Though remote viewing traces its roots years into the past, its immediate history dates from a number of pioneering experiments performed under the auspices of the American Society for Psychical Research by New York artist and psychical researcher Ingo Swann. With the remarkable successes enjoyed at the ASPR, Swann teamed up with Dr. Hal Puthoff at SRI-International's Radio Physics Laboratory in Menlo Park, California. Working together, Puthoff and Swann and soon a number of others conducted a series of ever-more sophisticated experiments, developing the approach that they ultimately dubbed "remote viewing."
The successes they enjoyed soon attracted the attention of the Central Intelligence Agency. It was an era during which disturbing revelations from behind the Iron Curtain indicated that the Soviets were not only heavily financing experiments in various psychic phenomena, but that they were experiencing considerable success with their research program. The CIA needed to know if there really was anything to the sorts of things the Soviets were researching with such enthusiasm. If there was, it could pose a significant threat to national security. It might also be useful to our own defense establishment.
Representatives from the Agency brought a select few projects for which it wanted answers, and tasked Swann and one of his colleagues another man with impressive remote viewing talents named Pat Price. The results in some cases were spectacular, and in all cases sufficiently intriguing that the CIA kept coming back for more. However, in the mid-70s a number of scandals involving the CIA forced it to divest itself of any sort of controversial activities in which it was at that time engaged.
Oversight for the small but growing program passed to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) under the program name "Grill Flame." A few still smaller programs administered by military services and other agencies nestled under the Grill Flame umbrella. Among them by 1978 was the Army's program, which was originally begun as a counter-intelligence effort, with the mission to evaluate through "reverse engineering" how vulnerable to psychic spying US secrets were.
So successful was this effort, that Department of Defense and Army officials decided to change the emphasis from assessing friendly vulnerabilities to actively collecting against America's Cold War adversaries. However, psychic spies were not especially popular among many generals, upper-level bureaucrats, and politicians. By the early 1980s most of the Army program's cousins in the other military Services were moribund, and DIA had scaled back its Grill Flame effort.
In 1980, the Army itself lost all funding for the program. However, Major General Bert Stubblebine, commander of the Army's Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) parent headquarters for the organization controlling the RV unit took a personal and active interest in the psychic program. In 1983 he directed that the program be redesignated the "INSCOM Center Lane Program," and be funded directly from INSCOM's budget: "out-of-hide," in military parlance.
Serendipitously, Swann and the SRI team had developed a prototype, product-improved version of remote viewing known as "coordinate remote viewing." Around the time of Center Lane's debut, the Army and SRI-International signed training contracts which led to five military and DoD civilian personnel being trained in the new remote viewing technique at SRI facilities.
In 1986, INSCOM transferred the unit to DIA, and changed its name to "Sun Streak." Early in the 1990s it went through yet another name change this time to "Star Gate," the name by which it became known to world when the program was declassified in 1995. During its lifetime, the remote viewing unit collected intelligence against a broad range of targets: strategic missile forces, political leaders, narcotics operations, research and development facilities, hostage situations, military weapons systems, secret installations, technology developments, terrorist groups; the list was staggering, and the successes were many in some cases, even spectacular.
But Congress directed that CIA take back responsibility for the program from DIA in 1995 and the CIA didn't want it. Under the guise of an "objective" study by the American Institutes for Research (AIR), a reputable Washington DC think tank, the CIA commissioned the services of one of the most prominent anti-psi skeptics in the country, and contrived to skew the assessment such that the RV program would seem to have been useless as an intelligence resource.
In its final "Star
Gate" incarnation, the RV program was cancelled by the CIA in mid-1995. The
Agency conveniently kept for itself all the personnel spaces that were
transferred from DIA with the program (in a time of pandemic downsizing, even a
dozen or so additional personnel slots can be a bureaucratic godsend). But while
the details of this story are fascinating, they merely set the stage for
something much more interesting: the exploration of what remote viewing is, and
how it is done.
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