United States officials now say Russia, and not Cuba or China, is the prime suspect in a series of "sonic attacks" targeted at American diplomats serving abroad.
The "mysterious attacks," NBC News reports, left American diplomats staying in hotels in Havana and Guangzhou with cognitive injuries and in some cases permanent brain damage. Officials reported hearing strange noises emanating from the walls in their hotel rooms, often from behind beds. Upon returning home, the same officials complained of persistent headaches, dizziness, hearing loss, and nausea.
The State Department determined almost immediately that the injuries were the result of an aggressive attack, but the Cuban and Chinese governments denied any involvement.
The FBI and CIA now say they've netted encrypted communications between agents that point to Russia as the prime suspect in the "sonic attacks."
"The suspicion that Russia is likely behind the alleged attacks is backed up by evidence from communications intercepts, known in the spy world as signals intelligence, amassed during a lengthy and ongoing investigation involving the FBI, the CIA and other U.S. agencies," NBC News reports. "The officials declined to elaborate on the nature of the intelligence."
There isn't yet enough evidence, however, to officially accuse Moscow of wrongdoing.
The FBI and CIA are also still working on precisely what sort of weapon was used to attack American diplomats. Initially, investigators believed the attackers were using some sort of sonic weapon, but later determined that sound waves alone couldn't have caused the sort of permanent damage the diplomats suffered. Instead, investigators believe whomever orchestrated the attack used a combination of sound waves and either microwaves or electromagnetic waves.
If the Russians are responsible, that could mark a major change in diplomatic relations with Putin's government. It could also mark the first overtly aggressive move on the part of Russia against representatives from the United States in decades.