Remote Viewing refers to the attempt to gather information about a distant or unseen target using paranormal means or extra-sensory perception. 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.
It was popularized in the 1990s, following the declassification of documents related to the Stargate Project, a 20 million dollar research program sponsored by the U.S. Federal Government to determine any potential military application of psychic phenomena.
Remote viewing, like other forms of extra sensory perception, is generally considered as pseudoscience due to the need to overcome fundamental ideas about causality, time, and other principles currently held by the scientific community, and the lack of a positive theory that explains the outcomes.
In 1972 Stanford Research Institute laser physicist Hal Puthoff tested remote viewer Ingo Swann, 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. As research continued, the SRI team published papers in Nature, in Proceedings of the IEEE, and in the proceedings of a symposium on consciousness for the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The initial CIA-funded project was later renewed and expanded. A number of CIA officials including John McMahon, 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.
In the early 1990s the Military Intelligence Board, chaired by DIA chief Soyster, appointed an Army Colonel, William Johnson, to manage the reinstated remote viewing project and evaluate its objective usefulness. According to an account by former SRI-trained remote-viewer, Paul Smith, Johnson spent several months running the remote viewing unit against military and DEA targets, and ended up a believer, not only in remote viewing’s validity as a phenomenon but in its usefulness as an intelligence tool.
After the Democrats lost control of the Senate in late 1994, funding declined and the program went into decline. The project was transferred out of DIA to the CIA in 1995, with the promise that it would be evaluated there, but most participants in the program believed that it would be terminated.
Among some of the ideas that Puthoff supported regarding remote viewing was the claim that two followers of Madame Blavatsky, founder of theosophy, were able to remote-view the inner structure of atoms.