UAlbany Suspends Implants Research
Albany professor whose work is at issue focused
on surgically inserted mind-control devices
Andrew Brownstein - Staff writer
Albany Times Union, August 25, 1999
The University at Albany has shut down the research of a psychology professor probing the “X-Files” world of government surveillance and mind control.
At conferences, in papers and research over two semesters, Professor Kathryn Kelley explored the claims of those who say they were surgically implanted with communications devices to read their thoughts.
According to colleagues, Kelley has privately claimed the university is violating her academic freedom. She declined to discuss the matter with a reporter. …
Despite the inquiry, Kelley, a fully tenured professor who earned $67,000 last year, is slated to teach two graduate courses in the fall.
The department became aware of Kelley’s theories as early as the spring of 1998, when a note on her office door announced a lecture called “The Psychology of Invading the Self.”
The note described implant research funded by the National Security Agency and the Department of Defense with an annual budget of $2 billion. The “uninformed, unconsenting subjects” of these devices were typically “federal prisoners and political dissidents,” the note said.
At the same time, Kelley won approval from the review board to conduct research on “advances in technology that affect interpersonal communication.” In a 16-page outline to the board, Kelley said she wanted to look at the uses of technology for “monitoring and control.” She proposed presenting a lecture to research subjects and then having them respond to 60 questions about how the case study she would describe affected their views.
The interest in technology marked an extreme departure for Kelley, a professor at UAlbany since 1979. Kelley, who earned her Ph.D. from Purdue University, was a professor at Marquette University and the University of Wisconsin before joining the psychology faculty at UAlbany. Her previous research dealt with issues like health, date rape and risk-taking. With her ex-husband, distinguished psychology professor Donn Byrne, she co-authored a textbook on gender differences.
The shift in the focus of her research puzzled many. Gregory George, a graduate student who has since left the university, said he was part of a team assigned to lay the factual foundation for the implants research.
To his astonishment, he found several firms had developed “trans-tympanic transducers,” instruments that function as mini-telephones, sending voice messages to the inner ear. Companies declined to market the product for fear of bad transmissions causing deafness, he said.
George believed the point of the research was to look at how people would perceive those with the implants, and whether there might be a social stigma attached. …
Papers Kelley delivered at two recent conferences suggest that she was becoming fascinated with the subject of mind control.
At the annual conference of the Eastern Psychological Association [EPA] in Providence, R.I. — attended by several UAlbany graduate students — she delivered a paper that looked at implant claims as “one of the indicators of schizophrenia.”
Yet many colleagues began wondering to what extent Kelley believed that such implants were actually occurring.
“A lot of people wonder where she draws the line,” said one graduate student, who asked not to be named. “Is it hypothetical? Or is it fact?”
In a more detailed treatment she gave at a conference earlier this month in Orlando, Fla., Kelley lent more credence to the phenomenon. She described how a subject might be implanted with the device during anesthesia, perhaps leaving tiny stitches visible in the ear. She called the devices RAATs, short for radio wave, auditory, assaultive, transmitting implants.
“When (short-wave) operators transmit to or scan RAAT implants in victims, they can talk to the victims remotely and anonymously, and hear the victim’s speech and thoughts,” Kelley wrote.
The paper noted that the National Institutes of Health denied any governmental role in such research.
The EPA is a respected psychological organization. …
The current investigation into Kelley’s work is considered highly sensitive at the university, coming four years after a gunman who claimed the government planted microchips in his body held a class of 37 students hostage and shot one student during a struggle. Ralph Tortorici, the gunman, recently hanged himself in his state prison cell.
Without commenting on specifics, sociology Professor David Wagner, outgoing chair of the review board, said that shutting down a professor’s research was “quite rare.”
Some faculty members said the last time they remember the board making such a move was in the early 1970s.