In an Arctic compound 200 miles east of Anchorage, Alaska, the Pentagon has erected a powerful transmitter designed to beam more than a gigawatt of energy into the upper reaches of the atmosphere. Known as Project HAARP (High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program), the $30 million experiment involves the world’s largest “ionospheric heater,” a prototype device designed to zap the skies hundreds of miles above the earth with high-frequency radio waves. Why irradiate the charged particles of the ionosphere (which when energized by natural processes make up the lovely and famous phenomenon known as the Northern Lights)? According to the U.S. Navy and Air Force, co-sponsors of the project, “to observe the complex natural variations of Alaska’s ionosphere.” That, says the Pentagon, and also to develop new forms of communications and surveillance technologies that will enable the military to send signals to nuclear submarines and to peer deep underground.
Opponents of HAARP – a coalition of environmentalists, Native Americans, Alaskan citizens, and, of course, conspiracy trackers – believe that the military has even more Strangelovian plans for this unusual hardware, applications ranging from Star Wars missile-defense schemes to weather modification plots and perhaps even mind-control experiments.
The HAARP complex is situated within a 23-acre lot in a relatively isolated region near the town of Gakona. When the final phase of the project was completed in 1997, the military had erected 180 towers, 72 feet in height, forming a “high-power, high-frequency phased array radio transmitter” capable of beaming in the 2.5-to-10-megahertz frequency range, at more than 3 gigawatts of power (3 billion watts). According to the navy and air force, HAARP “will be used to introduce a small, known amount of energy into a specific ionospheric layer” anywhere from several miles to several tens of miles in radius. Not surprisingly, navy and air force PR (posted on the official HAARP World Wide Web Internet site, an effort to combat the bad press the project has generated), downplays both the environmental impacts of the project and purported offensive uses of the technology.
However, a series of patents owned by the defense contractor managing HAARP project suggests that the Pentagon might indeed have more ambitious designs. In fact, one of those patents was classified by the navy for several years during the 1980s. The key document in the bunch is i. Patent number 4,686,605, considered by HAARP critics to be the “smoking raygun,” so to speak. Held by ARCO Power Technologies, Inc. (APTI), the ARCO subsidiary contracted to build HAARP, this patent describes an inospheric heater very similar to the HAARP heater. In the APTI patent – subsequently published on the Internet by foes of HAARP – Texas physicist Bernard J. Eastlund describes a fantastic offensive and defensive weapon that would do any megolomaniacal James Bond supervillain proud. According to the patent, Eastlund’s invention would heat plumes of charged particles in the ionosphere, making it possible to, for starters, selectively “disrupt microwave transmissions of satellites” and “cause interference with of even total disruption of communications over a large portion of the earth.” But like his hopped-up ions, Eastlund was just warming up. Per the patent text, the physicist’s “method and apparatus for altering a region in the earth’s atmosphere” would also:
“Cause confusion of or interference with or even complete disruption of guidance systems employed by even the most sophisticated of airplanes and missiles”;”Not only . . . interfere with third-party communications, but [also] take advantage
of one or more such beams to carry out a communications network at the same
time. Put another way, what is used to disrupt another’s communications can be
employed by one knowledgeable of this invention as a communications network
at the same time”;
“Pick up communication signals of others for intelligence purposes”;
Facilitate “missile or aircraft destruction, deflection, or confusion” by lifting large
regions of the atmosphere “to an unexpectedly high altitude so that missiles
encounter unexpected and unplanned drag forces with resultant destruction or
deflection of same.”
If Eastlund’s brainchild sounds like a recipe for that onetime cold war panacea, the Strategic Defense Initiative (AKA Star Wars), it’s probably no coincidence. The APTI/Eastlund patent was filed during the final days of the Reagan administration, when plans for high-tech missile defense systems were still all the rage. But Eastlund’s blue-sky vision went far beyond the usual Star Wars prescriptions of the day and suggested even more unusual uses for his patented ionospheric heater.
“Weather modification,” the patent states, “is possible by . . . altering upper atmospheric wind patterns or altering solar absorption patterns by constructing one of more plumes of particles which will act as a lens or focusing device.” As a result, an artificially heated ionosphere could focus a “vast amount of sunlight on selected portions of the earth.”
HAARP officials deny any link to Eastlund’s patents or plans. But several key details suggest otherwise. For starters, APTI, holder of the Eastlund patents, continued to manage the HAARP project. During the summer of 1994, ARCO sold APTI to E-Systems, a defense contractor known for counter-surveillance projects. E-Systems, in turn, is currently owned by Raytheon, one of the world’s largest defense contractors and maker of the SCUD-busting Patriot missile. All of which suggests that more than just simple atmospheric science is going on in the HAARP compound.
What’s more, one of the APTI/Eastlund patents singles out Alaska as the ideal site for a high-frequency ionospheric heater because “magnetic field lines. . . which extend to desirable altitudes for the invention, intersect the earth in Alaska.” APTI also rates Alaska as an ideal location given its close proximity to an ample source of fuel to power the project: the vast reserves of natural gas in the North Slope region – reserves owned by APTI parent company ARCO.
Eastlund also contradicts the official military line. He told National Public Radio that a secret military project to develop his work was launched during the late 1980s. and in the May/June 1994 issue of Microwave News, Eastlund suggested that “The HAARP project obviously looks a lot like the first step” toward the designs outlined in his patents.
Is HAARP capable of anything on Eastlund’s wish list? The military says no, pointing out that the power levels used in the Alaskan transmitter are too low to achieve Eastlund’s goals. That may well be true – Eastlund’s designs call for more powerful bursts of high-frequency radio waves than the HAARP prototype will be able to muster. However, the project’s own environmental impact reports warn that the HAARP transmissions could pose a danger to airplanes up to four miles away. And according to Far Smith, editor of the environmental magazine, Earth Watch Journal, the energy that drives HAARP could be a thousand times more powerful than the military’s most powerful PAVE PAWS over-the-horizon radars, which emit “incidental” sidelobe radiation that can disrupt cardiac pacemakers up to seven miles away and cause the “inadvertent detonation” of bombs and flares in passing aircraft. The official HAARP “fact sheet” reassures jittery paranoiacs that the effects of ionospheric heating will always dissipate in a matter of minutes. Yet good soldier Eastlund boasts in his patent that the radiation “can also be prolonged for substantial time periods so that it would not be a mere transient effect that could be waited out by an opposing force.
“Thus,” he continues, “this invention provides the ability to put unprecedented amounts of power in the earth’s atmosphere at strategic locations and to maintain the power injection level. . . in a manner more precise and better controlled than heretofore accomplished by the prior art. . . the detonation of nuclear devices of various yields at various altitudes.”
Eastlund’s patent really trips into conspiratorial territory in its References Cited section. Two of the sources documented by Eastlund are New York Times articles from 1915 and 1940 profiling none other than Nikola Tesla, a giant in the annals of conspiratorial history. Tesla, a brilliant inventor and contemporary of Edison, developed hundreds of patents during his lifetime and is often credited with inventing radio before Marconi, among a host of other firsts. Of course, mainstream science has never fully acknowledged Tesla’s contributions, and his later pronouncements (he vowed that he had developed a technology that could split the earth asunder) have left him straddling that familiar historical territory where genius meets crackpot. Not surprisingly, fringe science and conspiracy theory have made Tesla something of a patron saint. Whenever talk radio buzz or Internet discussion turns to alleged government experiments to cause earthquakes or modify weather, references to government-suppressed “Tesla Technology” are sure to follow.
Judging from the APTI patent, Tesla was a major inspiration for the Eastlund ionospheric heater. The first New York Times article, dated September 22, 1940, reports that Tesla, then eighty-four years old, “stands ready to divulge to the United States Government the secret of his ‘teleforce,’ with which, he said, airplane motors would be melted at a distance of 250 miles, so that an invisible Chinese Wall of Defense would be built around the country.” Quoting Tesla, the Times story continues: “‘This new type of force,'” Mr. Tesla said, “‘would operate through a beam one hundred-millionth of a square centimeter in diameter, and could be generated from a special plant that would cost no more than $2,000,000 and would take only about three months to construct.'” The second New York Times story, dated December 8, 1915, describes one of Tesla’s ideas to Eastlund’s invention are remarkable, and by extension the overlap between Tesla and HAARP technology is downright intriguing.
Apparently, APTI and the Pentagon are taking Eastlund’s – and by extension, Tesla’s – ideas seriously. As authors Nicholas J. Begich and Jeane Manning point out in the 1996 book, Angels Don’t Play This HAARP, another of the Eastlund/APTI patents outlines a technology for transmitting electrical energy a la Tesla’s war-and-peace project.
On the conspiracy circuit, any nexus between Tesla and Tesla-like military plans is likely to be as explosive as a warhead passing through one of Eastlund’s ion plumes. From here their speculation about HAARP tends to rocket into somewhat thinner air. In Angels Don’t Play This HAARP, which is subtitled, “Advances in Tesla Technology,” authors Begich and Manning suggest that in addition to modifying the weather, the military’s Tesla-HAARP technology might be used as a form of mass mind-control.
“The impact of RF [radio-frequency transmissions] on human physiology,” they write, “is well known to the air force and has been described in publications dating back to 1986.” If Begich and Manning don’t conclusively prove a connection between HAARP and government schemes to “disrupt mental processes” via pulsed radio-frequency transmissions, they do dig up a motherlode of elitist pontification by cold warriors obsessed with controlling the American hoi polloi. Zbigniew Brzezinski – former National Security Advisor to President Carter – puffed in 1970 that a “more controlled and directed society” would evolve, one in which the “elite would not hesitate to achieve its political ends by using the latest modern techniques for influencing public behavior and keeping society under close surveillance and control.” Infuriating and outrageous, yes. But it doesn’t actually prove anything about the goals of HAARP.
Even more interesting, but still not the smoking gun that some HAARP critics believe it to be, are the forecasts of geophysicist Gordon J. F. McDonald, a vintage cold war strategist who comes off sounding like Dr. Strangelove on speed. Begich and Manning quote a McDonald precis calling for electronic pulses aimed at broad geographic regions. “In this way,” McDonald explains, “one could develop a system that would seriously impair the brain performance of a very large populations in selected regions over an extended period . . . . No matter how deeply disturbing the thought of using the environment to manipulate behavior for national advantages, to some, the technology permitting such use will very probably develop within the next few decades.” (Never a lover of subtlety, McDonald titled a chapter on weather modification in one of his books, “How to Wreck the Environment.” Clearly, mind control has been the Holy Grail of anal-retentive national security obsessors since the days of the CIA’s MK-ULTRA program. And it certainly wouldn’t be surprising to find the Pentagon toying with that notion in Alaska, although the evidence for it hasn’t surfaced (yet).
On the farthest fringes of speculation, HAARP has attained that ultimate status of conspiracy theory template, onto which any ideology, philosophy, or pathology can attach its own interpretation and customized “facts.” It comes as no shock to find UFOs circling these outer limits of HAARPology: the HAARP frequencies are the radio frequencies associated with UFO appearances and abductions, say some theorists, suggesting either than alien UFOs use a similar technology or that UFOs are a government hoax implemented with HAARP-like hardware, or both. Beyond UFOs, other theorists claim that HAARP is a “death ray” with northern exposure, is responsible for various recent earthquakes and power outages in the Western United States, is a plot to implement a “genetic reprogramming” of the human race, or ultimately represents a battle between earthly villains and New Age “ascended masters” from dimensions beyond.
Back on earth, the fact remains that HAARP certainly isn’t the simple science fair project described by its Pentagon handlers. To quote HAARP’s godfather, Bernard Eastlund, “HAARP is the perfect first step toward a plan like mine. . . . The government will say it isn’t so, but if it quacks like a duck and it looks like a duck, there’s a good chance it is a duck.”