a military operation that's intended to conceal the identity of the party that instigated the operation. More simply, clandestine keeps the operation a secret and covert keeps secret the identity of the creator of the operation. There’s not a lot of difference between covert and clandestine operations in terms of requirements, planning, and operational characteristics. Both operations were used abundantly during World War II and the Cold War by the United States and the Soviet Union. In fact, the period between the 1940s and 1980s is often referred to as the “golden period of secret operations.” After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the ending of the Cold War, covert and clandestine operations were aimed at international terrorist organizations.