Freedom of Information request exposes CIA projects
A recently released Freedom of Information (FOI) request has unearthed a number of interesting research projects undertaken by the CIA as part of a program known as Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP). Though no stranger to bizarre and unusual projects, the CIA and other branches of the American government have investigated phenomena more likely to be a plot twist from the Twilight Zone than any legitimate cosmic origin.
The documents released include projects in unknown states of research and funding. Some of the projects are more typical of military research with titles like, “Field Effects on Biological Tissues,” and some more cryptic like, “Space Access.”, What has captured imaginations, however, are the projects titled “Traversable Wormholes, Stargates, and Negative Energy,” and “Warp Drive, Dark Energy, and the Manipulation of Extra Dimensions,” among others with equally science fiction like concepts and titles. Though they may sound like technobabble in the style of Star Trek engineer Jeordie LaForge, each of these projects is attached to a legitimate author, representing either a company or a university. Some of these authors have a history of publishing work in reputable science journals, such as Nature. Interestingly, the author of the research about warp drives was cited by Gizmodo in 2009 about his “scientifically accurate” design for a ship with a warp drive. Whether these projects ever produce viable science is unknown and unlikely to be released any time soon, if ever.
In 2017, the Washington Post and the New York Times reported on a $22 million-dollar project buried inside the $600 billion-dollar Defense Department budget. The $22 million-dollar figure was the budget for AATIP, which has been cataloguing and collecting unusual incidents involving unidentified objects encountered by fighter pilots. Videos of the encounters were released and made their way across the internet and lit up paranormal and conspiracy forums and social media sites alike.
While little else was revealed at that time, it follows on previous paranormal work by the CIA and other branches of the American government. In the 1950s a similar program, called Blue Book, recorded and tracked phenomena that fighter pilots encountered. Although the vast majority of it was explained by unusual, but natural, cloud and weather patterns, more than 700 remained unexplained at the time of the program’s closure. The CIA also investigated the potential psychic powers of people, training men to kill goats with just their thoughts.
Although these projects have been widely derided both before and after becoming public, there were very real concerns throughout the Cold War that American and Soviet agencies were falling behind one another and losing an imagined arms race in unlikely scientific domains. Each super power leaked information in hopes that the other would waste time and resources on either useless data or technological dead ends.
Perhaps, most famously, American agencies spent time researching psionic and psychic powers and abilities after hearing that Soviet scientists had been successful in harnessing psychic abilities in test subjects. American researchers attempted to have their own subjects succeed in clairvoyance and other paranormal and parapsychological activities. By 1995, after 20 years of study, the project was closed with the conclusion that the study had “dubious value,” and that the test subjects who reported some ability in remote viewing had “substantially more background information than might otherwise be apparent,” a stunning rebuke to a such a long running study.
Soviet scientists were also the target of rumour and false data. American scientists, having exhausted research into a potential nerve agent, and hoping to encourage Soviet researchers into wasting time and resources, purposefully leaked 4000 documents on, what the American scientists believed, was non-weaponizable chemical agents as part of Operation Shocker. The documents led the Soviets to expand their research and may have led to the production of notorious nerve agent, Novichok, which was used on and led to the death of former Russian GRU officer Sergei Skripal, Charlie Rowley, and Dawn Sturgess in March and June 2018.