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Remote ViewingPublicity and Media
  Sunday June 2 1996
The Vancouver Courier
Spy versus psi: The Cold War induced powers to explore information gathering through psychic phenomena

by Geoff Olson
Contributing writer

Do spies use psi?

One 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.

So 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."

Former 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 research.

The 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.

To 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.

According 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..."

While 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.

Hal 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.

According 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.

Swann 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 "remote viewing."

Soon intelligence representatives of the CIA, the army, the navy and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) came calling.

"It 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.

Fort 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 reconnaissance shots.

So, what exactly is remote viewing?

According 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."

The 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.

Many 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."

The 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.

One 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 correct."

According 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.)

According 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.

Under 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.

Remote 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 Stargate program.



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