Remote viewing (RV) is the practice of seeking impressions about a distant or unseen target using paranormal means, in particular, extra-sensory perception (ESP) or “sensing with mind”. Scientific studies have been conducted, and although some earlier, less sophisticated experiments produced positive results, none of the newer experiments concluded with such results when under properly controlled conditions.The scientific community rejects remote viewing due to the absence of an evidence base, the lack of a theory which would explain remote viewing, and the lack of experimental techniques which can provide reliably positive results.

Typically a remote viewer is expected to give information about an object that is hidden from physical view and separated at some distance. The term was introduced by parapsychologists Russell Targ and Harold Puthoff in 1974.

Remote viewing was popularized in the 1990s, following the declassification of documents related to the Stargate Project, a $20 million research program sponsored by the U.S. Federal Government to determine any potential military application of psychic phenomena. Although one Stargate viewer had been awarded in 1984 a legion of merit for determining “150 essential elements of information (…) unavailable from any other source”,the program was eventually terminated in 1995, citing a lack of documented evidence that the program had any value to the intelligence community.

US government-funded research

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)

In 1972, Puthoff tested remote viewer Ingo Swann at SRI, and the experiment led to a visit from two employees of the CIA’s Directorate of Science and Technology. The 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,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 N. McMahon (then the head of the Office of Technical Service and later the Agency’s deputy director), became strong supporters of the program.

In the mid 1970s sponsorship by the CIA was terminated and picked up by the Air Force. 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, General 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)

Under the banner “Stargate project“, SRI managed a number of “natural” psychics. The most famous results from these years were the description of “a big crane” at a Soviet nuclear research facility by Pat Price‘s (Kress 1977/1999, Targ 1996) and Joseph McMoneagle, a description of a new class of Soviet strategic submarine by a team of three viewers including McMoneagle,(Smith 2005, McMoneagle 2002) and Rosemary Smith’s 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) In 1984 viewer McMoneagle was awarded a legion of merit for determining “150 essential elements of information…producing crucial and vital intelligence unavailable from any other source”.