From Wikipedia, so take it with a grain of salt.
A false flag operation is an act committed with the intent of disguising the actual source of responsibility and pinning blame on another party. The term is popular amongst conspiracy theory promoters in referring to covert operations of various governments and cabals.
The term “false flag” originated in the 16th century as a purely figurative expression to mean “a deliberate misrepresentation of someone’s affiliation or motives”. It was later used to describe a ruse in naval warfare whereby a vessel flew the flag of a neutral or enemy country in order to hide its true identity. The tactic was originally used by pirates and privateers to deceive other ships into allowing them to move closer before attacking them. It later was deemed an acceptable practice during naval warfare according to international maritime laws, provided the attacking vessel displayed its true flag once an attack had begun.
The term today extends to include countries that organize attacks on themselves and make the attacks appear to be by enemy nations or terrorists, thus giving the nation that was supposedly attacked a pretext for domestic repression and foreign military aggression.
Similarly deceptive activities carried out during peacetime by individuals or non governmental organizations can (by extension) also be called false flag operations, but the more common legal term is a “frameup“, “stitch up”, or “setup”.
The Lavon affair
Main article: Lavon Affair
In the summer of 1954, a group of Egyptian Jews recruited by Israeli army intelligence were caught with plans to bomb American, British, and Egyptian civil targets in Egypt. The bombings were to be blamed on the Muslim Brotherhood, Egyptian Communists, “unspecified malcontents” or “local nationalists” with the aim of creating a climate of sufficient violence and instability to induce the British government to refrain from evacuating its troops occupying Egypt’s Suez Canal zone, a move that would embolden Egyptian President Nasser against Israel. But the plot was exposed before launch and Egyptian authorities were able to tail an operative to his target, arrest him and later search his apartment where the entire plan including the names of other agents and explosive materials were held. The expose caused a scandal in Israel with Israeli officials blaming one another for the operation and the Israeli defense minister, Pinhas Lavon resigning under pressure.
- Agent provocateur
- Black propaganda
- Denial and deception
- Fear mongering
- Front organization
- Joe job, a similar online concept
- State terrorism
- Strategy of tension