News and Commentary

American Diplomats Who Became Ill In Cuba And China May Have Been Targeted With Type Of Radiation, Scientists Find
Man wearing a tank top with a design of the US flag rests in Havana on October 21, 2020, amid the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic.
YAMIL LAGE/AFP via Getty Images

Years ago, American diplomats in China and Cuba reported falling ill, all with similar symptoms and all within the same time period. The diplomats reported feeling dizzy, visual impairments, unsteadiness, pressure in their head, and hearing a loud sound.

A new study from the National Academies of Sciences said the symptoms the diplomats experienced, a condition named Havana Syndrome, is consistent with the effects of a type of radiation associated with directed microwave energy. NBC News obtained a copy of the report on Friday, and noted the study did not determine whether the directed microwave energy was intentional through the use of some sort of weapon.

“The committee felt that many of the distinctive and acute signs, symptoms and observations reported by (government) employees are consistent with the effects of directed, pulsed radio frequency (RF) energy,” the report said. “Studies published in the open literature more than a half-century ago and over the subsequent decades by Western and Soviet sources provide circumstantial support for this possible mechanism.”

The report added that “the mere consideration of such a scenario raises grave concerns about a world with disinhibited malevolent actors and new tools for causing harm to others, as if the U.S. government does not have its hands full already with naturally occurring threats.”

The new report at least partially contradicts a study from January 2019 conducted by two biologists who studied recordings of the odd sound heard by diplomats in 2016. The biologists determined the sound closely matched the noise made by the Indies short-tailed cricket. That study did not explain the conditions experienced by the diplomats.

This new study, however, suggests the sound may have been connected to the symptoms after all.

GQ Magazine reported last year that CIA officers in Europe and Asia reported the same symptoms as those in Cuba and China years earlier. Marc Polymeropoulos, a CIA caseworker who retired in 2019, told NBC that he is still suffering from symptoms similar to those described by other CIA agents. He told the outlet he believes he suffered a brain injury while in Moscow.

“A source directly familiar with the matter told NBC News the CIA, using mobile phone location data, had determined that some Russian intelligence agents who had worked on microwave weapons programs were present in the same cities at the same time that CIA officers suffered mysterious symptoms. CIA officials consider that a promising lead but not conclusive evidence,” NBC reported.

The State Department cautioned against accepting the latest report as conclusive, listing numerous “challenges of their study,” including data limitations due to a lack of information provided to the academies. The State Department said its own three-year-long investigation was still ongoing and that anything in the new study “remains speculative.”

“While the above limit the scope of the report, they do not lessen its value,” the State Department said in a statement. “We are pleased this report is now out and can add to the data and analyses that may help us come to an eventual conclusion as to what transpired.”

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