Remote viewing (RV) is the purported ability for a person to gather information on a remote target that is hidden from the physical perception of the viewer and typically separated from the viewer at some distance, a form of extra-sensory perception. The term was introduced by Russell Targ and Harold Puthoff in 1974.
As with other forms of extra-sensory perception, the objective validity of remote viewing has not been proved, and critics such as Randi and Clarke in An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural explain RV by normal means. From World War II until the 1970s the US government occasionally funded ESP research. When the US intelligence community learned that the USSR and China were conducting ESP research it became receptive to the idea of having its own competing psi research program. (Schnabel 1997)
Early SRI experiments
The report of a low-key psi experiment conducted in 1972 by SRI laser physicist, Hal Puthoff, with purported psychic Ingo Swann led to a visit from two employees of the CIA's Directorate of Science and Technology. The immediate result was a $50,000 CIA-sponsored project. (Schnabel 1997, Puthoff 1996, Kress 1977/1999, Smith 2005) As research continued, the SRI team published papers in Nature (Targ & Puthoff, 1974), in Proceedings of the IEEE (Puthoff & Targ, 1976), and in the proceedings of a symposium on consciousness for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (Puthoff, et al, 1981).
The initial CIA-funded project was later renewed and expanded. A number of CIA officials including John McMahon, then the head of the Office of Technical Service and later the Agency's deputy director, became strong supporters of the program. By the mid 1970s, facing the post-Watergate revelations of its "skeletons," and after internal criticism of the program, the CIA dropped sponsorship of the SRI research effort. Sponsorship was picked up by the Air Force, led by analyst Dale E. Graff of the Foreign Technology Division. In 1979, the Army's Intelligence and Security Command, which had been providing some taskings to the SRI investigators, was ordered to develop its own program by the Army's chief intelligence officer, Gen. Ed Thompson. CIA operations officers, working from McMahon's office and other offices, also continued to provide taskings to SRI's subjects. (Schnabel 1997, Smith 2005, Atwater 2001)
The program had three parts (Mumford, et al, 1995). First was the evaluation of psi research performed by the U.S.S.R. and China, which appears to have been better-funded and better-supported than the government research in the U.S. (Schnabel 1997)
In the second part of the program, SRI managed its own stable of "natural" psychics both for research purposes and to make them available for tasking by a variety of US intelligence agencies. The most famous results from these years were the description of a big crane at a Soviet nuclear research facility (Kress 1977/199, Targ 1996), the description of a new class of Soviet strategic submarine (Smith 2005, McMoneagle 2002) and the location of a downed Soviet bomber in Africa (which former President Carter later referred to in speeches). By the early 1980s numerous offices throughout the intelligence community were providing taskings to SRI's psychics. (Schnabel 1997, Smith 2005)
The third branch of the program was a research project intended to find out if ESP -- now called "remote viewing" -- could be made accurate and reliable. The intelligence community offices that tasked the group seemed to believe that the phenomenon was real. But in the view of these taskers, a remote viewer could be "on" one day and "off" the next, a fact that made it hard for the technique to be officially accepted. Through SRI, individuals were studied for years in a search for physical (e.g., brain-wave) correlates that might reveal when they were "on- or off-target".
Decline and Termination
Parallel with the work at SRI, Stephan A. Schwartz, who had just left government as Special Assistant to the US Chief of Naval Operations, developed almost the same protocol which he called Distant Viewing To study this, he began a research laboratory known as Mobius. A central question in the seminal IEEE paper (Puthoff & Targ, 1976) was whether RV was electromagnetic in nature, or something else. Schwartz had begun to consider how this might be studied in 1973, after reading the work of Soviet Academician Leonid Vasiliev, the tutor for Russian psychic Nina Kulagina, . This work had eliminated all of the EM spectrum except for very low frequency ranges, known as ELF.
Testing in the ELF range required a submarine, because the only shield for ELF is hundreds of feet of seawater. In 1976, Schwartz was offered access to a small research submersible capable of going to the depths required by University of Southern California Institute for Marine and Coastal Studies. In 1977, just as the experiment was about to go to sea, he invited SRI to assist him in carrying out his study. The Project, known as Deep Quest, and carried out with logistical support from the USC Institute. It took place in the waters off Santa Catalina Island. Two Remote Viewings, one by Hella Hammid, one by Ingo Swann described where target individuals were hiding in California. Both sessions were conducted while the submarine was at depth, and both were successful.
The experiment also tested a protocol Schwartz had devised involving five multiple viewers. Four were given charts of the Pacific ocean and were asked to locate an unknown wreck on the seafloor. They chose as their location a 10 mile square area near Santa Catalina. The sunken vessel was determined by the Bureau of Land Management Marine Sites Board to be previously unknown. A documentary was shot as the events took place of the entire project was made.[Schwartz, 1977, 2007] But the riches which Schwartz and his investors have sought in their many undersea expediditions have never been found. The ship Schwartz's team found on the Bahamas Banks was carrying molasses, not the treasure that was their goal.
Schwartz also claims he was involved in the discovery and the first modern mapping of the Eastern Harbor of Alexandria and the discovery of numerous shipwrecks as well as Mark Anthony's palace in Alexandria, the Ptolemaic Palace Complex of Cleopatra, and the remains of the Lighthouse of Pharos, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Much of this was discounted by two on-site Egyptian scholars whom Schwartz had listed as research associates, Dr. Shehetta Adam, head of Egypt's Department of Antiquities and Dr. Mostafa El Abbadi
In 1995, the CIA hired the American Institutes for Research, a perennial intelligence-industry contractor, to perform a retrospective evaluation of the results generated by the remote-viewing program, the Stargate Project. Most of the program's results were not seen by the evaluators, with the report focusing on the most recent experiments, and only from government-sponsored research. One of the reviewers was Ray Hyman, a long-time critic of psi research while another was Jessica Utts who, as a supporter of psi, was chosen to put forward the pro-psi argument. Utts maintained that there had been a statistically significant positive effect, with some subjects scoring 5%-15% above chance.] Ray Hyman argued that Utts' conclusion that ESP had been proven to exist, "especially precognition, is premature and that present findings have yet to be independently replicated". Based upon both of their collected findings, which recommended a higher level of critical research and tighter controls, the program was officially terminated.
The Stargate Project was one of a number of code names for government "remote viewing programs". Others included Sun Streak, Grill Flame, Center Lane by DIA and INSCOM, and SCANATE by CIA, from the 1970s, through to 1995. It was an offshoot of research done at Stanford Research Institute (SRI).
The project was eventually terminated, according to the official report at the time, because there was insufficient evidence of the utility of the intelligence data produced. David Goslin, of the American Institute for Research said, "There's no documented evidence it had any value to the intelligence community."
In 1995 the project was transferred to the CIA and a retrospective evaluation of the results was done. The CIA contracted the American Institutes for Research for this evaluation. An analysis conducted by parapsychologist Jessica Utts showed a statistically significant effect, with some subjects scoring 5%-15% above chance, though subject reports included a large amount of irrelevant information, and when reports did seem on target they were vague and general in nature. Skeptic Ray Hyman concluded a null result Based upon both of their collected findings, which recommended a higher level of critical research and tighter controls, the CIA terminated the 20 million dollar project. Time magazine stated in 1995 three full-time psychics were still working on a $500,000-a-year budget out of Fort Meade, Maryland, which would soon be shut down, which occurred in 1996.