CIA's declassified documents: Highlights of the 13 million pages out now
Published Wednesday, January 18, 2017 12:24PM EST
Secret messages. Psychic experiments. UFO sightings.
CTVNews.ca plunged into the heart of the Central Intelligence Agency archives (read: one writer browsed declassified files online), to dredge up the weirdest and wildest highlights from 13 million pages of declassified documents.
The CIA made the declassified archives available online Wednesday, following a series of court battles over how their classified reports were stored. The documents had been publicly available for decades, but the only way to access them had been through four computers located at the National Archives in Maryland.
Here are some of the more interesting items from a first look at the new documents.
Psychics and Project Stargate
Many of the CIA's experiments – the agency spent years exploring the possibilities of unlocking the potential of the human brain, for instance -- sound like they were ripped straight out of the TV show "Stranger Things."
Perhaps their strangest experiment involved celebrity psychic Uri Geller, whom they thought had access to a number of extraordinary mental powers. Geller claimed, at the time, to be able to, "see" hidden drawings, find buried metal and bend spoons with his mind.
"The Geller Effect – of metal bending – is clearly not brought about by fraud," researcher John G. Fuller told the agency, in a memo from the early 1970s.
The CIA put Geller's claims to the test with help from scientists at the Stanford Research Institute in 1973. Geller was locked in a shielded room and asked to recreate a "target picture" drawn by an experimenter down the hall.
And, while Geller failed several times, he succeeded often enough to convince the CIA that he was psychic. "As a result of Geller's success in this experimental period, we consider that he has demonstrated his paranormal perceptual ability in a convincing and unambiguous manner," the CIA report concluded.
The results show the CIA had a pretty broad definition of success for the tests. For instance, when the target picture was a camel, "Geller felt unsure and passed, but his first choice was drawing a horse." And in another case, when the target was a flying seagull, Geller said he saw a flying swan. "He drew several birds and said that he was sure his drawing was correct, which it was."
"In these experiments conducted with this shielded room, six day's work was done," the CIA report said. "Good results were obtained on the four days when there was no openly skeptical observer."
Later documents show CIA brass eventually recognized Geller's tricks as the work of an illusionist, although the revelation came thanks to Johnny Carson and news media investigations, not the intelligence agency. Several items in the archive show news stories debunking Geller's claims, along with CIA staff notes like "Just in case you didn't happen to see this."
The Geller experiments were part of a larger program called Stargate, in which the CIA recruited volunteers to test the possibility of all kinds of paranormal powers.
In 1980, for instance, the CIA put together a report on the possibility of "remote perturbation" – i.e. the possibility of seeing the future, using clairvoyants to spy on activities in the present, or using telekinesis to manipulate enemy objects at a distance.
"In view of the obvious military value of being able to disturb sensitive enemy equipment, it is to the advantage of the Army to assess the validity of (remote perturbation) claims."
Several documents in the archive show the CIA takes UFO sightings very seriously. Researchers analyzed a number of UFO photos, and even went so far as to draw up possible diagrams of what alien flying saucers might look like.
Some of the photos show the CIA playing around with saucer-shaped aircraft.
The documents also reveal the secrets of invisible ink, including steps for producing it and reading messages written in it.
Other documents posted online include papers from Henry Kissinger, former U.S. secretary of state for Richard Nixon and his successor, Gerald Ford.