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Steve Hansen: Military once sought to build a psychic spy team

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Posted: Tuesday, March 4, 2014 12:00 am

Government spying by any means possible is nothing new. Here’s an example:

Back in the 1970s through 1990s, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the military conducted activities that covertly challenged conventional thinking on the subject. Some of the experiments took place within a two-hour drive from Lodi.

This research came to be known as “remote viewing.” It was an attempt to look behind the closed borders of American adversaries via extra-sensory perception or ESP. There were several projects taking place — with the majority under the secret code name of project “GRILL FLAME.”

Headquarters for this venture were located in old, wood-framed military buildings 2560 and 2561 at Fort George G. Meade in Maryland. But some of the activities were performed in the Bay Area at the Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park.

These SRI experiments were conducted by physicists Harold Puthoff (pronounced “put-hoff”) and Russell Targ, et al. In their once-classified report from the mid 1970s, they gave a summary of SRI Project 3133.

The two scientists and their assistants trained a select group of viewers. The subjects were taught to deeply concentrate while attempting to discover what objects were located at a pre-selected (or sometimes randomly selected) place. Double-blind studies were used when neither the viewers nor the scientists knew the specific targets.

According to the declassified report, Puthoff and Targ developed a system where even visiting CIA personnel, with no previous exposure to these viewing techniques, could perform well under controlled laboratory conditions.

Although different levels of experiments were performed, perhaps the most interesting was long-distance, trans-Atlantic remote viewing. In one example, a former Burbank police commissioner named Pat Price was given the coordinates of a geographical location in the Soviet Union. He was asked to draw and describe what he “saw.”

The results were amazingly accurate. Price not only sketched in detail a secret Soviet particle beam laboratory (later confirmed by satellite) but also described the workings inside a secure building, which were verified by subsequent intelligence as well.

It is believed that the U.S. government discontinued these remote viewing experiments in 1995. But according to a disclosure by the UK’s Ministry of Defence in 2007, the United Kingdom continued to dabble in the phenomenon until as late as 2002. The Russians were also known to engage in these telepathic techniques.

The primary reason for cancellation of the program was lack of data reliability. When remote viewers were on target, they showed impressive results. But other times, they could miss the mark entirely. Reasons for variances were unknown. This was a problem when trying to review results from a traditional scientific model.

Science relies on experimental results to repeat under controlled laboratory conditions. However, variables must be known in order to replicate results. If variables are unknown, as in remote viewing, than duplication becomes difficult, if not impossible.

Another problem was the toll this activity took on the experimenters. It was a stressful task to continue mind-altering concentration on a regular basis without feeling some physical and psychological ill effects.

Not all in the scientific community embraced the results of remote viewing with open arms. The American Institutes for Research, contracted by the CIA, concluded in 1995 that: “Most importantly, the information provided by remote viewing is vague and ambiguous, making it difficult, if not impossible, for the technique to yield information of sufficient quality and accuracy of information for actionable intelligence.”

However, Maj. Gen. Edmund R. Thompson, U.S. Army Assistant Chief of Intelligence from 1977-81, had a completely different take on the subject: “I never liked to get into debates with the skeptics, because if you didn’t believe that remote viewing was real, you hadn’t done your homework.”

Steve Hansen is a Lodi writer and former Army civil affairs officer.

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