US diplomats who have suffered from the mysterious “Havana Syndrome” tore into Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a recent meeting, arguing that the government hasn’t done enough to help victims and has brushed off their concerns as a vague unexplained health incidents (UHIs),
“It’s those sorts of sickening statements that perpetuate this disbelief,” a diplomat told NBC News, which first reported the 10 September meeting. “We get it, it’s classified information. But if you’re seeing stuff, don’t act like it’s nothing. Don’t call it freaking UHIs. Don’t talk about our stress levels.”
The State Department told The Independent it is focused on “on ensuring the safety and security of the workforce and their families.” “In coordination with our partners across the U.S. Government, we are vigorously investigating reports of possible unexplained health incidents wherever they are reported,” a State Department spokesperson said in a statement, adding an interagency group “is actively examining a range of hypotheses, but has made no determination about the cause of these incidents or whether they can be attributed to a foreign actor.”
Since 2016, at least 200 US diplomats, on every continent except for Antarctica, have reported symptoms of Havana Syndrome. Victims of this mysterious ailment report hearing strangely pitched sounds, feeling like they’re in an energy beam, and suffering neurological symptoms like vertigo, nausea, and even traumatic brain injury. Doctors from the University of Pennsylvania, who were sent to study some of those affected, have called it “a concussion without a concussion.”
Those afflicted with the condition, which first appeared at the US Embassy in Cuba, have said the State Department’s Bureau of Medical Services has downplayed their symptoms as those of stress or ageing, and that it’s been difficult to secure medical benefits.
The Trump administration referred to Havana Syndrome as “targeted attacks,” while the Biden administration has pulled back and called them “incidents.” Officials have suggested they could be coming from Russian intelligence services using advanced microwave or electromagnetic wave technology to steal data from US devices, but haven’t reached any firm conclusions.
In August, the Director of National Intelligence’s office put out a statement detailing the multi-agency effort to investigate the condition, writing “it is a top priority to identify the cause of [Havana Syndrome], provide the highest level of care to those affected, and prevent such incidents from continuing.”
The government has still not ruled conclusively about what caused the symptoms. An FBI team visited Havana multiple times to investigate, but concluded without interviewing victims that the diplomats were suffering from a sort of mass hysteria, infuriating those who had Havana Syndrome, some of whom had to take leave or retire because of their symptoms. (The bureau is reportedly reconsidering its findings).
On Tuesday, Congress passed a bipartisan bill that would provide more compensation and support to State Department and CIA employees affected by Havana Syndrome.
“Far too many ‘Havana Syndrome’ victims have had to battle the bureaucracy to receive care for their debilitating injuries,” said Senator Susan Collins in a statement.“I have spoken personally with some of the victims of these heinous attacks who were harmed while representing our interests. For those victims, the HAVANA Act will ensure that they receive the financial and medical support that they deserve. It also affirms our commitment to making sure that our government finds out who is responsible.”
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