Havana Syndrome: New US intelligence report reveals likely cause of mysterious illness

Around a dozen cases cannot be explained however

Gino Spocchia
Thursday 03 February 2022 13:39 GMT
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<p>Outside the US embassy in Havana, Cuba</p>

Outside the US embassy in Havana, Cuba

The United States has released further information about an investigation into reports of so-called “Havana Syndrome” among overseas staffers and their families.

The US said on Wednesday that “pulse electromagnetic energy, particularly in the radio frequency range, plausibly explains” symptoms associated with the strange illness.

Symptoms including ear pain, nausea, and vertigo have been reported by American diplomats and intelligence officers – and their families – for almost six years. but no cause has been determined for a handful of cases.

The incidents began in Havana, Cuba, in 2016 and have been reported as far afield as Russia, China and Vietnam – as well as in Vienna, Austria, last year.

A study involving some of the 1,000 people affected by symptoms associated with Havana Syndrome, long thought to be a form of neurological illness, contributed to the new findings.

It concluded that a combination of symptoms “cannot be easily explained by known environment or medical conditions” among a dozen of the 1,000 cases, and that a targeted device may have been the cause.

The US government has defended claims from those affected by the strange illness that it has failed to address concerns, as well as accusations from 15 or so employees that the CIA was experiencing a “revolt within its workforce” because people feared being sent overseas.

A CIA report in January was among the first to reveal that a dozen or so cases of Havana Syndrome could not be explained, and a US intelligence source told reporters that a foreign adversary had not been ruled out in those incidents.

The cases of Havana Syndrome began in 2016

The newest findings said a majority of Havana Syndrome reports were the result of stress or natural causes, however, and not caused by a form of pulse electromagnetic energy or were directed.

The US also said last month it did not believe another country or foreign adversary had targeted its staffers internationally, but that it had not ruled out such an explaination for the unexplained cases.

Mark Zaid, a lawyer representing victims from numerous US government agencies, said in a statement on Tuesday that the findings “reinforce the need for a coordinated, whole of government approach”.

“These piecemeal agency reviews at times reveal inconsistent and even contradictory results,” the lawyer added.

The director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy said it took nearly nine months for a panel to publish the finings on Wednesday.

The panel does believe symptoms were “genuine and compelling” and that further work and assessment was necessary to establish what had caused the unexplained causes of Havana Syndrome, said Eric Lander.

Additional reporting by Reuters and Associated Press.

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