Spy Versus Psi:
The U.S. Intelligence Remote Viewing Program (1996)

Do spies use psi?

One of the more persistent stories about the dark world of US 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 twenty year tango between spooks and psychics. The surprise was the source of this information --the CIA itself. CIA confirms US. used 'psychic' spies, announced the AP wire story of November 28 last year. According to the news item, Project Stargate employed psychics "to hunt down Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, find plutonium in North Korea and help drug enforcement agencies."

Former CIA director Robert Gates, appearing on Nightline the day of the wire service story, 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 important as well as visually compelling." The advisor, allowing himselt to be identified only as "Norm," said 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. Former CIA director 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 have had comparatively greater official sanction here than they have in the west. So when Soviet leaders saw possible military applications of psi, they were first out of the gate.

According to Major General Ed Thompson, former Chief of Staff for US Army Intelligence, American spies were monitoring the Soviet psychic programs. They discovered an unnerving discontinuity in the period between 1969 to 1971. "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 hypnosis, 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. US intelligence turned to Stanford Research Institute, the country's second largest think tank. SRI was already then involved in classified hi-tech defense work, and had an annual budget of $70 million.

Hal Puthoff was a young physicist working at SRI on physics projects with lasers. He had done a few experiments testing ESP -- "sort of a lark", he now says -- when he 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 twenty years of his life.

According to the SRI physicist, some of their best results were with New York artist Ingo Swann. Puthoff and his colleague Russel Targ began testing Swann with objects hidden in boxes, and pictures in envelopes -- experiments he regarded as trivializations of his skills. Swann told Puthoff he could close his eyes and see anywhere on the planet. Give him any coordinates 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 coordinates, to objects 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 DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency ) came calling at SRI.

"It was a very business-like atmosphere," said Major General Ed Thompson of a visit to SRI. "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, Thomspon had a go himself. After coming away with what he interpreted as positive results, he started up his own remote viewing operation in Fort Meade, Maryland.

Fort Meade drew its remote viewers from the ranks of the military. Artistic and extraverted types were said to be the best candidates, as were "dreamers" who were easily hypnotizable. (Not your average military profile, surely.) Several viewers at Fort Meade were formerly imagery interpreters, experts at evaluating overhead reconnaissance shots.

So what, exactly is remote viewing?

According to the PEAR laboratory at Princeton, which has purportedly replicated the findings of SRI, 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."

It was SRI that set the standard for all remote viewing research to follow. Under protocols developed mostly by Ingo Swann, the remote viewer attemted to get sensory impressions of a distant target, after entering a state of high relaxation. Sometimes the remote viewer's tester supplied coordinates 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 the details were progressively more refined with imagery. The 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 only produced useful results only 15 per cent of the time, but some officials say the numbers -- particularly in the sessions guided by Swann -- were actually much higher, up around the eighty-five percent mark.

One remote viewer, Joe McMoneagle, was said to be particularly skilled. He was tasked with 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 expionage purposes." (Mcmoneagle, a winner of the Legion of Merit award, retired in 1984 and continues work remote viewing as a consultant.)

According to the accounts, the remote viewing program, both at SRI 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 "channellers", tarot card readers and the like.

Under the DIA's wing, however, several successes were cited, including the finding of Brigadier General 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's 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.


Associated Press, Nov 28, CIA confirms U.S. used 'psychic' spies

Epstein, Edward Jay. Deception: The Invisible War Betweeen the KGB and The CIA. Simon and Schuster 1989.

May, Edwin C.,, The American Institutes for Research REview of the Departmnet of Defense's Star Gate Program: A commmentary. Journal of Scientific Exploration, Volume 10, Number 1.

Nightline, ABC Television. Ted Koppel interviews CIA officials on project Stargate. Nov. 28, 1995

Puthoff, H.E. CIA-initiated Remote Viewing Program at Stanford Research Institute. Journal of Scientific Exploration, Volume 10, Number 1.

Paranormal Borderline, UPN Television. Interview With Thomas McMoneagle.

Schnabel, Jim, Writer and Producer. Psi-Tech: The Real X-Files. Channel 4 Television, London, Aug. 1995


Joe McMoneagle wasn't feeling well.

It was a hot summer night in July, 1970, and McMoneagle, an overseas US military man, was relaxing with fellow servicemen in a restaurant in Brassau, Austria. McMoneagle remembers the establishment as being full of loud and happy revelers, the rustic interior thick with cigarette and pipe smoke. It was a bit warmer than usual, but it wasn't until he was offered a rum and coke by a one of the revellers that he began to feel ill.

The back of his neck grew hot, and as the group gathered to leave, McMoneagle had the distinct impression his surroundings were changing. The voices around him grew unintelligible, and as he reached for the door, his hand moved "in slow-motion arc toward the handle."

"My last blurred memory," he wrote in his 1993 book Mind Trek, "was the door opening and my body falling through it from its own momentum. I distinctly remember fearing that I would break the glass with my fall and then heard a horribly loud pop and thought it might have been my face striking something as I was falling."

Expecting cobblestones to smack him in the face, McMoneagle instead caught his balance and found himself standing in the street. He felt light and quite well, but when he turned he discovered a body half in and half out of the gutter by the front door. "The shock of what I saw sent a huge shudder throughout my being. Lying in the street was my body, face up, with eyes and mouth open."

This was one man's introduction to what he would later consider to be psychic experiences. Out of body travels and other paranormal events continued to dog McMoneagle after his 1970 near-death experience.

In 1978, McMoneagle found himself under the study of Professor Hal Puthoff at Stanford Research Institute. McMoneagle, along with other individuals who had previously demonstrated psychic talents, were tested to see if they could "remote view" distant targets. An individual target could be a public swimming pool, a hi-tech windmill, a church -- practically anything visually compelling feature on the California landscape. Two individuals would open sealed instructions with the target, and travel to the site, while back in the lab McMoneagle and other remote viewers would attempt to get psychic impressions of the target seen by the two travelling subjects.

Using double-blind procedures to rule out conscious or subconscious cueing, the experimenters themselves were unaware of the target sites. Only after the return of the travelling subjects were the results examined.

The testing grew more sophisticated, and a standard set of scientifically repeatable protocols were developed. According to the SRI scientists, McMoneagle and others consistently scored significantly higher than chance.

The military and intelligence interest in the research at SRI was near immediate. Soon both the US Army and the Defense Intelligence Agency had their own remote viewing units, and by the mid-eighties remote viewers were working on hidden nuclear weapons, drug trafficking operations, and even the whereabouts of Colonel Gaddafi. This was the so-called "Project Stargate".

McMoneagle was assigned to the Headquarters of U.S. ArmyIntelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) in Arlington, Virginia, where he culminated his career acting as a Special Projects Intelligence Officer with the 902nd Military Intelligence Group.

It was from 1978 to 1984, according to reports, that McMoneagle had several outstanding successes with remote viewing , including the discovery of a new Typhoon class Russian sub --with all details later determined to be correct.

But with the discovery of the apparent ability to psychically transcend space and time, remote viewers began to stray into areas that were distinctly nonmilitary. One such effort involved remote-viewing Jupiter. Ingo Swann, a New York artist, and by all accounts one of the most successful of the SRI remote viewers, was tasked with psychically plunging into the upper atmosphere of the planet. Here's Swann's own record of the session:

6:03:25 "There's a planet with stripes."

6:04:13 "I hope it's Jupiter."

"I think that it must have an extremely large hydrogen mantle. If a space probe made contact with that, it
would be maybe 80,000 - 120,000 miles out from the
planet surface."

6:06 "So I'm approaching it on the tangent where I can see
it's a half-moon, in other words, half-lit/half-dark.
If I move around to the lit side, it's distinctly yellow
toward the right."

6:06:20 "Very high in the atmosphere there are crystals... they
glitter. Maybe the stripes are like bands of crystals,
maybe like rings of Saturn, though not far out like
that. Very close within the atmosphere.
(Unintelligible sentence.) I bet you they'll reflect
radio probes.

Swann cites this as evidence he remote-viewed Jupiter's ring -- an astronomical feature of the planet only discovered by probe in 1979. The time of the remote viewing session was 1973. Critics have pointed out there are no mountain ranges on Jupiter, as Swann asserted in his session, but the artist points out they ignore his successful "hit" with Jupiter's ring, and Jupiter's high infrared reading, among other observations. (The ring statement can be verified, Swann points out, in the 1977 book Mind-Reach)

Other remote viewers took to remote-viewing what appeared to be UFOs. Both McMoneagle and Swann claim to have had some success with this, apparently picking up on bizarre, structured craft entering earth's atmosphere. McMoneagle was once given, without his knowledge, the "Cydonia region" of Mars as a target. Pencil in hand, he began to sketch the images brought forth from his unconscious. McMoneagle had impressions of an advanced civilization that suffered a catastrophe millions of years ago, and later discovered his drawings and descriptions of landmarks matched the geological features targeted by coordinate for the Martian surface.

( Courtney Brown, a Ph.D. political science professor, recently went through remote viewing protocols with the intent of examining the more far-out stuff alluded to by other psychic voyagers. Brown now runs a remote viewing center, the FarSite Institute, and his book on what he considers to be psychically retrieved information on UFOs and aliens, Cosmic Voyage, marks the newest phase of remote viewing: an expensive inner arcade game . However, critics sympathetic to remote viewing charge Brown's book is a record of bad science, a documentation of loose procedures unlike those used at SRI. )

Eventually it was the more bizarre aspects of the remote-viewing programs led the intelligence agencies to wash their hands of them -- at least officially.

The years following Oliver North, and Iranscam guaranteed the official scrutiny of any other small-scale "hip-pocket" operations that might prove to be embarrassing for American intelligence agencies. Remote viewing itself, consequently, was viewed dimly. Project Stargate was unfavorably reviewed, and civilian administrators shred twenty years worth of documents. Resources to the program dwindled, morale plummeted, and the Defense Intelligence Agency no longer wanted any involvement with politically questionable spooky stuff.

The program limped on with support from Congress, and remote viewers were called upon in intelligence operations during the Gulf War. In 1995, the remnants of the program were transferred to the agency that initially supported it -- the CIA, who proceeded to shut the remote viewing program down. Still smarting from the Ames spy case, and feeling vulnerable to congressional and public criticism, the agency decided to take the ESP out of espionage. Or so the story goes.

The question is, if remote viewing had proven utility for US. intelligence, has it truly been discarded? Or did it attain too high a public profile at SRI and other locales, necessitating a new, "black" program somewhere in the highly compartmentalized world of intelligence?

"It isn't the remote viewing that's dangerous," Joe McMoneagle now says, " it's the information and what people might do with it."

The remote viewers themselves came away with an irretrievably altered view of themselves and their place in the universe. For many, relationships with familiy and friends suffered, as they moved into realms of human experience beyond sharing. According to one remote viewer, who was tasked with remote-viewing the Lockerbie jet disaster, the greatest risk from the penetration of space and time was "a God complex".

Joe McMoneagle, for his part, didn't want to return to his body during his near death experience. "Because, in comparison, this physical reality we live in is most primitive. There are many people who share our world by have no respect for it.

"I wanted to remain in the Light and become part of it because it felt as if all knowing and feeling were contained there. I was like swimming in nothing bur pure and unconditional love...I argued to stay, but lost the argument. There is probably a reason for it, but I haven't a clue as to what it might be."


Associated Press, Nov 28, CIA confirms U.S. used 'psychic' spies

Brown, Courtney. Cosmic Voyage: A Scientific Discovery of Extraterrestrials Visiting Earth. Dutton, 1995.

McMonEagle, Joseph. Mind Trek: Exploring Consciousness, Time, and Space through Remote Viewing. Hampton Roads, 1993

May, Edwin C.,, The American Institutes for Research REview of the Departmnet of Defense's Star Gate Program: A commmentary. Journal of Scientific Exploration, Volume 10, Number 1.

Miley, Michael. Remote Viewing and Alien Targets. UFO Magazine, May/June 1996.

Puthoff, H.E. CIA-initiated Remote Viewing Program at Stanford Research Institute. Journal of Scientific Exploration, Volume 10, Number 1.

Schnabel, Jim, Writer and Producer. Psi-Tech: The Real X-Files. Channel 4 Television, London, Aug. 1995

Swann, Ingo. The 1973 remote viewing probe of the planet Jupiter http://www.webcom.com/way/the-way.html

The Psychics. Mysteries of the Unknown, Time-Life Books, 1992.

Geoff Olson