|Spy versus psi: The
Cold War induced powers to explore information
gathering through psychic phenomena
spies use psi?
of the more persistent sotires about the dark
world of U.S. intelligence is that they have used
psi--the umbrella term commonly used for psychic
phenomena--to gather information.
it was no surprise to observers when newspapers
recounted the 20-year tango between spooks and
psychics. The surprise was the source of this
information--the CIA itself. "CIA confirms
U.S. used 'psychic' spies," announced an
Associated Press wire story Nov. 28 last year.
According to it, Project Stargate employed
psychics "to hunt down Libyan leader Moammar
Gadhafi, find plutonium in North Korea and help
drug enforcement agencies."
Central Intelligence Agency director Robert
Gates, appearing on Nightline that day, gave the
official position on Project Stargate. Along with
Gates was a former technical advisor to the
agency, as well as a physicist involved in psi
physicist spoke of "dramatic (ESP) cases in
the laboratory, both statistically importnat as
well as visually compelling." The advisor,
allowing himself to be identified only as
"Norm," said that little of the psi
work produced "any significant intelligence
product," but then spoke of results with
psychics that made for "eight-martini
nights" -- apparent intelligence parlance
for information so accurate it cracks the sense
of reality of everyone involved, requiring a few
drinks to recover. Gates downplayed the
effectiveness of the Stargate program, saying ESP
had a low priority for the agency.
understand this weird chapter in the history of
espionage, you have to go back to the dark days
of the Cold War, when any sort of perceived
gap--missile, bomber, or otherwise--was a source
of apocalyptic anxiety. The Russians have had a
long fascination with otherworldly topics. Even
under communism, paranormal claims had
comparatively greater official regard there than
they have had in the West. So when Soviet leaders
saw possible military applications of psi, they
were first out of the gate.
to Maj.-Gen. Ed Thompson, former chief of staff
of U.S. Army Intelligence, American spies were
monitoring Soviet psychic programs. They
discovered an unnerving discontinuity in the
perior between 1969 and 71. "There was a
watershed in Soviet research," said Thompson
in a recent British television interview.
"Prior contact between unofficial Soviet
citizens and the West dried up, and the whole
program appeared to go classified, hidden from
view, and was presumed to be funded by the KGB...
It was evident that they were particularly active
in long-distance telepathic communication, also
in PK, which they called telekinesis, and also
telepathic hypmnosis, possibly to disrupt
individuals in key positions..."
mainstream American academia has always been
highly dubious of paranormal claims, the concern
of the intelligence community was never whether
psi was comprehensible within a materialist
paradigm, but whether or not it worked.
U.S. intelligence turned to the Stanford Research
Institute, the country's second-largest think
tank. It was already involved in classified
high-tech defense work, and had an annual budget
of $70 million.
Puthoff was a young physicist working at the
institute on physics projects with lasers. He had
done a few experiments testing ESP--"sort of
a lar," he says now--when he was approached
by representatives of the intelligence community.
Thus began his involvement in "remote
viewing," both classified and unclassified
work on psi that would take up the next 20 years
of his life.
to the physicist, some of the best results were
with New York artist Ingo Swann. Puthoff and his
colleague Russell Targ began testing Swann with
objects hidden in boxes, and pictures in
envelopes--experiments he regarded as a
trivialization of his skills. Swann told Puthoff
he could close his eyes and see anywhere on the
planet. Give him any co-ordinates for latitude
and longitude, the artist said, and he would
describe what was there.
apparently had some success with this, and the
researchers thought they had a case of eidetic
imagery--perfect visual recall from memory, from
material presumably culled from maps. They chose
more refined co-ordinates, down to buildings, and
Swann still kept getting "hits" far
beyond chance. This was the first indication of
the military possibilities of so-called
intelligence representatives of the CIA, the
army, the navy and the Defense Intelligence
Agency (DIA) came calling.
was a very business-like atmosphere,"
Maj.-Gen. Thompson said about a visit to the
research institute. "It was not a seance,
just a very hard-headed practice of remote
viewing." After hearing Swann claim he could
turn anyone, military or not, into a remote
viewer, Thompson had a go himself. After coming
away with what he interpreted as positive
results, he started his own remote viewing
operation in Fort Meade, Md.
Meade drew its remote viewers from the ranks of
the military. Artistic and extroverted types were
said to be the best candidates, as were
"dreamers" who were easily hypnotized.
(Not your average military profile, surely.)
Several viewers were formerly imagery
interpreters, experts at evaluating overhead
what exactly is remote viewing?
to the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research
laboratory, which has purportedly replicated the
Stanford findings, the phenomenon is the
"ability of human participants to acquire
information about spatially and temporally remote
geographical targets, otherwise inaccessible by
any known sensory means."
institute set the standard for remote viewing
research to follow. Under protocols developed
mostly by Ingo Swann, the remote viewer attempted
to get sensory impressions of a distant target,
after entering a state of high relaxation.
Sometimes the remote viewer's tester supplied
co-ordinates for a given target, but it was later
discovered these weren't always necessary.
of the first impressions of targets were
whole-body sensations, or vague feelings--hot or
cold, dark or light--and details were
progressively more refined with imagery. Targets
were those intelligence problems not accessible
by satellites and spies, such as stockpiles of
nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, and the
whereabouts of intelligence "assets."
official position is that remote viewing alone
never guided operational decisions. However, many
sessions were believed by high-ranking
individuals to be important supplements to other
data. Officially, remote viewing produced useful
results only 15 percent of the time, but some
officials say the numbers--particularly the
sessions guided by Swann--were actually higher,
up around the 85 percent mark.
remote viewer, Joe McMoneagle, was said to be
particularly skilled. His job was remote viewing
a large, mysterious building in the northern
Soviet Union. "Most analysts though the
Soviets were trying to build a miniature aircraft
carrier," says McMoneagle. "We remote
viewed the building, and determined that in fact
they were building the largest submarine in the
world. We were able to describe in detail the
tubes and how they were mounted on the sides of
the sub. It turned out to be the new Typhoon
class submarine, the largest submarine in the
world. It had exactly the number of tubes we
said, and everything was essentially
to McMoneagle, with remote viewing, "It's
actually possible to gain access to the insides
of file cabinets, desk drawer, rooms, buildings
in restricted areas of other countries for
espionage purposes." (McMoneagle, a winner
of the Legion of Merit award, retired in 1984 and
continues remote viewing as a consultant.)
to the accounts, the remote viewing program, both
at the Stanford Research Institute and other
locales, began to disintegrate in the final
years. Eventually the program came under the
aegis of the Defense Intelligence Agency, which
introduced less structured techniques. The
program lost focus with the introduction of
civilian "channelers," tarot card
readers and the like.
the DIA's wing, however, several successes were
cited, including the finding of Brig.-Gen. James
Dozier, kidnapped by the Italian Red Brigade.
According to the physicist in charge of the DIA
Stargate project, one remote viewer gave the name
of the town where Dozier was being
hid--Padua--and another gave the name of the
building. Details down to the bed where Dozier
was chained were apparently accurate.
viewer wanderings weren't limited in space,
apparently. And they weren't limited in time.
Next month we look at some of the stranger claims
made for remote viewing, and the decline of the