Declassified CIA Documents: CIA Considered Weaponizing Lightning

lightning bolts

Ed Maker/The Denver Post via Getty Images/CIA

  • The CIA once considered making a weapon out of artificial lightning.
  • The weapon could be used without directly implicating the CIA or the rest of the U.S. government.
  • Although the weapon was scientifically sound, the CIA ultimately never pursued it for reasons unknown.

    The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) once considered the idea of using lightning as a weapon system. In the late 1960s, an unknown scientist proposed the service use lightning strikes as a weapon that would leave behind “little or no evidence,” making it difficult to identify the U.S. government as the perpetrator. The CIA, despite always being interested in covert weapons, never developed the idea. Probably.

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    The pitch, which Forbes discovered in declassified CIA files, involved using “artificial leaders” of thin metal wires to “cause discharges to

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    When The CIA Tried To Weaponize Lightning

    Thunderbolts are traditionally the weapon of the gods, but in 1967 the CIA were wondering whether they too could call down bolts of lightning from the heavens at will.

    The idea is contained in a proposal from a scientist, sent to the CIA’s Deputy for Research ‘Special Activities’ and passed on to the chief of the Air Systems division. The scientist’s name has been redacted in the declassified document from the CIA’s archive, but they mention a previous discussion with the CIA, indicating they were being taken seriously.

    The guided lightning concept is based on the observation that lightning follows a path of ionized air known as a step leader. Once the leader stroke reaches the ground and makes a circuit, the lightning proper is formed and a current flow, typically around 300 million Volts at 30,000 Amps.

    The scientist suggests that artificial leaders could “cause discharges to occur when

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