Dennis Cux, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and in that role the first chairman of the Active Measures Working Group, wrote an article on this. I don't know for sure where the article was published originally (but I think it's this book on Amazon), but it's now available on the CIA's website. The quote relevant to the question is (I emphasised parts that I think are especially relevant):
In Soviet intelligence doctrine, the concept of "active measures" covers a wide span of practices including disinformation operations, political influence efforts, and the activities of Soviet front groups and foreign communist parties. All active measures have the common goal of enhancing Soviet influence, usually by tarnishing the image of opponents. They generally involve elements of deception and often employ clandestine means to mask Moscow's hand in the operation.
Overall, where active measures fit in the Soviet framework may be better understood by considering the whole spectrum of Soviet foreign policy endeavors through the optic of "white," "gray," and "black" operations. Normal diplomatic, trade, aid, and informational efforts can be considered "white" or overt activities. "Gray" activities are those involving communist fronts, foreign communist parties, "clandestine" radio stations, or well-known media outlets for disinformation. While not officially acknowledged to be Soviet sponsored, semi-over "gray" activities are widely known as under Soviet direction and control. In contrast, "black" activities involve genuinely clandestine operations: the use of agents of influence, spreading false rumors, duping politicians and journalists, and disseminating forgeries and fake documents.
Active measures fall under either the "gray" or the "black" rubric, although the line between the semi-overt and the clandestine is often blurred.