I never knew it, but there is a legal difference between “covert operations” and “clandestine operations.” According to today’s NYT, covert operations are missions “in which the [U.S.] government denies any role and that can be undertaken only by presidential directive and with formal Congressional notification.”
Clandestine missions are not “officially deniable” and require less oversight.
The general thrust of the Times article is that the Pentagon is seeking more covert operations–of the type that used be the providence of the CIA–for use in the Middle East.
Just think, top secret operations for which, if they screw up, the government can just plausibly deny ever happened!
I wish I had some sort of covert operations capital myself, in which I could achieve that exalted state of deniability. The nice wine glasses we just bought and which somehow are now chipped and one is entirely missing? I don’t know anything about that! Never heard of it. Didn’t happen.