Peering Into Remote Viewing for Intelligence Use: My Search of Declassified Reports and Personal Experience

Dylann Hanrahan ’25

Staff Writer

Many of our parents know remote viewing from an earlier term, ESP (Extra Sensory Perception). Remote viewing is the practice of seeking information about a distant or unseen subject, using the mind. I read through the CIA’s now declassified report An Evaluation of the Remote Viewing Program: Research and Operational Applications (September 22, 1995) to better understand. It reads referring to the intelligence community, “it has conducted a program intended to investigate the application of one paranormal phenomenon‚remote viewing, or the ability to describe locations one has no prior knowledge.” I will admit that a good portion of the report did go over my head, but it was pretty fascinating, and I suggest you give it a read. 

The techniques were originally used during the Cold War era as part of the US’s efforts to develop covert intelligence programs; by the 1990s, this would be known as the “Star Gate Project.” Apparently, the program was defunded in 1995 but many sources claim that intelligence personnel worked with psychics for information during the “war on terror,” and there are a few images online of attempts to locate Osama bin Laden.  

In July 1995, the CIA declassified and released some documents revealing its sponsorship in a 1970s program at Stanford Research Institute to clearly determine whether remote viewing “might have any use for intelligence collection.” I read through the program’s founder and first director’s recount of the now declassified early interest (1972-1985) to better understand the history behind the program and to comprehend why the government was so interested in the metaphysical. It was frankly quite entrancing as he described that there was increasing concern about the level of Soviet parapsychology. For many Western scientists, the field was considered    pseudoscience, so they had to find a laboratory separate from academia that could house a quiet run classified investigation. He explains of the first simple experiments, “The tests were simple, the visitors simply hiding objects in a box and asking Swann to attempt to describe the contents. The results generated in these experiments are perhaps captured most eloquently by the following example. In one test Swann said, “I see something small, brown and irregular, sort of like a leaf or something that resembles it, except that it seems very much alive, like it’s even moving! The target chosen by one of the visitors turned out to be a small live moth, which indeed did look like a leaf.”

Since the partial release of documents in 1995, some closely associated with the program wrote tell-all’s revealing sensitive details of the program. The authors now express some regret for exposing the secrets and techniques used in the initial experiments/work. Lucky for us the information is already released into the public sphere, so we can delve into it together. Did I try out some of the techniques, so you don’t have to? Yes, yes, I did. I will leave it at yes, the techniques do work if you are trained in that way, but as many authors warn, you should be thoroughly familiar with basic spiritual and energetic teachings before you attempt. 

So, you’re probably thinking, did remote viewing actually help intelligence efforts? Actually, yes, remote viewers working for intelligence have taken part in a number of successful operations. Joseph McMoneagle told the Washington Post in December 1995 that he was involved in around 450 missions between 1978 and 1984. This included locating hostages in Iran, and pointing agents to a radio concealed in the pocket calculator of a suspected KGB agent in South Africa, etc. He interestingly explained that that reported $20 million for the 20-year project was small compared to its real value which he estimated that the viewers “saved the government about $240 million by helping find lost Scud missiles in the Persian Gulf War.”

However, many questions remain. Is remote viewing and use of psychics in the government ethical? After reading through a report from Columbia, I concluded that the tasks the subjects were asked to complete were not too far off meditation practices I had worked on in the past. Traditionally, the techniques used in remote viewing originate from the Indian Yoga system and concept of “Divya Drishti.” I knew it wasn’t a coincidence the techniques sounded so familiar, Russel Targ, American physicist and author, has shared that the techniques used by the viewers in the US are “strikingly similar to the detailed instructions given in the Yoga Sutra!” I picked up my copy of The Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali (400 B.C.) and, sure enough, the text describes the ashta-siddhis (physic powers) that a practitioner can harness. 

So, would the original Yogis be upset that we are using these mind-expanding rituals and technique for intelligence purposes? Truthfully, I’m not too sure, but it is something to ponder. We could dive further into this, and talk about “psychotronics,” but I will leave it there.

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