Reading the Enemy's Mind by Paul Smith is one of
the most comprehensive accounts of the U.S. government's remote
viewing program as it existed from the 1970s to the mid-1990s. It
is a must read.
Paul Smith was one of the U.S. military's remote viewers. Reading
the Enemy's Mind is his account of that psychic espionage program
as he experienced it. By the time he published this book in 2005,
there had already been a large number of other military remote viewers
who had published their own remembrances of what happened during
those years of the program's existence in the latter part of the
last century. So with Smith's book, it is natural to ask if anything
new is added to the extant historical accounts. The answer is a
resounding yes, and this book must be considered required reading
for anyone trying to gain a full picture of what happened during
Each remote viewer who served in the military's original remote-viewing
program has offered a slightly different perspective on those years.
All of the basic ingredients of the story are the same. (1) A psychic
espionage program existed in both the U.S. and Soviet governments.
(2) The U.S. program was primarily located in the U.S. Army via
the Defense Intelligence Agency (D.I.A.), although the C.I.A. had
its own early interest in the potential of using psychics for spying.
(3) Ingo Swann developed a set of procedures that were often used
by many (although not all) in the U.S. program. (4) Much of the
early research into psychic functioning was conducted a Stanford
Research Institute. (5) There were a number of outstanding successes
in the use of the novel espionage methodology. (6) Controversy surrounding
the program when its existence became publicly known, causing the
program to be dismantled. (7) There was always a shortage in funding
for the basic science issues relating to the mechanism of psychic
functioning. (8) The U.S. government pushed the operationalization
of the methodology before understanding its underlying mechanism.
Beyond these eight basic points, together with the cast of characters
who filled this program over the years, there has long been debates
about what happened and when.
In Reading the Enemy's Mind, Paul Smith tries to tie as
many loose ends together as possible, and by and large he succeeds.
Nonetheless, there will always be some controversy about the U.S.
military's original psychic espionage program, and Smith's effort
will not resolve all of the disputes. Each person who participated
in the program will continue to have his or her own recollection
of what happened. This is important to recognize because each person
had a somewhat unique experience in a program that truthfully was
continually growing in new and experimental ways. In an established
program of any sort, there is a commonly excepted pedagogy for instruction,
and the bureaucracy relies on settled rules of conduct for day-to-day
matters that express more repetition than novelty. But this program
was different. Everything was new. The Army itself was not even
fully comfortable with where to put it, which is why there are so
many interesting stories of how much of the program (but not all)
existed in rather run down (almost ramshackle) accommodations at
Fort Meade. Thus, my own perspective is to accept Smith's new and
exceptionally rich account of this psychic espionage program at
face value, while acknowledging that some differences will remain
between the various participants. Smith's book is an essential re-telling
that finds some of its greatest value in its level of detail.
Smith clearly tries to document his experience in the U.S. military's
espionage program as thoroughly as possible. He relies not only
on his own memory, but on a collection of interviews of a large
number of those involved in the program. He also relies on dated
notes that were written by some of the important figures in the
program. Thus, while there will likely never be a final definitive
version of this highly interesting chapter in the history of military
intelligence, Smith's book is probably as close as one is going
to get to such an account. Since there is little disagreement among
the primary players regarding the main ingredients of this program,
readers should be aware that any differences that do exists between
the various participants focus more on details and interpretation.
At this point, no one should challenge the basic eight points as
listed above, and Smith's book places those points in a valuable
One of the most interesting (and truly new) elements that is added
by Smith's book is a forward by the newspaper columnist, Jack Anderson.
It happens that Mr. Anderson was one of the highly visible critics
of the U.S. military's venture into psychic methodologies for espionage
purposes. It also turns out that he gained significant indirect
exposure to the program over the years and has now become a critic
of his own initial opposition. Few people eat crow as bluntly and
courageously as Mr. Anderson has done in the foreword to Paul Smith's
book. Readers should be sure to read this.
Two remaining points need mentioning. First, Smith's account is
abundant with autobiographical detail. His writing style is clear,
and his prose is descriptively rich. Readers will feel like they
are traveling with Paul through those exciting years as they turn
each page. Finally, this book contains one of the best descriptions
anywhere of how the U.S. government both realized the true data-gathering
potential of this new methodology, and simultaneously over-exploited
and fundamentally misused the available resources. That period of
time was filled with military and political crises, and the government's
remote viewers were asked to do far more than they possibly could
have competently accomplised given the available resources and the
lack of understanding of the underlying mechanism of psychic functioning.
This led to confusion and the eventual collapse of the government's
program. There are many lessons that can be learned from this history.
While Paul Smith's book is worth reading for many reasons, avoiding
the repetition of past mistakes is one of the best.