THE PENTAGON — Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson applauded the Navy's return to what he called "its storied tradition of false flag operations" in a speech on Friday, several attendees confirmed.
In remarks to senior Navy leaders, Richardson noted that the American fleet has been blaming provocations at sea on outsiders since Yankee sailors dressed up like Indians at the Boston Tea Party in 1773.
"Even before we had declared independence," he noted, "we were already doing our best to pretend other people started our first war." Richardson also noted half a dozen times that such operations would help the Navy during "great power competition" and in the "high end fight," as official Navy guidance on speeches given by senior officers require.
"False flag operations" refer to operations intended to give the impression that another actor launched the initial attack. "The term false flag literally refers to pirate ships hauling up an English or Spanish flag before they attacked," noted Bill Roberts, a naval warfare and vexillology expert at the Center for New American Security Studies (CNASS). "It let them get close to merchant vessels, before unleashing a deadly broadside of artillery and seizing them."
Attendees of the speech say Richardson emphasized the timeliness of the Navy's return to false flag activity. "As we face increasing maritime gray zone threats, including Chinese maritime militias, the Russians in the Black Sea, and North Korean smuggling, it is imperative that we learn how to deceive our enemies so they cannot deceive us," he told his audience of admirals, captains and senior civilians.
The admiral did not provide any specifics about what false flag operations the Navy had resumed.
According to Roberts, in the last several decades the CIA had increasingly taken over responsibility for all false flag operations.
"Ever since the DoD botched Operation Northwoods during the Cuban Missile Crisis in the '60s, which was a plan to blame Fidel for CIA-orchestrated terrorist attacks, the boys at Langley have liked to keep uniform personnel far away from this kind of stuff," he noted.
"I can't think of a single occasion since Vietnam where military personnel have faked a terrorist attack. It's great the Navy's getting back into it."
Richardson's remarks came as American leaders sought to assign blame for attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, which they claim were likely a covert action by Iran.
When asked for more information by reporters, Pentagon officials said the American public would just have to "trust us."