Pentagon asks service members to come forward with reports of ‘Havana Syndrome’

Memo sent out to nearly three million employees, contractors

John Bowden
Thursday 16 September 2021 21:30 BST
Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks at the Pentagon
Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks at the Pentagon (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
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A memo sent on Thursday by the Department of Defence indicates that the agency is taking its broadest look yet at the so-called “Havana Syndrome,” or an unexplained medical phenomenon that has been reported by more than 100 US diplomatic staffers around the world.

The memo, signed by Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, encourages US service members, DoD employees, and federal contractors to report instances of “sudden and troubling sensory events” that are followed by “symptoms such as headaches, pain, nausea, or disequilibrium”.

“If you believe you have experienced a sensory event with the new onset of such symptoms, immediately remove yourself, coworkers, and/or family members from the area and report the incident and symptoms to your chain of command, security officer, and medical provider. If you have reason to believe a co-worker or co-workers have likewise experienced [anomalous health incidents], please encourage those individuals to do the same,” the secretary wrote.

The memo, first reported by The New York Times, was delivered on Thursday to nearly three million individuals in the Defense sphere, and has the potential to widely expand the number of known anomalous health incident cases recorded by the US government, which currently stands around 130.

The incidents, which involve concussion-like symptoms and have yet to be explained by any medical or government officials, originated among US diplomats in Cuba, earning the “Havana Syndrome” nickname, but soon spread to other US personnel around the world, including some stationed in the US according to various news reports. Some have questioned the severity of the symptoms and quality of the evidence pointing to any form of sonic or microwave attacks, while others including former President Donald Trump have been quick to assign blame for the incidents.

“I do believe Cuba is responsible," he said in 2017.

Deputy CIA director David Cohen vowed that the US government was working to provide a conclusive explanation for the incidents during a session on Tuesday at the annual Intelligence and National Security Summit, according to the Times.

“We’re going to figure it out,” he said.

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