Remote viewing involves attempting to use psychic abilities to locate individuals and items. The technique was developed at Stanford Research Institute in the Seventies, but the US military quickly realised the potential value of this work and, concerned by reports of Soviet research into parapsychology, set up their own classified projects. The most famous was codenamed Project Stargate and involved the use of psychics to try and locate targets such as US hostages, weapons and drugs shipments, terrorist headquarters and patrolling Soviet submarines.

Although remote viewing was never in Nick Pope’s formal terms of reference, he was frequently approached by people who claimed to have psychic abilities and who wanted to volunteer their services as ‘psychic spies’. Nick discussed this with various colleagues in the MoD and carried out some basic testing of people claiming to be psychics, but was not sufficiently impressed by the results to take the matter any further.

In 2007 the Ministry of Defence (MoD) released a study into remote viewing, in response to a request made under the Freedom of Information Act. It showed how in 2001, shortly after 9/11, the MoD had attempted to recruit psychics to track down targets which almost certainly included Osama Bin Laden and weapons of mass destruction.

Nick Pope was interviewed about the MoD study on BBC 2’s Newsnight, wrote a feature article for the Daily Express and has discussed the issue in numerous media interviews.

The MoD Study

A link to the MoD study. Note the clever way that words such as psychic, clairvoyant and ESP are carefully avoided in the summary:

Traditional methods of gathering intelligence include using satellites, intercepting communications and recruiting agents. Now, secret documents have emerged revealing that the Ministry of Defence ran a covert project to recruit psychics, in the hope of tracking down people and items of interest to the government and the military.

The technique is known as remote viewing and a search for the phrase on Google reveals nearly a millions hits. Remote viewing is a technical term, but what it really means is trying to use psychic ability – extra-sensory perception – to find things. Uri Geller claims to have undertaken work for companies keen to see if he can help them locate previously unknown oilfields and mineral deposits. But the technique has also been used by intelligence agencies, though details of the British study have only just emerged.

The term remote viewing was coined in the Seventies by researchers at the Stanford Research Institute, in America. Their work soon attracted the attention of US intelligence officials. The Americans knew that the Soviets were studying parapsychology and were worried that the USSR might make a breakthrough in an area where the US had no expertise. In the language of risk management, this was a classic case of “low probability/high impact”. There was no corporate belief in ESP, but if the technique worked and could be used by the government, the potential benefits were huge. And if somebody else got there first, the consequences were unthinkable.