Psychics and Spooks

By Vistica, Gregory | Newsweek, December 11, 1995 | Go to article overview

Psychics and Spooks


Vistica, Gregory, Newsweek


BEFORE LAST WEEK, MOST PEOPLE probably thought all the really important psychics worked for the National Enquirer. Then came the news that the U.S. military and the CIA ran Operation Stargate--a two-decade-long project in which a team of government psychics "visualized" everything from the identities of KGB agents to the design of top-secret Soviet submarines. At the program's peak in the late '70s and early '80s, the Feds had six of these "remote viewers" --known inside as The Naturals--toiling away at Maryland's Fort Meade. "We worked hard, really hard," said Agent "518," a former army lieutenant colonel who had joined the elite psychic corps. "It was really tiring."

And apparently unappreciated. Last week the CIA recommended killing the program. Since the 1970s, the CIA and the Defense Department had spent $20 million employing at least 16 psychics. To justify the cost, advocates within the government cite apparent successes like the time Agent 518 lay down on a cot, cleansed his mind and proceeded to tell CIA agents precisely how a KGB operative in South Africa was transmitting information through a personal calculator. Psychics later interviewed by CIA evaluators said the program worked well -- as long as it was run by officials "who accepted the phenomenon." But Ray Hyman, a research psychologist who helped review Stargate for the CIA, is wary. "I don't close the door on anything," Hyman told NEWSWEEK, "but these are nice tall stories that can't be evaluated."

In typical cold-war fashion, the initiative began when the CIA concluded that the Soviets were dangerously far ahead of the United States in the use of the paranormal. Unless swift action was taken, American officials reasoned, we might never close the psychic gap. At first, program supporters say, the military used only the highest-quality psychics. Joe McMoneaagle, an army intelligence officer, discovered that the CIA would pay him to sit in a room and use his powers to draw pictures of prospective Soviet submarines. …

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