Search out the word ‘covert’ on SOFREP and you’ll find nearly 200 results. We’ve covered a lot of topics since we came online a little over 2 years ago, but one of the common threads that binds SOFREP is ‘covert operations.’ Whether it’s stealth technology, online, business espionage or Central Intelligence Agency/Special Operations clandestine operations, battles are fought and lives are lost. Today we’re going to take a look at 10 of these articles.

10. Covert Op Gone Bad: Three Ukrainian Special Forces Officers Captured by Pro-Russian Militia

Three officers working for the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) were captured by pro-Russian militia forces while conducting a covert operation in the town of Gorlivka. The officers were in Gorlivka in order to find and most likely capture one of the militia’s leaders believed to be responsible for the death of a Ukrainian politician, Volodymyr Rybak, who was found dead approximately one week prior. Continue reading

9. Russian Covert Operations in Afghanistan

After the Russian withdrawal from Afghanistan in the eighties, there were plenty of Russians who stayed behind—and many more actually returned. Seldom do we ever hear of such persons, yet what could be more startling about the Russian leftovers fighting alongside the Islamists in Afghanistan?

In 2010, the United States and Russia conducted a joint operation targeting Afghanistan’s heroin trade in Nangahar Province. The operation was considered a tactical success but strategically, did the Russians come out as the true victors in that operation? Did they learn anything about US Special Operations, our tactics, our intelligence capabilities, technology, etc. — things for years we tried to keep far away from Russia’s intelligence services? Continue reading

8. CIA Covert Action Program in Colombia Targets FARC

In late December of 2013 the Washington Post released a well-written and highly detailed report regarding a very successful CIA covert action program aimed at eliminating over two dozen rebel leaders associated with the world’s most (formerly) well-funded insurgency: Colombia’s FARC. While the report did not receive a lot of coverage from the mainstream media, it still remains an excellent current and ongoing example of the kinds of work the CIA performs today.

The Washington Post reports that the ongoing covert action program, which also “includes substantial eavesdropping help from the National Security Agency, is funded through a multibillion-dollar black budget.” As SOFREP previously reported regarding the budget cuts to the CIA’s other multibillion dollar effort to bolster the capabilities of their non-official cover or deep cover officers, it is evident covert action programs will not be experiencing these same cuts. Continue reading

7. Hamas Covert Communication Techniques Exposed

These guys have become pretty creative over the past decade or so on how to communicate without detection or compromise. Most of the time, their advancements in technology and/or creativity are a direct response to some news breaking story about the technology or techniques used to catch them – very irritating to say the least!

Read on to learn how Hamas uses 3 covert communications techniques – the courier, the saved draft, and the virtual world. Continue reading

6. Taking a Closer Look at Cyber Covert Actions

The President has the ability under Executive Order 12333 and Title 50 of the US Code to authorize a covert action whose purpose is “to influence political, economic, or military conditions abroad, where it is intended that the role of the United States Government will not be apparent or acknowledged publicly”. This includes the use of cyber weapons if the plan can secure the approval of the National Security Council’s National Security Planning Group (NSPG), which is the NSC’s committee overseeing covert action.

There are specific approval procedures in place that every proposed covert action (or “special activity” as they’re called in EO 12333) must comply with. In general, these procedures include… Continue reading

Covert Op Gone Bad: Three Ukrainian Special Forces Officers Captured by Pro-Russian Militia

Read Next: Covert Op Gone Bad: Three Ukrainian Special Forces Officers Captured by Pro-Russian Militia

5. Covert Ops: Is Duqu Preparing for the Next Stuxnet?

I’m sure you are all familiar with the Stuxnet computer virus, but for those who are not clear on how it works, it was essentially a virus that was designed to mess up Iran’s nuclear weapons/energy infrastructure. Once it got into the computers at Iranian nuclear facilities, it tweaked the rotation speed on Uranium enrichment centrifuges. By speeding up or slowing down the spin of these centrifuges, it throws off the degree of enrichment that takes place, in the end making the Uranium useless for initiating a nuclear chain reaction.

However, there is also a Trojan Virus called Duqu making the rounds. Duqu infiltrated computers by making use of a Windows kernel exploit, then installs itself on the computer, bundles information on the hard drive, encrypts it, and then sends that information off to places and personalities that are unknown at this time. Whoever is doing it has covered their tracks exceedingly well. According to, “We believe Duqu and Stuxnet were simultaneous projects supported by the same team of developers.” Continue reading

4. The Assassination of a Hamas Commander: Covert? Clandestine? Answers…

The Mossad’s Mission: Covertly and clandestinely locate and kill Mahmoud al-Mabhouh – a known Hamas Commander and Arms Dealer – and make it look like a heart attack. Was this the first attempt on his life? No, the Mossad attempted to kill him on 3 other occasions.
Snapshot of the Assassination

A team of males and females arrived in Dubai, in alias, some arrived as couples, but most arrived as individuals. They set up surveillance at the airport and waited for the target to arrive. He was identified without pause by the team, then a “discreet/not to lose” surveillance was conducted to his hotel.

Once at the hotel, the team determined… Continue reading

3. JSOC Covert Ops in the Philippines?

On the night of February 2nd, 2012, a bomb was dropped on a terrorist cell’s meeting in progress taking place in The Philippines southern Sulu Province. The resulting explosion killed three terrorist leaders as well as twelve other members of the infamous Al-Qeada associated Jemaah Islamiyah, or JI for short. Continue reading

2.Chinese Espionage Methodology

Spying holds a unique place in the minds of Chinese political and military planners, the ideas and concepts long ago embedded in Chinese culture by great minds such as Confucius and Sun Tzu.

In the West, intelligence agencies serve to inform elected leaders of what is going on in the world so that they can make the best possible policy decisions. In China, “the PRC’s intelligence apparatus is more than just a support department for policymakers. It is inextricably linked to the foreign policy decision making process and internal methods of economic development and political control.”

The vertical integration of intelligence gathering with economics and political control cannot be over emphasized here. Chinese intelligence operations are not a mirror image of American’s approach to intelligence operations. Continue reading

1. The Men of Covert Operations

Covert operations. Everything about them must be in secrecy – the preparation, the execution, and the responsibility. The world would see the outcome, but they can never know who was responsible. The political implications could/would be catastrophic, but the cause to undertake the operation must have been paramount. These operations could range anywhere from sabotage (hacking into Iran’s nuclear reactor and causing a meltdown), assassinations, and, most commonly, covert regime change actions.

Read on as we pay tribute to four covert operators who lost their lives in battle, and whose stars are now on the CIA’s Memorial Wall. Continue reading

(Featured Image Courtesy: Northeastern University)