If someone had real life mental powers could the US legally force them to work for the government?

No, it means that only because the government does it, doesn’t make it legal.

You’re best bet would be going public. Otherwise, all it takes is a stroke of a pen to make legal, whatever the government wants to be legal.

How would we know that someone was a phenomenally capable general unless they were, like, already a general?

Heh, if I had such abilities, I’d definitely want to work for the Government.

I could see jobs like President, Senator, or Director of the CIA suiting me.

If some overzealous Colonel wanted to force me to take part in his special program, it wouldn’t be long before I found out some info about his private boyfriend or his secret hatred of some General. If I could project thoughts as well as reading them I’d just be feeding errant thoughts of contempt from Colonel to General. The Colonel would eventually find himself in a very bad position, and then I’d run the program.

I believe I recall that the government can co-opt any patent or technology that they deem to have particular military merit. They might try and argue for the impressment based on that.

But if they tried asking nicely before turning to force, they’d have a few willing psychics to rat out any conspiracies from the unwilling psychics.

Maybe. But how would they tell the difference for sure? How would they tell if the rats were still rats? Especially considering how people who are willing to use such tactics would think around the rats. Remember; the psychics in question would all know that they are working for people who are essentially their enemy. They wouldn’t be able to very easily convince themselves that they are an exception; not when Bob the Guard is thinking “Boy, I can’t wait till we get the order and I can shoot that freak in the back of the head.”.

And no, surrounding them with nice guys while keeping the ruthless ones far away wouldn’t work, since the Nice Guys would be far too likely to play whistleblower or help the psychics escape.

First thing I’d do is form a small unit of blindly loyal and obedient thugs, who know nothing about anything other than they are your handlers, they have a gun, and they are to shoot you at any moment I give the word. They’ll be outfitted with earbuds and cameras, of course. At the beginning of each shift, your handler will be issued a gun loaded with blanks or live rounds, and at random times, will be instructed to shoot you, no hesitation, no questions asked. I’ll know when they’re carrying blanks, of course.

Read their minds all you want, you aren’t going to get anything other than the fact your handler is ready to kill you (and your loved ones, whatever) at a moment’s notice.

Don’t even think about coercing someone over their secret boyfriend or gambling addiction or sexual fetish. My agents will be thoroughly vetted and informed that I couldn’t care less what they’re dirty embarrassing secrets are.

Isn’t this how PsiCorps in Babylon 5 was portrayed as having been founded? In response to the appearance of people whose psionic talents threatened society, the government gave Psis three choices: stay in an internment camp for the rest of your life, take a drug that suppressed your abilities (with lots of side-effects), or work for the government-sanctioned PsiCorps. Only of course PsiCorps ended up becoming the tail that wagged the dog.