Since 2016, more than 200 U.S. officials working abroad have reported experiencing “Havana syndrome” — a cluster of mysterious, unexplained symptoms including feeling pressure in their heads, dizziness, nausea and fatigue. While the reasons behind the phenomenon are still unclear, Politico reported that the government has turned up new evidence pointing to directed-energy attacks as the cause of the symptoms.
Citing five lawmakers and officials briefed on the matter, Politico reported that lawmakers and investigators are becoming “increasingly confident” that a foreign power is behind the attacks, although there is not enough evidence to link them to a specific country. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have been receiving weekly intelligence briefings on the matter, and they told Politico the problem is only getting worse.
“There have been new additional attacks, which is very disturbing,” Collins said. “It’s being taken very seriously now due to the director of the CIA… [who] has put very highly qualified people on it.”
“Hopefully we’ll make some headway because it’s a problem that’s escalating,” Rubio said. “This is not something that’s happened in the past — it’s something that’s happened and is ongoing.”
Havana Syndrome got its name because the first U.S. and Canadian diplomats to report strange symptoms were in Cuba. Since then, diplomats serving in other places around the world have come forward to report symptoms, including U.S. federal employees in Austria, Siberia and Germany. German police confirmed Friday that in August they launched an investigation into an “alleged sonic weapon attack on employees of the U.S. Embassy” after several reported symptoms.
Many potential causes have been suggested as the possible reason for the mysterious symptoms. A report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine concluded it was “plausible” that “directed, pulsed radiofrequency energy” was behind the symptoms. A declassified State Department report from 2018 found that Indies short-tailed crickets were responsible for strange noises recorded by U.S. diplomats in Cuba that were thought to be potentially connected to the attacks. A 2019 study published in JAMA, a respected medical journal, found that U.S. officials experienced some type of brain trauma. But some have floated the idea that the illnesses are psychosomatic, meaning they have no physical cause.
Rubio dismissed that idea, telling Politico, “I think that’s quackery. I’d invite them to explain that to the now-dozens of people who have suffered documented brain injuries that in many cases have made them incapable of ever working again.”
On Friday, President Biden signed a bill to compensate diplomats who have reported symptoms and get them proper medical care. Speaking at the bill signing, Biden promised to uncover “the cause and who is responsible” for these strange illnesses.