UN admits to accidentally releasing cholera in Haiti…

With friends like these

The United Nations has admitted responsibility for the 2010 cholera epidemic in Haiti which killed more than ten thousand people.

Nearly six years after a cholera epidemic killed thousands of Haitians, the United Nations secretary general has confessed that U.N. peacekeepers likely caused the illness to spread. The admission of guilt comes after a report prepared by Philip Alston, a human rights lawyer and U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, was leaked to the NY Times.

In a confidential report to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Alston states that the epidemic “would not have broken out but for the actions of the United Nations.” Ban Ki-moon released a statement confirming that the United Nations played a role in the epidemic, but did not explicitly acknowledge the organization’s role in creating the crisis.

The New York Times reports:

For the first time since a cholera epidemic believed to be imported by United Nation peacekeepers began killing thousands of Haitians nearly six years ago, the office of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has acknowledged that the United Nations played a role in the initial outbreak and that a “significant new set of U.N. actions” will be needed to respond to the crisis.

The deputy spokesman for the secretary general, Farhan Haq, said in an email this week that “over the past year, the U.N. has become convinced that it needs to do much more regarding its own involvement in the initial outbreak and the suffering of those affected by cholera.” He added that a “new response will be presented publicly within the next two months, once it has been fully elaborated, agreed with the Haitian authorities and discussed with member states.

The 19-page report from Alston describes the failures of the U.N.’s handling of the outbreak. The U.N. initially sent rescue workers into Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. By mid-October 2010, people along the Meille River began dying from cholera. Victims of cholera typically die from dehydration caused by diarrhea and vomiting. A group of rescue workers have long been suspected of contributing to the outbreak which lead to the deaths of at least 10,000 people. According to The Times, “the first victims lived near a base housing 454 United Nations peacekeepers freshly arrived from Nepal, where a cholera outbreak was underway, and waste from the base often leaked into the river.”

Beatrice Lindstrom, a lawyer with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), called the U.N.’s admission “a groundbreaking first step towards justice.” Following the cholera outbreak, the IJDH filed a lawsuit against the United Nations on behalf of the cholera victims. “Up until now, the U.N. had refused to engage in any kind of conversation about their role in the cholera outbreak. It is still, though, far from being a formal apology,” told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Ban Ki-moon’s Deputy spokesman Haq told the Washington Post Alston’s report would likely be published in late September and presented by Ban at the U.N. General Assembly in October. Haq insisted that the U.N. welcomed the “vital report,” calling it a “valuable contribution to the U.N. as we work toward a significantly new set of U.N. actions.”

The United Nations has thus far not mentioned firing any officials or restructuring their leadership in response to the failures in Haiti. The controversy over the handling of Haiti and the spread of cholera is only one of many criticisms lodged at the U.N. As The Washington Post notes:

It follows accusations this year that U.N. peacekeepers have committed rape and murder in the Central African Republic, and more recently that they failed to defend aid workers against brutal attacks in South Sudan.

Critics say these scandals have laid bare the United Nations’ struggles to police its forces and investigate claims of wrongdoing and abuse, whether in cases of negligence — such as Haiti — or the allegations of more serious crimes in Africa.

To the conspiratorial-minded readers the U.N. confession may be a part of something more nefarious. It is well documented that the U.N. has an interest in tracking population growth and promoting methods of population control. In fact, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), is on record stating that “we should make every effort” to reduce the world’s population. There is also the issue of National Security Memorandum 200, which was completed with the help of Henry Kissinger. The memo describes steps the United States should take to promote population control methods, including using organizations such as the U.N. to promote the agenda.

“The one that caused the greatest mystery that we would like to resolve — not knowing creates all these conspiracy theories — and that’s Omar al-Bayoumi. We know there was contact [with the terrorists] and he was gone before 9/11. We know he’s lied in certain interviews and public statements. It’s one of those things hanging out there”

What was Omar al-Bayoumi doing in San Diego?

The Parkwood Apartments, where the hijackers lived, have since been converted into condominiums

Nearly 15 years after the 9/11 attacks, questions linger about a San Diego man’s ties to two Al-Qaeda terrorists he helped settle in Clairemont as his neighbors who went on to crash a hijacked plane into the Pentagon.

Omar al-Bayoumi met Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar under dubious circumstances in a Los Angeles restaurant. Three days later he helped them move into his apartment complex, though he later insisted they were strangers. Bayoumi, married with four children, did not work, yet he seemed not to want for money. He was 42 at the time and claimed to be a student. However, nobody knew where he went to school, and he always seemed to be hanging around the Islamic Center of San Diego on Balboa Avenue, next to the 805 freeway.

Bayoumi usually walked around with a video camera, recording people at the mosque and cultural events. Long before the attacks, local Muslims suspected Bayoumi was a Saudi spy who kept tabs on Saudis living in San Diego; a belief buttressed when his wallet with Saudi government credentials was found in the mosque’s sanctuary. His frequent contacts with the Saudi embassy in Washington and consulate in Los Angeles were also well known.

After the attacks, FBI agents had their own suspicion about Bayoumi: was he an advance man for Hazmi and Mihdhar? So, who is Bayoumi and what was his role in the September 11, 2001, attacks? These questions remain unanswered. The release of the so-called 28 pages by Congress on July 15 offer new tidbits about him that only add to the mystery.

Why did al-Bayoumi befriend the 9/11 Pentagon hijackers?

He lived in San Diego on and off for about seven years before moving to England one month before the attacks and now lives in Saudi Arabia.

The newly released document makes up a chapter missing from the 838-page report issued in 2002 by the joint congressional inquiry into intelligence failures leading up to the attacks. The inquiry’s task was to gather information and was not an investigation. President George W. Bush ordered the pages classified on national security grounds. President Obama authorized their release.

Bush’s decision to keep the document secret fueled speculation about Saudi government involvement in the terrorist attacks. However, while it mentions the “substantial assistance” that Bayoumi gave to the hijackers, the pages contain no smoking gun. Follow-up investigations by the FBI and 9/11 Commission were unable to prove that the Saudi government or Saudi citizens named in the document had advanced knowledge of or knowingly assisted the hijackers. Fifteen of the 19 terrorists were Saudis.

Still, investigators uncovered several disturbing coincidences that leave skeptics wondering what the Saudis, including Bayoumi, knew. One 9/11 Commission member called the coincidences “an incredible series of circumstances” that, among other things, allowed Hazmi and Mihdhar to live here unobtrusively. Bayoumi’s association with Hazmi and Mihdhar has been analyzed extensively and remains hotly debated.

Chapter V in the 9/11 Review Commission report notes there is “ongoing internal debate within the FBI” over whether Bayoumi and others gave witting assistance to the hijackers. The review commission was created by Congress to check the FBI’s progress instituting the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.

Officially, the 9/11 Commission and FBI concluded that the hijackers did not have a support network in the U.S. and any support given to them was unwitting. Both agencies concluded that Bayoumi did not knowingly assist the terrorists. If this is true, then his ties to Hazmi and Mihdhar are intertwined in a series of compelling coincidences.

“The documentary evidence that Bayoumi provided assistance to Hazmi and Mihdhar is solid,” said the declassified document. It notes that he had “far more extensive ties to the Saudi government than previously realized.” The document reported almost 100 phone calls from Bayoumi to Saudi government offices in the U.S. between January (when Hazmi and Mihdhar arrived in Los Angeles) and May 2000.

Before the terrorists arrived here, Bayoumi was getting $465 in monthly Saudi government allowances. In March 2000, one month after Hazmi and Mihdhar moved to Clairemont, his monthly stipend increased to $3700 and remained so until reduced to $3200 in December 2000, when Hazmi left San Diego. Federal investigators suspected that the increase in Bayoumi’s government allowance was intended to assist Hazmi and Mihdhar, but this suspicion was never proven.

Much of what was learned about the attacks was uncovered in San Diego. San Diego County sheriff Bill Gore, head of the local FBI office during 9/11, said, “We know more about [Hazmi and Mihdhar] in San Diego and what they did and where they went from the time they came into the U.S. to the time they flew into the Pentagon than any other hijackers.” But he also added “some things we’ll never know the answer to; one of them being Bayoumi.”

Former Senator Bob Graham (D-FL), co-chair of the joint congressional inquiry, said San Diego provided “the blood sample of 9/11.” “In our understanding of 9/11, San Diego was absolutely critical because we were able to gather so much information there. It was almost analogous to having a physical exam and they draw blood and use a small amount of that fluid to be properly analyzed,” said Graham in a telephone interview.

Bayoumi met Hazmi and Mihdhar on February 1, 2000. He claimed it was a random encounter at the Mediterranean Gourmet restaurant on Venice Boulevard in Los Angeles, and then he invited them to move to San Diego. On February 4 he was helping them apply for an apartment that was one door down from his at the Parkwood Apartments, off Balboa Avenue and a block west of the Islamic Center. Bayoumi told FBI agents in an August 2003 interview in Saudi Arabia that Hazmi and Mihdhar were the only ones he ever helped find an apartment.

The terrorists moved in without furniture. Because they did not have a credit history, Bayoumi co-signed for them and they were allowed to list his address as a previous residence. Bayoumi also helped them open a checking account and drew a cashier’s check for $1500 at a Bank of America on Balboa Avenue in his name to cover their first month’s rent; Bayoumi was promptly reimbursed.

On February 9, five days after the duo moved into the apartment, and again on February 14, Bayoumi’s cell phone was used to call the landlord of an apartment complex on 49th Street, off El Cajon Boulevard. On February 15 the landlord returned a page from Bayoumi’s phone and Hazmi answered. The terrorists complained that rent at the Parkwood was too high. They were looking for a cheaper place to live. (The Parkwood Apartments, at 6401 Mount Ada Road, have since been converted to condominiums and the complex given a new name.)

Graham said congressional investigators were lucky to learn about Bayoumi and the two hijackers before the Bush administration put a lid on the information. “And relative to the situation in San Diego, it was just our good fortune to get there before the cover-up [was] put in place,” said Graham, referring to the sealing of the 28 pages. When asked who ordered the cover-up, he said, “I think it came from the White House.”

Graham is skeptical of U.S. claims that there was no involvement by Saudi government officials in the attacks and that any help that Hazmi and Mihdhar received from local Muslims was unwitting. He told 60 Minutes he believes the terrorists received a substantial amount of support from a Saudi network, including in San Diego. However, the FBI has been unable to find any co-conspirators despite a nearly 15-year-long investigation.

In the telephone interview, Graham said the hijackers could not have succeeded without support from within the U.S. “I think it is highly implausible that these 19 people, most of whom didn’t speak English, had never been in the United States before, weren’t well educated, [alone] could have turned out such a sophisticated plot,” he said.

In one of the many contradictory findings in the investigations, the 9/11 Commission reached the same conclusion. The commission’s report said it was unlikely that Hazmi and Mihdhar “would have come to the U.S. without arranging to receive assistance from one or more individuals informed in advance of their arrival.” But the commission ultimately said investigators found no evidence the terrorists had willing accomplices while in San Diego. Mihdhar lived here four months and Hazmi ten.

Gore said FBI agents began the investigation on the supposition that the terrorists had a local cell supporting them. “That was the whole point of our investigation to see if that network existed. I didn’t see one crucial piece of aid or support that they got here in San Diego that they couldn’t have gotten some other way to further their plan,” he said.

Hazmi and Mihdhar were the first hijackers to settle in the United States, arriving in Los Angeles on January 15, 2000, 21 months before the attacks. They came to California after attending an Al-Qaeda summit in Malaysia. Present at the terrorist gathering in Malaysia was the mastermind of the USS Cole bombing on October 12, 2000, which killed 17 sailors, including one from San Diego. The CIA was aware of the meeting but did not inform the FBI at the time.

The CIA’s failure to notify the FBI quickly about Hazmi and Mihdhar still resonates with Gore and FBI officials. The FBI was faulted for missed opportunities to stop the attacks. Critics noted that Hazmi’s name was in the San Diego phone book. “If the CIA had passed it on in a more timely fashion it wouldn’t have taken a rocket scientist to find the hijackers,” said Gore. “But you can’t find somebody when you’re not looking for him and had no reason to look for him.”

In an October 2003 interview with the 9/11 Commission staff, Bayoumi said the restaurant meeting with Hazmi and Mihdhar in Los Angeles was unplanned and occurred after he stopped at the Saudi consulate, where he went with a non-Arabic-speaking friend. However, Graham doubts that the encounter was happenstance. Graham’s committee was unable to interview Bayoumi.

“There were 134 Middle Eastern restaurants in Los Angeles in January 2000. We asked a statistician to calculate the chance that two pairs of two would end up in the same restaurant at the same hour. As I recall it was something like three million to one the probability of that occurring,” said Graham. The FBI called the meeting suspicious, but officials said there is no evidence that Bayoumi planned the meeting or was directed by anyone at the consulate to meet with the terrorists. Authorities have not determined how Hazmi and Mihdhar, who did not have a car then, got to San Diego from Los Angeles.

A student who met Bayoumi at the Islamic Center said in a 2001 interview that he used to accompany Bayoumi to meetings at the consulate. He recalled Bayoumi telling him in early 2000 that he had to go to Los Angeles to meet some important people who were moving to San Diego but did not invite him. Bayoumi did not say who they were.

The student, who left the U.S. in 2005, said Bayoumi was a father figure who gave him advice about sex and other matters. The two would attend mosque together and frequently drive to Las Vegas to eat and enjoy a stage show. Bayoumi also helped him get a cell phone.

“I found him to be a very wise man who loved poetry. He was a poet who liked to recite love poems. I know people were suspicious of him; thought he was a spy. But I never saw anything unusual in his behavior,” he said in 2001. Fifteen years later he remains loyal to his friend.

“I have no doubt that Bayoumi had no negative involvement (at least intentionally) in any wrong doing during his stay in SD. I hope the documents [28 pages] reveals so, otherwise, I would sincerely regret the day I have know [sic] him,” he said in a recent email. In a later email he opined that the declassified document cleared Bayoumi of charges that he was a Saudi agent and had ties to the terrorist attacks.

About four days after the terrorists moved into their new apartment, Bayoumi organized a dinner party in their home to introduce them to the community. A former Islamic Center administrator who attended the party and had almost daily contact with Bayoumi said it was the only time Bayoumi threw a party for newcomers.

In a December 2002 interview with an Arab newspaper, Bayoumi denied arranging the February 2000 party; instead, he said it was a traditional Ramadan dinner that Hazmi and Mihdhar arranged. However, Ramadan, a monthlong religious observance, ended on December 28 in 2000. The preceding Ramadan began in December 1999 and ended on January 8, 2000, a week before the terrorists’ arrival in Los Angeles.

Bayoumi hosted another dinner party in spring 2000 at a Kurdish mosque in El Cajon where he introduced the terrorists to about 20 men, including Mohdar Abdullah. Abdullah, a San Diego State student at the time, is another controversial figure whom the FBI speculated may have had advanced knowledge of the attacks.

Abdullah, a Yemeni, denied knowing about the attacks in several interviews but admitted being a close friend of Hazmi. “It was a private introduction. I recall Bayoumi telling me, ‘These guys just came from Los Angeles.’ He told them if they needed any help they could ask me. Being a committed Muslim, it’s kind of a moral obligation to help your brothers who are in need. I reacted very normally. I said sure,” said Abdullah in a 2002 jailhouse interview. He was in the U.S. illegally and deported in 2004.

Bayoumi “indicated he drove [Hazmi and Mihdhar] from Los Angeles to San Diego,” said Abdullah. The 9/11 Commission said the terrorists were “possibly” driven to San Diego by Abdullah, but he has repeatedly denied that.

Bayoumi arrived in the United States in 1994 to study English at San Diego State. He claimed to be a student during the entire time he lived here. He told some that he was living off a stipend from his employer, Dallah/Avco Trans Arabia Co., who he said was paying him to study in the U.S. The business is an aviation services company with ties to the Saudi government. He told an apartment manager that he was receiving money from his family and others that he had a government scholarship. He told the Arab newspaper he was a social worker in San Diego.

Bayoumi first appeared on the FBI’s San Diego radar in 1998, when an apartment manager reported suspicious gatherings of Middle Eastern males in his apartment and a suspicious package mailed to him from overseas. Agents opened an inquiry that was closed the following year without action taken. Hazmi told a Saudi college student from La Mesa he believed Bayoumi was a spy and tailing Mihdhar and him when they crossed paths in the restaurant.

In a fall 2001 interview, the student related Hazmi’s account that Bayoumi walked by their table and pretended to drop a newspaper. He then began talking to Hazmi and Mihdhar in Arabic. The student was interviewed with a lawyer present and asked to remain anonymous.

In an October 2003 interview with the 9/11 Commission staff in Saudi Arabia, Bayoumi said that Hazmi’s “description of him as a Saudi spy hurt him very much.” The interview took place in the presence of an agent from the Mabahith, the secret police from the Saudi Ministry of the Interior. Bayoumi said that in the restaurant meeting Hazmi and Mihdhar said they wanted to move to San Diego after hearing his description of the local weather.

The La Mesa student said his uncle gave him some advice before he left for the U.S.; advice generated by Saudi paranoia that everyone is a government informant. The man who goes out of his way to help him in San Diego is the one to be wary of, he warned. The student said when he arrived at the Islamic Center in August 2000, asking for help in finding a place to rent, Bayoumi drove him to the house of Abdussattar Shaikh in Lemon Grove, where he lived for one month. Shaikh took in Muslim boarders and was Bayoumi’s friend. Shaikh said he was an educator and preferred to be called Dr. Shaikh. In 2000 he was a member of the San Diego Police Commission and an FBI informant.

Hazmi and Mihdhar rented rooms in Shaikh’s house after moving out of the Parkwood Apartments in May 2000. In an interview with 9/11 Commission staff, Shaikh said Bayoumi told him he had referred the hijackers to Shaikh’s home, but Shaikh disputed that. The FBI did not learn that the terrorists lived with one of the bureau’s informants until after the attacks.

Despite acknowledging his ties to Hazmi and Mihdhar to the 9/11 Commission and in an August 2003 interview with the FBI in Saudi Arabia, Bayoumi told the Arab newspaper he did not know the two terrorists and did not draw a cashier’s check in his name — for which he was reimbursed — to pay for their first month’s rent. He said he did not know where Hazmi and Mihdhar lived after moving from the apartment, despite telling Shaikh that he suggested they rent from him.

The FBI did not learn about Bayoumi’s association with the hijackers until September 13, 2001, when their names and photos were released. Local Muslims who recognized Hazmi and Mihdhar called the FBI and told agents about Bayoumi. A local religious leader interviewed in 2001 said FBI agents showed him a photo lineup on September 15. The only man he recognized was Bayoumi, and it was clear by the questions the FBI was asking that agents did not know where he was, said the imam.

Two days later, attorney Randall Hamud and a client who knew Bayoumi and the hijackers met voluntarily with the FBI and gave them Bayoumi’s address in Birmingham, England, where he had moved. Hamud’s client told agents that he had agreed to have $5000 wired from the United Arab Emirates to his bank account for Hazmi, thinking he was doing a favor for a fellow Muslim. This information also gave the FBI its first lead that directed U.S. authorities to Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, an Al-Qaeda financier who wired money to the hijackers and made their travel arrangements.

“The FBI thanked us and promised that my client’s name would remain anonymous. Later, we discovered that our information probably enabled the FBI to identify and arrest the financier of the attacks,” said Hamud in a recent interview.

Ali is the nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, better known as KSM and the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Both men are at Guantanamo Bay.

On September 21, 2001, four days after Hamud’s client met with the FBI, New Scotland Yard detained Bayoumi at the FBI’s request and held him under the name Abu Imard for seven days. FBI agents were sent to England to question Bayoumi, said Gore.

After the attacks, several Middle-Eastern students who knew the hijackers in San Diego were arrested as material witnesses. By any measure, Bayoumi provided material support to Hazmi and Mihdhar — wittingly or unwittingly. The FBI’s failure to arrest him as a material witness strengthened suspicion in the Muslim community that he was a Saudi agent.

Gore, interviewed in his Kearny Mesa office, said the FBI did not arrest Bayoumi because “we just couldn’t come up with enough to tie him to 9/11 to get him arrested in Great Britain.”

Osama Basnan, another Saudi who lived in the same apartment complex as Bayoumi, was mentioned prominently in the declassified report. Basnan (spelled “Bassnan” in the document) was a suspected Saudi agent and was known as the Saudi mayor of San Diego. He now lives in Saudi Arabia. An FBI report describes Basnan and Bayoumi as the closest of friends and notes there were about 700 phone calls made between the men’s phones in a one-year period. Their wives were also friends. However, in interviews with 9/11 Commission staff, Bayoumi said he did not like Basnan, and Basnan claimed not to know Bayoumi at all. Basnan was interviewed in the presence of three Mabahith agents.

The 9/11 Commission investigator noted Basnan’s numerous contradictory statements and said Basnan had an “utter lack of credibility on virtually every material subject.” For example, it has been documented that in 1992 he hosted a party in Washington for Omar Abdel Rahman, known as “the Blind Sheikh” and spiritual leader of the terrorists who pulled off the 1993 World Trade Center bombings. Basnan claimed he was a victim of mistaken identity. The FBI and 9/11 Commission were unable to connect Basnan to Hazmi and Mihdhar, but the declassified document says he made laudatory comments about Osama bin Laden, speaking of him “as if he were a god” to an FBI informant.

What is indisputable is that Basnan’s wife received $74,000 in monthly checks before the attacks from the wife of Prince Bandar, Saudi ambassador to the U.S. Basnan himself received a $15,000 check from Bandar. Basnan said the money was used to pay for medical services for his wife. FBI agents accounted for all of the money received by Basnan and his wife and none of it was used to help Hazmi and Mihdhar, said Gore. The couple was deported in 2002.

Gore said he is proud of the FBI investigation in San Diego but added that the full story of 9/11 may never be known. He is bothered by what the investigation did not uncover. He calls the unanswered questions mysteries and one is bigger than the others.

“The one that caused the greatest mystery that we would like to resolve — not knowing creates all these conspiracy theories — and that’s Omar al-Bayoumi. We know there was contact [with the terrorists] and he was gone before 9/11. We know he’s lied in certain interviews and public statements. It’s one of those things hanging out there. Although we weren’t able to prove it, I don’t think he was in any way directing or knew about 9/11. [But] you don’t like to have those loose ends. And that’s definitely a loose end,” he said.

Omar al-Bayoumi

“I did support the Star Gate program, as did Senator Robert Byrd and other members of the committee. There seemed to be a small segment of people who were able to key into a different level of consciousness”

Dr. Edwin May, remote-viewing, and U.S. intelligence agencies

Dr. Edwin ‘Star-Gate’ Mays

Steps from the Hayward Executive Airport in Northern California, a brunette in jeans and hiking boots scans her surroundings for police. She’s carrying a 13-pound canister of liquid nitrogen in her hand. She unclasps the lid and dumps the colorless, minus-320-degree liquid into a beer cooler packed with 2,000 tiny aluminum balls. A thick white cloud erupts below the airport’s control tower, a witch’s brew that crackles and pops. Undetected, she darts back to her SUV and is gone.Over the past two years, the same intruder has performed this clandestine ritual three dozen times across the San Francisco Bay Area. Without warning or permission, she’s released nitrogen gas clouds in front of a fire station, a busy Catholic church, a water tower and a government center. She’s smoke-bombed her way from Palo Alto to Alameda, spewing her cryogenic concoction in popular city parks and near lakes, highways and Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) subway lines.She’s not a Satanic cultist or an incompetent terrorist. Arguably, her mission is even more improbable. It’s all part of an experiment run by a former Pentagon scientist to prove the existence of extrasensory perception, or ESP.

Washington’s Most Expensive Psychics

Twenty years ago this month, the CIA released a report with the unassuming title, “An Evaluation of Remote Viewing: Research and Applications.” The 183-page white paper was more like a white flag—it was the CIA’s public admission, after years of speculation, that U.S. government agencies had been using a type of ESP called “remote viewing” for more than two decades to help collect military and intelligence secrets. At a cost of about $20 million, the program had employed psychics to visualize hidden extremist training sites in Libya, describe new Soviet submarine designs and pinpoint the locations of U.S. hostages held by foreign kidnappers.But the report, conducted for the CIA by the independent American Institutes for Research, did much more than confirm the existence of the highly classified program. It declared that the psychic-spy operation, code-named Star Gate, had been a bust. Yes, the CIA researchers had validated some Star Gate trials, finding that “hits occur more often than chance” and that “something beyond odd statistical hiccups is taking place.” But the report declared that ESP was next to worthless for military use because the tips provided are too “vague and ambiguous” to produce actionable intelligence.

Like a Ouija board, the resulting news headlines seemed to write themselves. “End of Aura for CIA Mystics,” The Guardian quipped. “Spooks See No Future for Pentagon Psychics,” a Scottish paper reported. “Putting the ‘ESP’ Back Into Espionage,” BusinessWeek added.

ABC News’s Nightline also joined the fray, hosting a face-off between Robert Gates, the former CIA director, and Edwin May, the scientist who had been running the government’s ESP research program. Gates struck first. “I don’t know of a single instance where it is documented that this kind of activity contributed in any significant way to a policy decision, or even to informing policy makers about important information,” he said. May fought back, citing “dramatic cases in the laboratory” in which Pentagon psychics had accurately sketched a target thousands of miles away that they had never actually seen.That wasn’t good enough, however. Already embarrassed and under pressure for the disclosure that one of their own, Aldrich Ames, had been spying for the Russians for a decade, the CIA officially shut down the psychic spies program. Star Gate had fizzled out.

It was November 1995, and May was out of a job. His life’s work had been discredited by the CIA, and he had been humbled on national television. At 55, the trained scientist might have retreated to academia or simply walked away. Instead, he doubled down on ESP.

A Jewish Hungarian Cowboy

As a boy, May always seemed to stand out. Born in Boston, the Navy brat moved frequently, finally settling with his family after World War II on a ranch outside Tucson. “I grew up as a Jewish Hungarian cowboy in Arizona,” he says, while digging into a plate of country ham at a tavern in Virginia. Fascinated with the Russian language, he taught himself the Cyrillic alphabet. He fell in love with physics at a local private boarding school and headed to college in New York. “I had a letter sweater in calf roping,” he says. “The only guy at the University of Rochester with that.”May graduated in 1962 and began pursuing a doctoral degree. It didn’t last long. “I flunked out of my first graduate school,” he says. “Fell in with a bunch of fast nurses and learned to play a bagpipe.”His timing was unfortunate. The Vietnam War was ramping up, and the U.S. Army came calling. “It was more than a wakeup call. It straightened out my life,” May says of nearly getting drafted. He enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh and buckled down, earning a Ph.D. in nuclear physics in four years. By 1968, with the counterculture movement raging, May had gone legit, authoring a thesis titled, “Nuclear Reaction Studies via the (Proton, Proton Neutron) Reaction on Light Nuclei and the (Deuteron, Proton Neutron) Reaction on Medium to Heavy Nuclei.”May found post-doc work at the University of California, Davis, conducting tests with cyclotrons, but life outside the physics lab began exerting its own magnetic pull. “I moved to San Francisco,” he recalls proudly. “As a professional hippie.” In the Bay Area, May dropped out, attending trippy lectures on parapsychological research and experimenting with drugs. With the standard-issue beard and ponytail in place, he took off for India in search of the miraculous. May expected to “make Nobel Prize–winning discoveries of mind over matter,” but he came home empty-handed. “I was unable to find a single psychic, whether street fakir or holy guru, who was able or willing to fit into my scientific framework,” he wrote in Psychic magazine upon his return.

In 1975, May’s career found him. A friend recommended him for a job at the prestigious Stanford Research Institute, now called SRI International, in Menlo Park. May would be conducting psychokinesis experiments. Unknown to him at the time, many of the projects were top secret and funded by the CIA.Three years earlier, spooked by the Soviet Union’s growing interest in parapsychology, the CIA had embraced ESP. At first, the Cold War–era tests were low-key, with CIA officials clumsily hiding objects in a box and asking a psychic to describe the contents. Soon the CIA got serious and ordered a $50,000 pilot study at the SRI, determined to see if psychics could use their remote-viewing skills to visualize and sketch large target sites in and around San Francisco.Harold Puthoff, a laser physicist with a Ph.D. from Stanford University, was the program’s first director. The CIA, he wrote, “watchful for possible chicanery, participated as remote viewers themselves in order to critique the protocols.” The CIA officials drew seven sketches “of striking quality,” Puthoff recalled, and “performed well under controlled laboratory conditions.” Later, a psychic sitting in California visualized inside a secret National Security Agency listening post in West Virginia, right down to the words on file folders, according to Puthoff and a CIA official.The CIA project director described the NSA-visualization results as “mixed” because the psychic nailed the code name for the site and its physical layout but botched the names of people working at the site. Nonetheless, interest from the U.S. intelligence community spiked. And when that same remote viewer—provided with only map coordinates and an atlas—described new buildings and a massive construction crane hidden at a secret Soviet nuclear weapons facility (but got most other details wrong), multiple U.S. agencies began signing up for ESP studies.A few years later, two psychologists at a New Zealand university had a premonition about Puthoff: They called him a bit of a rube. Writing in the journal Nature, the psychologists revealed that they had obtained transcripts of the original CIA experiments. The psychic who had seen deep inside the NSA outpost and the Soviet nuclear site had been fed “a large number of cues” from the judges over the years, they reported, and it was impossible to duplicate the uncanny results of his ESP testing. “Our own experiments on remote viewing under cue-free conditions have consistently failed to replicate the effect,” the psychologists concluded. Puthoff, who would also famously declare that spoon-bender and magician Uri Geller possessed psychic powers, disputed the psychologists’ findings and kept running the ESP program until 1985.Although the CIA stopped funding ESP research in 1977, the Air Force, Army and Defense Intelligence Agency kept writing checks. The Army’s Fort Meade base in Maryland became the program’s secret operational home. In 1995, when Congress directed the CIA to evaluate remote viewing and either take over the program or cancel it for good, the DIA was at the helm. Congress bankrolled and protected the program for years. Well-known defenders included Rhode Island Senator Claiborne Pell and North Carolina Representative Charlie Rose, who once told an interviewer that “if the Russians have remote viewing, and we don’t, we’re in trouble.”A lesser-known supporter: Maine Senator William Cohen, who would later become the Secretary of Defense under President Bill Clinton. “I was impressed with the concept of remote viewing,” he tells Newsweek in an email. “The results may not have been consistent enough to constitute ‘actionable intelligence,’ but exploration of the power of the mind was and remains an important endeavor.”To May, that’s an understatement.

‘I believed it then, and I believe it now’

To his admirers, May is a legitimate parapsychologist. To his critics, that phrase is the ultimate oxymoron. From 1985 to 1995, May served as the California-based research director of the Pentagon’s ESP program. A proton-probing scientist by training and a paranormal prophet by choosing, May was that rare specimen—a full-time ESP researcher with a salary and 401(k) plan courtesy of the U.S. government.Thick of waist now with a shiny pate and white beard, he could pass for aging folk star Peter Yarrow. May has never met an aside he didn’t like. Conversations come loaded with amusing chestnuts (“We’d answer the phone, ‘Hello, Division of Parapsychology. May we tell you who’s calling?’”), Washington gossip (“You know the Energy Department is run by Mormons?”) and TMI (“I hung out with the Wicca community for a while”). But when the talk turns to nonbelievers who dismiss remote viewing as voodoo without examining the evidence, May is short-tempered. “I’m not going to deal with a skeptic who has no fucking idea about what he’s talking about. Because he’s just making it up. That’s bad science. I’m a scientist.” And May has even less time for all the former Star Gate psychics who peddle mood-ring junk science online, some warning paying customers about flying saucers and the coming apocalypse. “They are ripping people off, and I have to undo that when I try to sell this to mainstream scientists,” he says.So what is his scientific evidence? In 1995, when the CIA began preparing its program review, May provided the review team with results of 10 experiments he felt provided “the strongest evidence” to support “the remote-viewing phenomenon.” The tests, with names like “AC lucid dream, pilot” and “ERD EEG investigation” detail the success rate of each experiment. One of the CIA reviewers, while clearly in the minority, was sold. “It is clear to this author that [ESP] is possible and has been demonstrated,” she wrote in the agency’s report. “This conclusion is not based on belief, but rather on commonly accepted scientific criteria.”

Today, May says ESP has “already been proved,” and defends it like an impatient school teacher explaining gravity. He quickly offers a barrage of evidence and anecdotes to make his case. In a recent interview, May references an obscure presentation that the military’s own remote-viewing project manager wrote in 1984 for his Army superiors. According to the now-declassified “secret” briefing, available online, the Army’s Intelligence and Security Command had conducted “100 collection projects” using ESP since 1979 for a slew of government agencies including the CIA, NSA, FBI and Secret Service. Several of the projects involved the use of Army psychics to help locate Americans taken hostage by Iran in 1979. “Over 85% of our operational missions have produced accurate target information,” states the briefing. “Even more significant, approximately 50% of the 760 missions produced usable intelligence.” May sees the Army report as confirmation that Gates was protecting the CIA when he declared on Nightline that remote viewing had never “contributed in any significant way” to U.S. intelligence efforts. “Gates lied,” he tells Newsweek. “What more can I say?” Gates, now a partner in the RiceHadleyGates consulting firm, wouldn’t comment. But the author of the Army’s 1984 report did. Brian Buzby was an Army lieutenant colonel when he briefly ran the Pentagon’s ESP program in the 1980s. He’s retired in Alabama now and has never spoken to the media before. He stands by his remote-viewing report. “I believed in it then, and I believe in it now,” Buzby says. “It was a real thing, and it worked.” Buzby says the program was just one low-cost tool that provided an additional source of intel for military and civilian analysts to weigh. When he learned the CIA had shut down the program, “I was disappointed that somebody wouldn’t pick up the banner.” For May, further proof of the program’s many wonders is Star Gate’s legendary “Agent 001.” The first psychic to work directly for the Pentagon, then–Army Chief Warrant Officer Joseph McMoneagle began remote viewing for the government in 1978. As a child, McMoneagle recalls sharing thoughts telepathically with his twin sister, and says he honed his ESP abilities as a soldier avoiding deadly attacks in Vietnam. May says McMoneagle could correctly identify a target “just under 50 percent” of the time when presented with five possible options. Using chance alone, he says the best outcome would be just 20 percent.

May cites one intriguing example. It was 1979, and the National Security Council wanted help in “seeing” inside an unidentified industrial building near the Arctic Circle in Russia. McMoneagle began imagining himself “drifting down into the building” and had “an overwhelming sense” that he could see a submarine, “a really big one, with twin hulls.” He made detailed drawings of the giant sub for the NSC. Only later, McMoneagle wrote in his 2002 memoir, did U.S. satellite photographs confirm the existence at the Soviet’s secret Severodvinsk shipyard of a massive double-hulled Typhoon submarine, which constituted a new threat to American national security.Upon retirement from the Army in 1984, McMoneagle was awarded the Legion of Merit. Given for exceptionally meritorious conduct, his award states that he served in a “unique intelligence project that is revolutionizing the intelligence community.” It adds that he produced “critical intelligence unavailable from any other source” for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, DIA, NSA, CIA and Secret Service.

Meeting a Millionaire

For years after the government shut down its ESP program, May and McMoneagle tried to bring it back from the dead. They approached friendlies inside the U.S. agencies that had once funded them, “and they fled from us like you wouldn’t believe,” May says. He was “getting desperate, out of money,” and then he met a millionaire.The third-generation owner of a pharmaceutical empire, Luís Portela, was in a unique position to help. In 1924, Portela’s grandfather opened a modest laboratory above the pharmacy where he worked in Porto, Portugal. Today, that business is called Bial, and it’s the largest pharmaceutical manufacturer in Portugal. Its products are sold in more than 50 countries on four continents. From an early age, Portela has been spellbound by the paranormal. In an email, he says he’s always tried to understand why humanity and religion “accepted too easily some phenomena, so-called mysteries or miracles,” while scientists “denied those phenomena, claiming that they did not exist.” So in 1994, Portela set up the nonprofit Bial Foundation to study ESP and “the human being from both the physical and spiritual perspectives.”It’s a radical concept for such a conservative industry. Imagine Johnson & Johnson financing crystal healing. The Bial Foundation has funded more than 500 projects in 25 countries, including dozens of ESP studies and even research into ghost sightings and belief in UFOs. May has been a frequent Bial recipient, collecting about $400,000 in research funds for nine ESP-related projects. In the process, Portela has become a fanboy, believing the controversial scientist has helped “foster the understanding of the human being.”

Funded by the Bial Foundation at a cost of $45,000, May’s latest ESP study “is probably the best experiment in the history of the field,” the Star Gate researcher says. The goal: to test whether “changes of thermodynamic entropy at a remote natural site enhance the quality of the anomalous cognition.” That’s a two-dollar way of asking whether a sudden release of thermal energy, like a rocket launch or a liquid nitrogen eruption in a beer cooler, can improve a psychic’s ability to perceive what’s happening at the site from thousands of miles away. “This wasn’t something that we just pulled out of our rear ends,” May explains. “It was really all the spying stuff we did for the government, where we discovered that when targets involve large changes of thermodynamic entropy, like underground nukes, accelerators, electromagnetic pulse devices and so on, they work much better” in signaling remote viewers.To conduct the ESP-improvement experiment, May reassembled his old A-team. Out of rural Virginia, there’s McMoneagle, the former Army intelligence officer who won the Legion of Merit. Then there’s Nevin Lantz, a former Star Gate researcher who works today as a Palo Alto psychotherapist and “authentic happiness coach.” And finally there’s Angela Dellafiora Ford, a former Star Gate psychic and DIA intelligence analyst from Maryland who markets herself as a “medium that can help people connect with their spirit guides as well as communicate with their loved ones on the other side.”Ford was one of only a half-dozen women who worked as psychics for the government’s program. Some of her military colleagues derided her because three “spirit guides” would possess her mind during Star Gate remote-viewing sessions and guide her observations. One was a fat cherub, another a boy-like angel and the last a 17th-century British professor who spoke through her, Ford says. In an interview, she also says she once saw a UFO outside her suburban home in 2010. “It reminded me of something like they call the mother ship,” she says. “It was not moving. It was hovering…and then it sort of disappeared.”

Regardless of her unorthodox methods and beliefs, Ford also has her admirers. One of them is Cohen, the former senator and secretary of defense. He first got to know Ford when he was on the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, which helped fund Star Gate even when the Defense Department lost interest. Ford conducted psychic readings for Cohen when was he was a senator, and he remains a true believer. “I did support the Star Gate program, as did Senator Robert Byrd and other members of the committee,” Cohen says in an email. “There seemed to be a small segment of people who were able to key into a different level of consciousness. Angela Ford was one of them. It doesn’t mean that she or any of the others in the Star Gate program possessed psychic powers that could predict the future or peer into the past and retrieve lost information. But there were a number of remote-viewing tests conducted that I found impressive.”With Ford, Lantz and McMoneagle back on the job, May began work on his ESP 2.0 experiment. The first step was to design protocols and choose 22 distinct Bay Area outdoor locations near his private Cognitive Sciences Laboratory in Palo Alto. Sites included the Hayward Executive Airport, a BART overpass in Union City, the Palo Alto Duck Pond and the Pulgas Ridge Preserve in Redwood City. Next, May would fire up his Sony Vaio laptop and ask the computer to randomly select one of the target sites. May and the remote viewers would not know the result. The computer would also generate a text message to inform May’s assistant—the mysterious brunette, a former waitress named Lory Hawley—where to drive and whether she would create a mini liquid nitrogen eruption. Again, May and the psychics were not told the result.May worked with the psychics, one at a time, in a quiet room. He placed a blindfold over each psychic’s eyes and then said: “Please access and describe the first thing you see when we remove the blindfold” in a half-hour or so. After getting into a relaxed or trance-like state, the remote viewer then described exactly what he or she “saw” at the Bay Area location. May then entered the psychic’s descriptions into his laptop, assigning a number value for each water feature, man-made structure and other physical element described. Finally, the computer determined the accuracy of each remote-viewing session.For these tests in California, May drove the psychics to the site the computer had selected and then told them to remove their blindfolds. But many other times, May conducted the experiment using locations thousands of miles away, in Maryland or Virginia, in hotel rooms or McMoneagle’s den. In those cases, May held up a photo of the correct target site for the psychic to see once they had described their vision.

The old Star Gate psychics recently completed 72 trials, with May’s assistant pouring liquid nitrogen 36 times. In his final report to Bial, May declared victory, finding “a significant effect supporting the study hypothesis (zdiff = 1.80, p = .036, ES = 0.425 ± 0.236).” Translation: Liquid nitrogen works. The sudden release of energy acts as a flare in the dark, May believes, helping psychics to see across the country and even into the future. “I think it’s very important,” he says of this unpublished study. “If it holds up, it will be a breakthrough.”

You Can’t Bullshit a Bullshitter

Chances are, Ray Hyman won’t see it that way. A professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Oregon, Hyman is one of the nation’s leading skeptics about the paranormal. Along with his friend James Randi, aka the Amazing Randi, he’s a founding member of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, now known as the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, whose mission is to promote “the use of reason in examining controversial and extraordinary claims.” As a scientist and former magician and mentalist, he’s a living embodiment of the “You can’t bullshit a bullshitter” maxim. Hyman and his skeptic kin are deeply suspicious of parapsychology and other phenomena they can’t prove, including man’s ability to walk through walls, become invisible, stop animal hearts through intense staring or any of the other wacky ideas embraced by Pentagon officials in the ’70s and ’80s and lampooned in the book and movie The Men Who Stare at Goats .Hyman and May first met at the SRI in the 1970s, and originally the skeptic was encouraged. Sent by the Defense Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency to the institute to observe illusionist Geller—“just a charming con artist” — Hyman grew to respect May’s scientific rigor and ethics. They agreed that the early SRI research was “crap,” Hyman says, providing way too many clues to the psychics and fudging the results.

But when May began running the ESP program, Hyman says, he also created protocol problems. May became the only arbiter of whether a psychic had accurately described a target. “The only judge who could make it work was Ed May,” Hyman says. “That’s a no-no.”So in 1995, when the CIA selected Hyman to help evaluate the Star Gate program, the automatic writing was on the wall. Although the famous debunker was paired with a known ESP proponent, Hyman’s views prevailed. The final CIA report chastised May for serving as both judge and jury on virtually all the ESP tests. “The use of the same judge across experiments further compounds the problem of non-independence of the experiments,” the report concluded.Reached recently at his Oregon home, Hyman expresses a begrudging respect for his old adversary. “Smart guy, no question about it—he’s talented,” he says. The 87-year-old professor says that well-meaning researchers like May are trying to bring respect to a field burdened by strip-mall palm readers, 1-800 psychics and Star Gate alums on the Internet who now charge top dollar to purportedly game the stock market, discover the lost city of Atlantis and uncover the truth behind the Kennedy assassination. Yet Hyman believes even the most sincere and sophisticated efforts to prove the existence of ESP have all failed: “Having the window dressing of statistics, controls, double-blind, all that kind of stuff,” he says, “doesn’t make it science.”

An Interview With a Psychic Foot Soldier

A few months ago at McMoneagle’s home near Charlottesville, Virginia, May volunteers to conduct a live remote-viewing test for me, with his ace psychic at his side. “Joe, please access and describe a photograph you will see in about one or two minutes from now,” May says.McMoneagle sits still for 30 seconds and then begins sketching on a pad. From the comfort of his brown recliner, McMoneagle describes his drawing. “These squares are representative of buildings,” he says. “And these buildings are kind of just scattered through here. So they’re like embedded in a hillside. The roads are not very good roads; they’re more like paths.”May asks for more. “Float up in the air a thousand feet—it’s safe—whirl around 360 degrees and tell me what the gestalt of the area is like,” he says.“OK, you’ve got a large body of water. This is probably an island of some kind. Mountains up in here because the river goes up into the mountains. You’ve got a couple of bridges. This is a small village,” McMoneagle adds.Then May’s laptop randomly selects two photographs and labels them Targets A and B. May flips a coin, and it comes up heads, which my teenage daughter had secretly decided beforehand would represent Target A.

May pulls out the Target A photograph for the big reveal…and it’s a close-up of a giant waterfall. There isn’t a building, path, island, mountain, bridge or village in sight. Both men laugh. The test has been a failure. “I’ve never gotten a waterfall in my life,” McMoneagle explains.

But May suggests some alternative theories. “There’s a concept in statistics called nonstationary. What that means is the phenomenon comes and goes in unpredictable ways,” he says. He adds that intention, attention and expectation always affect remote viewing, and “we violated virtually all three things in this particular trial.

”Then Ed May pauses and offers his final explanation: “It was just a demo.”

How one family’s deep pockets helped reshape Donald Trump’s campaign…

A look at the people roaches behind Donald Trump

Robert Mercer

Last week, as Donald J. Trump endured one of the most tumultuous stretches of his presidential campaign, a few longtime allies in New York conservative circles met for dinner and a drink. As the evening progressed, the conversation turned to an inevitable topic: What would it take to give Mr. Trump his best shot at winning?

A few days later, one of the guests, Stephen K. Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News, would become Mr. Trump’s campaign chief in a sudden shake-up. But it was a guest without a formal role in the campaign, a conservative philanthropist named Rebekah Mercer, who has now become one of its most potent forces.

Mr. Bannon’s ascension on Wednesday, urged on Mr. Trump by Ms. Mercer among others, shows how a cadre of strategists, “super PACs,” and political organizations quietly nurtured by her family have emerged to play a pivotal role in Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign.

Over more than half a decade, Ms. Mercer’s father, the New York investor Robert Mercer, has carved an idiosyncratic path through conservative politics, spending tens of millions of dollars to outflank his own party’s consultant class and unnerve its established powers. His fortune has financed think tanks and insurgent candidates, super PACs and media watchdogs, lobbying groups and grass-roots organizations.

Many of them are now connected, one way or another, to Mr. Trump’s presidential bid. Mr. Trump’s new campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, is a veteran Republican pollster who previously oversaw a super PAC financed by the Mercers. Mr. Bannon oversaw Breitbart, an outlet that has often amplified Mr. Trump’s message and attacked his perceived enemies. Mr. Mercer reportedly invested $10 million in the media company several years ago, and most likely still has a stake: a company sharing an address with Renaissance Technologies, the hedge fund Mr. Mercer helps lead, remains an investor in Breitbart, according to corporate documents filed in Delaware.

Mr. Trump is also relying on Cambridge Analytica, a voter data firm backed by Mr. Mercer, whose staff members are working with Mr. Trump’s vendors to identify potential Trump supporters in the electorate, particularly among infrequent voters. A Mercer-backed super PAC supporting Mr. Trump is now being shepherded by David Bossie, a conservative activist whose own projects have been funded in part by the Mercers’ family foundation, according to tax documents.

Mr. Bannon has worked particularly closely with the family in recent years.

“I think they have complete confidence, and rightly so, in Steve Bannon’s decisions and what he brings to the table politically,” Mr. Bossie said. “He has been smart and successful in running these different political operations. And those things have come to the Mercers’ attention.”

The Mercers, who rarely grant interviews, declined through a spokesman to comment. Mr. Mercer, 70, a mathematician and competitive poker player who spent his early career at I.B.M., joined Renaissance in the 1990s and rose to become the co-chief executive officer, earning hundreds of millions of dollars along the way. Today he and his wife, Diana, live on a sprawling estate on Long Island’s North Shore where, according to court records, he installed a $2.7 million model railroad set (and later sued the vendor for overcharging him).

Like many elite donors, the Mercers shun mainstream media attention — even while financing alternative outlets that provide content for conservative activists. That includes not just Breitbart, but the self-described watchdog organization Media Research Center as well as the Government Accountability Institute, home to Peter Schweizer, the author of “Clinton Cash,” a book examining the Clinton family philanthropies. (Ms. Bannon co-founded the institute and Ms. Mercer, 42, has served on its board; she is also co-produced a documentary based on the book and released last month, just ahead of the Democratic National Convention.)

Their giving includes Libertarian organizations, such as the Cato Institute, and political organizations like the Club for Growth, which spends millions of dollars each election cycle in Republican primaries, hoping to promote orthodox conservative policies on taxes and spending. The Mercers are also significant donors to the sprawling political network overseen by the political activists Charles and David Koch, which is also Libertarian-leaning.

But unlike the Koch brothers, who remained neutral in the Republican primary and have said their organizations will focus on congressional races this fall, the Mercers were deeply involved in the Republican nominating battle this year. And they have a shown a taste for more bare-knuckled and populist politics than most of Mr. Mercer’s fellow hedge fund magnates.

The family originally backed Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a more traditional conservative but one who, like Mr. Trump, is disliked by much of the party establishment. During the early phase of the campaign Mr. Mercer donated $13 million to a super PAC supporting Mr. Cruz. In doing so, he broke with many peers in the elite donor world, who looked to candidates like Jeb Bush or Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.

The Mercers maintained close control over the group’s purse strings, installing Ms. Conway to oversee the group and coordinate with several other pro-Cruz groups, an unusual move for a super PAC. During the Republican primary, the group ran ads questioning Mr. Trump’s conservative credentials, hoping to outflank Mr. Trump.

But the Mercers moved to support Mr. Trump after he won the nomination. They were helped in part, according to a person who asked for anonymity to describe the family’s thinking, by Mr. Trump’s growing emphasis on traditional conservative ideas such as tax cuts. And the family broke with Mr. Cruz in highly public fashion after his speech at the Republican convention, when the Texas senator refused to endorse Mr. Trump and instead suggested that Republicans should “vote your conscience” for candidates “up and down the ticket.”

In an extraordinary rebuke, the Mercers issued a rare public statement, calling themselves “profoundly disappointed” in Mr. Cruz for refusing to endorse Mr. Trump.

In late June, the Mercer-financed super PAC quietly re-formed as Make America Number One, now a pro-Trump entity. Mr. Bossie, a longtime conservative activist who has produced documentaries about the Clinton family and illegal immigration, is now leading the group, which is likely to raise more money from the Mercers to pay for attacks on Hillary Clinton.