False flag (or black flag) describes covert operations designed to deceive in such a way that the operations appear as though they are being carried out by entities, groups, or nations other than those who actually planned and executed them. Operations carried out during peace-time by civilian organizations, as well as covert government agencies, may by extension be called false flag operations if they seek to hide the real organization behind an operation. Geraint Hughes uses the term to refer to those acts carried out by “military or security force personnel, which are then blamed on terrorists.”
In its most modern usage, the term may also refer to those events which governments are cognizant of and able to stop but choose to allow to happen (or “stand down”), as a strategy to entangle or prepare the nation for war. Furthermore, the term “false flag terrorism” may even be used in those instances when violence is carried out by groups or organizations which, whether they know it or not, are being supported or controlled by the “victim” nation. deHaven-Smith argues that the terminology has become looser in recent years due to the increasingly complex levels of “duplicity” and “international intrigue” between states. Some argue that false flags are methods used by deep states as a form of deep politics.
The name “false flag” has its origins in naval warfare where the use of a flag other than the belligerent’s true battle flag as a ruse de guerre, before engaging the enemy, has long been accepted. Such operations are also accepted in certain circumstances in land warfare, to deceive enemies in similar ways providing that the deception is not perfidious and all such deceptions are discarded before opening fire upon the enemy.