When word got out in 1995 that the U.S. Defense Department and CIA had funded efforts to read people's minds, the news understandably excited all sorts of derision and conspiracy theories. Who would imagine that the story behind the efforts is actually a fascinating tale about the possibilities of human potential? Paul H. Smith tells the story of the U.S. "psychic spying" program in his book Reading the Enemy's Mind. Smith doesn't come across as some flaky new-ager. He was a young U.S. Army intelligence officer and Arab linguist who had no previous interest in extra-sensory perception when he was recruited into the program code-named "Star Gate" in 1983. Over the next seven years, he became one of the army's premier "remote viewers" and the primary author of its training manual on the subject. He also served as a tactical intelligence officer in the 101st Airborne Division in Operation Desert Storm/Shield and got a Master's degree from the Defense Intelligence College.
In Reading the Enemy's Mind, Smith reveals that the military and intelligence communities performed hundreds of experiments and operational intelligence assignments using "remote viewing," the government's term for ESP. The program's first big success came in 1979 when a viewer found a downed Soviet bomber in Africa after other intelligence operatives had failed--a coup praised by President Jimmy Carter. The psychics received target assignments from virtually every U.S. national-security agency, and Smith says they produced numerous positive results. Smith's biggest revelation, however, is that the government research found that almost all people--not merely a gifted few--seem to have the potential of developing ESP skills, with enough practice and a few tips from a pro like Smith. Many readers will no doubt find it hard to know what to make of Reading the Enemy's Mind and whether to believe any of it, but Smith writes with both color and a measured tone that together produce a captivating yarn even for the non-believers out there. --Alex Roslin