Clandestine operation

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A clandestine operation is one whose existence is known only to its sponsor. Espionage is a classic example; if the fact of espionage were known, it could be countered.

In contrast, a covert operation may start out as secret, but, when action has been taken (e.g., a force infiltrates clandestinely to blow up a bridge), the fact of the action is not in dispute. What remains in question is the identity of the sponsor.