A new report from the National Academy of Sciences found that "directional" radio frequency energy is the most plausible explanation for mysterious and debilitating neurological symptoms appearing in dozens of American diplomats and intelligence officials in Cuba, China and other countries as of late 2016.
The report, commissioned by the State Department and examined by a number of journalists, including NBC News and the New York Times, does not come to firm conclusions about the origin and nature of the disease, which is often referred to as "Havana Syndrome, 'but rather than its representation gives weight to theories that the diseases are the result of deliberate attacks – which some members of the intelligence community may have carried out by Russia.
Symptoms for people with Havana syndrome vary, but many of the reported cases experienced nausea, headache, dizziness, and hearing loss. These illnesses were sometimes so severe and long-lasting that officials took early retirement.
As the New York Times explains, the language of the report suggests that an intentional attack was behind the strange symptoms and that they are caused by radiofrequency energy – a type of radiation that contains microwaves – as they call the attacks "targeted" and caused "Directed" describes "pulsed." However, the report states that the National Academy of Sciences "cannot rule out other possible mechanisms and considers it likely that a variety of factors explain some cases and the differences between others".
The report concludes that "the bigger problem is readiness for new and unknown threats that could threaten the health and safety of overseas-serving US diplomats," and notes that future cases may be "even more difficult, quickly "can be recognized", at least in part, because attacks could be farther apart or more targeted.
“These injuries tormented those affected. Their diseases and conditions are real and require action by Congress, ”tweeted Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), who led successful calls for the full report to be submitted to Congress for review. "To begin with, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee should hold a hearing on this matter as soon as possible so that we can hear directly from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo what is being done to uncover the cause of these attacks and protect our public servants."
There has been speculation about Havana Syndrome for years
Starting in Cuba in November 2016, over a dozen American diplomats reported feeling sick with mysterious and severe symptoms such as hearing loss and loss of balance. Shortly thereafter, experts began to speculate that they might have been attacked by a sonic weapon used by Cuban intelligence.
Similar symptoms occurred in other places as well. Americans at the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, China developed symptoms of Havana Syndrome in 2017. As reported by GQ and the New York Times, CIA officials in Europe and Asia reported a number of new incidents over the past year.
The timing of the incidents, the plausible explanation of the microwave weapons, and the specific locations in which they occurred have raised questions about whether Russia stands behind them.
In 2018, US intelligence officials identified Russia as the prime suspect behind the alleged attacks in Cuba and China. Russia has denied any involvement. NBC News reports that occasionally there has been no conclusive information pointing to this statement. However, the Times notes that a number of Russian experts at the CIA believe that all evidence suggests the country is behind the diseases.
However, concrete evidence remains elusive. To produce the new report, experts assessed the plausibility of various explanations using limited evidence and educated guesswork based on expert knowledge.
And, as the Times reports, these experts and others in national security have pointed out that Russia and the former Soviet Union have used microwave weapons in the past – and used them against the US:
The (National Academy of Sciences) report does not point to a perpetrator, although it mentions "significant research in Russia / USA". on pulsed radio frequency technology and the exposure of military personnel in Eurasian communist countries to microwave radiation. The Soviet Union bombed the American embassy in Moscow with microwaves in the 1970s and 1980s. In a 2014 document, the National Security Agency discussed a microwave weapon used by a hostile country. According to those familiar with the document, it is Russia.
NBC News reports that a source said the CIA had used cell phone location data to determine that some Russian intelligence officials involved in microwave weapons programs were in cities while CIA agents were suffering from symptoms of Havana Syndrome.
Some of the US workers with Havana Syndrome reported anger and frustration, claiming their own government had done far too little to address their health needs and investigate the root causes of their health problems.
For example, Marc Polymeropoulos, a former CIA undercover agent who suffered symptoms of Havana Syndrome in Moscow in 2017, said that the CIA had not properly looked after him and other injured CIA officials.
"It's up to them to provide the medical help we need. That doesn't include all of us taking care of it," he told GQ. "I want the agency to treat this as a combat injury."
Mark Lenzi, a diplomatic security officer who has shown symptoms in China, told the Times he thought the Trump administration overlooked "inconvenient scientific and medical facts" in its assessment of the situation.
For those in favor of these officials, there is now hope that the new report, which provides the clearest assessment of what may have happened so far, may put more pressure on the agencies to take care of their injured staff. And it is seen as an important first step in solving the mystery of what happened once and for all to these officials.
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