Havana Syndrome

Electromagnetic Personnel Interdiction Control

Havana syndrome is a set of medical signs and symptoms experienced by U.S. and Canadian embassy staff in Cuba. Beginning in August 2017, reports surfaced that American and Canadian diplomatic personnel in Cuba had suffered a variety of health problems, dating back to late 2016.

A 2018 study published in the journal Neural Computation identified pulsed radiofrequency/microwave radiation (RF/MW) exposure via the Frey effect as source of injury, and noted that a microwave attack against the U.S. embassy in Moscow had been documented. Other possible causes for the injuries offered include ultrasound via intermodulation distortion caused by malfunctioning or improperly placed Cuban surveillance equipment, cricket noises, mass psychogenic illness, and exposure to neurotoxic pesticides.

Several U.S. State Department employees who consider themselves victims, and some senior CIA Russian analysts, as well as some outside scientists believe Russia is the most likely culprit. Russia has been accused by the U.S. State Department of using directed microwaves in the past. During the Cold War, the US accused Russia of directing a microwave signal at the American embassy in Moscow, and a 2014 NSA report raised suspicions that Russia used an energy weapon to ‘bathe a target’s living quarters in microwaves,’ which caused nervous system damage.

The purported targets in the current events include undercover CIA agents who were working on ways to counter Russian covert operations. Also, U.S. diplomats claiming to be targeted in China and Cuba that were working to increase cooperation with those countries. Some CIA analysts suspect Russia was trying to disrupt all those activities. According to ‘New York Times’ sources in the U.S. government, CIA director, Gina Haspel and other leaders in the State Department are unconvinced that Russia is responsible or even whether an attack occurred. However, some believe there is a high-level and deliberate cover-up by the Trump-led State Department after an investigation ‘found a substantial likelihood of wrongdoing’ by State.

The US government accused Cuba of perpetrating unspecified attacks causing these symptoms. The US reduced staff at their embassy to a minimum, and US President Trump declared in October 2017 that he believed Cuba was responsible for the attacks.

Studies of the affected diplomats in Cuba, published in the journal JAMA in 2018, found evidence that the diplomats experienced some form of brain injury, but did not determine the cause of the injuries. A co-author of the JAMA study considered microwave weapons to be ‘a main suspect’ for the phenomenon. Early speculation of an acoustic or sonic cause was later determined to be unfounded. Some had suggested that the symptoms represented episodes of mass hysteria, but the 2018 JAMA researchers considered a ‘wholly psychogenic or psychosomatic cause’ to be very unlikely, given the physical evidence of brain trauma.

In 2018, US diplomats in China reported problems similar to those reported in Cuba, as well as undercover CIA agents operating in other countries who were negotiating with those countries on ways to counter Russian covert operations around the world. In August 2017, reports began surfacing that American and Canadian diplomatic personnel in Cuba had experienced unusual, unexplained health problems dating back to late 2016. The number of American citizens experiencing symptoms was 26 as of June 2018.

The health problems typically had a sudden onset: the victim would suddenly begin hearing strange grating noises that they perceived as coming from a specific direction. Some of them experienced it as a pressure or a vibration; or as a sensation comparable to driving a car with the window partly rolled down. The duration of these noises ranged from 20 seconds to 30 minutes, and always happened while the diplomats were either at home or in hotel rooms. Other people nearby, family members and guests in neighboring rooms, did not report hearing anything.

Some US embassy individuals have experienced lasting health effects, including one unidentified US diplomat who is said to now need a hearing aid. The State Department declared that the health problems were either the result of an attack, or due to exposure to an as-yet-unknown device, and declared that they were not blaming the Cuban government, but would not say who was to blame. Affected individuals described symptoms such as hearing loss, memory loss, and nausea. Speculation centered around a sonic weapon, with some researchers pointing to infrasound as a possible cause.

In August 2017, the United States expelled two Cuban diplomats in response to the illnesses. In September, the U.S. State Department stated that it was removing non-essential staff from the US embassy, and warned US citizens not to travel to Cuba.

In January 2018, the ‘Associated Press’ reported that a non-public FBI report found no evidence of an intentional sonic attack. A November 2018 report in the ‘New Yorker’ found that the FBI’s investigation into the incidents was stymied by conflict with the CIA and the State Department; the CIA was reluctant to reveal, even to other US government agencies, the identities of affected officers, because of the CIA’s concern about possible leaks. Federal rules on the privacy of employee medical records also hindered the investigation.

In March 2018, MRI scans and other tests taken by a chief neurologist in Pittsburgh, on an unspecified number of Canadian diplomats showed evidence of brain damage that mirrored the injuries some of their American counterparts had faced. In spring of 2018, Global Affairs Canada ended family postings to Cuba and withdrew all staff with families. Several of the Canadians who were impacted in 2017 were reported to still be unable to resume their work due to the severity of their ailments.

After the incident was made public, the Cuban Foreign Minister subsequently accused the US of lying about the incident, saying ‘There is no evidence, there is no evidence whatsoever, of the occurrence of the alleged incidents or the cause or origin of these ailments reported by U.S. diplomats,’ adding, ‘Neither is there any evidence suggesting that these health problems have been caused by an attack of any sort during their stay in Cuba.’

At the request of the U.S. government, University of Pennsylvania researchers examined 21 affected diplomats, and the preliminary results were published in the ‘Journal of the American Medical Association’ (JAMA) in March 2018. The report ‘found no evidence of white matter tract abnormalities’ in affected diplomats, beyond what might be seen in a control group of the same age, and described ‘a new syndrome in the diplomats that resembles persistent concussion.’ While some of those affected recovered swiftly, others had symptoms lasting for months. The study concluded that ‘the diplomats appear to have sustained injury to widespread brain networks.’

Subsequent study findings by the University of Pennsylvania team, published in July 2019, concluded that the government personnel had been physically injured but expressed no conclusion on the cause or source of the injury. A cause or source of the phenomenon has never been definitively determined. In 2018, U.S. State Department medical director Dr. Charles Rosenfarb testified to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the ‘unique constellation of symptoms and findings’ had ‘no obvious cause.’

In early 2018, accusations similar to those reported by diplomats in Cuba began to be made by US diplomats in China. The first incident reported by an American diplomat in China was in April 2018 at the Consulate General of the United States, Guangzhou, the largest U.S. consulate in China. The employee reported that he had been experiencing symptoms since late 2017. Several individuals were taken to the United States for medical examination. Another incident had previously been reported by a USAID employee at the US Embassy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, in September 2017; the employee’s report was discounted by the U.S. State Department.

Answering questions from the House Foreign Affairs Committee on May 23, 2018, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed that there had been reports from U.S. diplomatic staff in Guangzhou of symptoms ‘very similar’ to those reported from Cuba. In June 2018, the State Department announced that a task force had been assembled to investigate the reports and expanded their health warning to all of mainland China amid reports some U.S. diplomats outside of Guangzhou had experienced the same symptoms resembling a brain injury.

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One Comment to “Havana Syndrome”

  1. i’ve always wondered if there was any other info on this –

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