Site Archive: Commentaries
Addendum & Corrections:
Part 4 of a Commentary
on the CIA's Remote Viewing Report
by Paul H. Smith
Since publishing the three installments of my review of the CIA/AIR report on remote viewing, I have received a number of comments concerning how I described Ed May's research in Part 2. My evaluation concluded that the research selected for evaluation--while interesting from a parapsychological standpoint--was of limited value in (a) establishing the reality of remote viewing, and (b) developing new techniques to improve the efficiency of the operational effort. These two goals were among the three originally mandated for the program by Congress during the GRILL FLAME era, and never officially rescinded.
Based on what is evident in the AIR report, and on peripheral material and knowledgeable sources to which I had access, my assessment of the research program seemed accurate. The experiments evaluated by the AIR at the behest of the CIA were the ten most recently done by May at SAIC, and were arbitrarily chosen by Ray Hyman and his colleagues at AIR to represent the research done on remote viewing. I still maintain that those ten experiments were inadequate in achieving goals (a) and (b) above. However, this assessment--admittedly based on incomplete, if nonetheless extensive data--may reflect unfairly on Ed May's efforts and intentions in the pursuit of remote viewing and psi research. It is, of course, not Ed May's fault that Hyman and his associates refused to examine other of the program's research that might have more strongly supported the remote viewing phenomenon.
Comments from Joe McMoneagle shed further interesting light on Ray Hyman's actions in the course of the AIR survey. According to Joe, "Hyman sat down with two other members of the AIR staff and two reps from the agency [CIA]," and sorted through "about sixty papers" reporting on experiments done at SRI-I and SAIC. They then "'decided' which ones they would accept for review..."
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This November I had a conversation with Dale Graff, who during his career was one of the primary DIA points-of-contact for the program, and was also branch chief and project manager for the operational unit at Ft. Meade in the early '90s. Dale told me he felt that I had erred in my comments on the research program, and that I had based my analysis on inadequate knowledge of the circumstances under which the research program was conducted.
According to Dale (and he speaks with some authority, since he was often intimately involved in the contracting process throughout much of the program's history until his retirement in 1993), there were many bureaucratic and political factors that went beyond operational considerations in guiding the course the research took. Often, May was forced by agencies and influential individuals with other agendas to pursue specific experimental directions that went beyond supporting the operational remote viewing effort. Neither May, nor Graff and his DIA associates were fully able to dictate the route experiments were to take. Though I discussed this problem in Part 2 of the review, I did not sufficiently recognize the impact it had on the research program.
Dale made a further point in the course of our conversation. He suggested that even if parapsychology research unrelated to remote viewing per se did not directly affect remote viewing as an intelligence collection tool, nonetheless successful research could still help improve the program's prospects. Strong evidence of any psi effect would undercut the objections of the critics and bolster support for all aspects of the RV program-- including the operational unit.
While I myself believe that a research program that more fully concentrated on the remote viewing phenomenon itself could have served much the same purpose, still Dale's point is certainly relevant.
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Other information I received recently also shows May in a more favorable light. According to Joe McMoneagle, "on two occasions, Ed (with myself and others) did the two week circuit in DC, convincing the folks in Congress that the program shouldn't be shut down and it should be funded" (this refers to funding for the operational program; research funding, Joe explains, was a separate issue).
Part 2 of the review also contained some misinformation that I must here clear up. My evaluation of the support received from Ed May and the research program was based on mine and others' perceptions at the "operator level" in the Ft. Meade unit. We saw little or no input from the research folks to show that they even cared that we existed, and concluded they were ignoring us and going off on their own tangent.
Thanks to McMoneagle, I now know that perception to be erroneous. He mentioned in his communications with me that along with the boxes of research passed to the AIR evaluators (and, as I reported, not subsequently "evaluated") were another "nineteen packages of reports, recommendations, and materials from SRI-I and SAIC, [including] collection methodologies," which had been passed to the managers of the operational program over the period 1988 to 1994 and NEVER OPENED. In other words, the research program was indeed attempting to fulfill its obligation to support the operational unit, but was apparently short-stopped by the very people who should have been integrating any promising new techniques or methods developed by the research.
As an operational viewer, I find it outrageous that this material was not at least evaluated, and passed on if it looked useful. Whether or not it could ultimately have been integrated with the other successful methods we used (and I suspect that much, if not all might have been), I think most of us would have welcomed the opportunity to at least entertain responsible new ideas and approaches--particularly if they shed light on some of the thornier problems with which we often had to deal. I owe Ed May and his team an apology on this one.
Finally, I must reiterate a point I made in Part One of the Mr. "X" review, which McMoneagle has reminded me of. One should have no illusions about the last days of STAR GATE. In its final years, the program suffered from major problems and deficiencies, and provided no little ammunition of its own to be used against it. Uneven and at times outright bad management, poor performance and few accurate results in the latter years, ill- will from upper-echelon bosses, poor unit morale, and divisiveness within the organization tolled Star Gate's death knell. Nevertheless, had the program's high-level management (i.e., from the director and deputy director level on down), (1) wanted the program to succeed, and (2) been doing their jobs properly, the deplorable conditions at the Ft. Meade unit would never have developed.
Copyright 1997 by Paul H. Smith