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Remote ViewingPublicity and Media
  The Sunday Times, London
3 December 1995
Day of the Pentagon: Psychic warriors were trained to enact 'thought theft' on Kremlin

by James Adams
Washington

THE MAN was a cynic. Noel Koch, a high-ranking Pentagon official, had heard talk of the strange goings-on at a top-secret military base hidden in the countryside about an hour's drive from the White House. He had been brusquely dismissive of the experiments being conducted by scientists on men supposedly capable of impossible psychic feats.

However, one night as Koch drove home after listening to military officers telling him how these weirdos could change the course of the world by reading their enemies' minds, he had a profoundly unsettling experience. The man sharing a ride with him took a silver fork from his pocket, held it out and, simply by staring at it, managed to bend it. For the first time, Koch doubted his convictions. Maybe mind really could overcome matter.

What Koch had encountered was a tantalizing glimpse of the secret twilight zone of American foreign policy, aimed at tapping into the paranormal and ensuring that America always knew what its enemies were planning. Officials believed the system could even be used to read the minds of the men in the Kremlin at those crucial moments before they decided to press the nuclear button and unleash Armageddon.

Bare details of the astonishing psychic program, destined to cost the taxpayer more than L12m during its 23 years, emerged for the first time last week after its continued operation was challenged by a new sceptical regime in the Pentagon and intelligence community. The fork-bending episode was an attempt by a military officer to convert him to the possibilities of the seemingly impossible.

This sort of uncertainty -- and the possibility that America just might be able to predict the future -- launched the psychic programme in the early 1970's. American intelligence experts, willing to try anything in the battle for supremacy over the Russians, rushed into action after learning by conventional spying activities that the Soviet Union was investing heavily in paranormal experiments.

The disclosure had cuased apoplexy in the Pentagon. Some officials doubted that the Russians could ever pull off "thought theft" by using psychics. Other officials, however, were convinced that the Russians might achieve a breakthrough a "steal" America's most important secrets or somehow even enter the minds of senior officials.

A secret unit was set up. As in the East-West space race, the Americans were determined to get to the prize of dominance first. Officials recruited the agents they would use to try to outwit the communist world. the tests were rigorous. The men with psychic "leanings", many from the military were hired after undergoing tests at the Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, California, to determine whether they were psychic. They were trained and tested by three basic methods. In one, a "sender" would travel to a remote site and view an object, while the "viewer" back in the laboratory would try to use extrasensory perception to describe and draw it.

One particularly talented psychic accurately drew windmills when the sender was at a windmill farm and later a footbridge across a march when a sender went to the San Francisco Bay area wildlife refuge. Their handlers were ecstatic.

The psychics were tested for precognition: trying to guess an answer that had not yet been reached. They also looked at clairvoyance: trying to discover something that had happened but was not yet known.

There were casualties. The mental pressure of some of the tests drove men crazy. "People had been having out-of-body experiences," Koch said. "The hope was that they might be able to travel distances and perhaps enter someone else's mind. But people had been having trouble getting back into their bodies and some had to be taken to hospital."

The group was originally known asProject Scanate or "Scan by Co-ordinate" and recruits were given the latitude and longitude of objects and asked to "see" what was at the location. This evolved into a broader experiment that was called, variously, Stargate, Grill Flame, Sun Streak and Centre Lane.

Among the visionarieswho supported the projects there was a belief that the paranormal could be exploited to gather intelligence and probe the enemy's mind to steal his secrets and undermine his morale. But the results were mixed when the group went to work.

Joe McMoneagle, a one-time army intelligence officer considered to be psychic, was one of the first recruits to be used to help America to deal with foreign crises.

"I found that I was good at it and I developed my skill," McMoneagle said last week. "It's not really something which can be taught. One either has it or not.

"We would empty our minds of everything and get into a centred meditative state. We might write the information as it came to us, or sketch. What's important to remember is that this informatino was never used alone. It was always in concert with other information. So those who say there isn't one instance where remote viewing could stand alone as a way to solve something are probably right."

McMoneagle was employed, with colleagues, to augment the traditional array of intelligence-gathering tricks: satellites, electronic intercepts and covert surveillance.

The team's first high-profile problem was the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979, when militants seized the American embassy in Tehran and held 63 diplomats prisoner. Almost immediately the American government began planning to rescue the hostages, but intelligence was thin and the exact locatino of all the Americans was impossible to learn through conventional methods.

"They would take a picture of a hostage, put it in a double envelope and give it to me," said McMoneagle. "Then I would concentrate and sketch the room where that person was being held, or maybe just the contents of the room. My rate was and is about one in four. I would consider it effective that I could describe the location where three of the hostages had been taken."

Ultimately, that information proved of little value as an attempt to rescue the hostages turned into tragedy when the transport aircraft crashed at a site codenamed Desert One, south of Tehran.

However, there were some startling successes. One psychic described an airfield with a gantry and crane at a set of coordinates that placed it at the Soviet nuclear test site at Semipalatinsk. A spy satellite photograph the following day showed the exact crane and gantry structure described by the psychic.

The psychics, also described as "remote viewers," were used to try to locate Colonel Gadaffi before the 1986 airstrike on Tripoli by American aircraft. Although the bombing failed to kill Gadaffi, a psychic did apparently locate him.

There were high-profile failures, too. The psychics had suggested that an American general seized by Red Brigades terrorists in Italy in 1981 was held on a yacht on Lake Como. Police searched every boat and found nothing. Another sighting reported him hidden in Austria. That, too, was a false trail. The general was eventually released after police received a tip-off.

The project's existence has created a fierce debate over whether the intelligence community was kidding itself that the psychics were of any value. Ray Hyman, a psychology professor at the University of Oregon, who co-atuhored a CIA study into whether the psychics were worth the money, was dismissive. "My conclusion was that there's no evidence these people have done anything helpful for the government," he said.

Other government officials were insistent that psychic forces were of huge benefit. "Statistically speaking, we are exactly correct 50% of the time with a viewing," said Edwin May, a former director of Stargate. "The average person will guess correctly 20% of the time, so some say that's a difference of only 30%. But in statistics, 30% is a lot."

The CIA now wants to scrap the programme to save money and reduce the "giggle factor." It is unclear, however, whether the psychics will be pensioned off or whether their predictions will continue. As for Koch, his head still tells him it is all "bullshit." But then he remembers the night of the fork-bending, all those years ago, and he feels able to predict only one certainty: that he will never truly know. Not for sure.

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