The juicy bits of the CIA’s massive document dump may have centered on their overt use of torture against detainees and the internal debates underpinning that policy, but it’s far from the only thing in there that warrants a second look. The documents also include substantial information about CIA obsession with UFO sightings, policies for using invisible ink, and their determined investigation into magicians.
Reports on the UFOs described some 20% of sightings as “unexplained,” and sought more cooperation from the Pentagon in documentation of such sightings, particularly pushing to ensure that all high-ranking Air Force commanders were briefed on the rules for reporting about them.
The CIA showed concern both about the “national security” implications of flying saucers, and the intelligence ramifications of them, with the advisory committee urging “close attention” be paid both to Russian actions with respect to UFOs, and public opinion within the US about them.
Other documents reveal that in 1952 the CIA had plans to big tunnel from West Berlin into East Berlin and try to come up underneath the Soviet Army headquarters. Years of construction happened on the matter, though it was ultimately scrapped before they got to the Soviet base.
With respect to magic, the CIA appears to have become intensely interested in the phenomenon in the late 1960s and early 1970s, with one 1969 document about a “self-educated magician” in Soviet Georgia who was able to perform “miracle” healings through the laying of hands.
The CIA’s interest in magic got a lot bigger in short order, and within a few years they were bringing in television psychic Uri Geller, who famously used to bend spoons on TV with the power of his mind. Incredibly, the CIA was quickly convinced that Geller had real powers, and tried to move into remote viewing, the attempt to conduct surveillance on sites they don’t have access to via supernatural means.
Geller expressed shock that the CIA admitted to bringing him in, claiming he remained active with them for years beyond what the released files show, which are “the tip of the iceberg.” He is initially described trying to guess what sort of drawing is on a piece of paper based on a single word, deciding the word “bunch” meant grapes.
Before long, the CIA wanted Geller to kill pigs with his mind, something he apparently refused to do. Geller also describes being asked to remotely detonate nuclear weapons, and to stand outside the Soviet Embassy in Mexico and magically delete any floppy disks that the Russians tried to remove from the site.
Ironically, the CIA was sold on Geller’s powers as a result of tests conducted between August 4 and August 11 in 1973, but on August 1, Geller famously was a guest on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and failed to demonstrate his ability to bend spoons successfully.
The documents released don’t indicate when the program ended, though officials have previously indicated that the CIA scrapped the program in 1995, saying they never got anything useful out of it.