The CIA claims that hundreds of cases of so-called “Havana Syndrome,” a set of neurological conditions long believed to be the result of an attack from a directed-energy weapon, are not the result of any kind of attack from a foreign power.
“A majority of the 1,000 cases reported to the government can be explained by environmental causes, undiagnosed medical conditions or stress, rather than a sustained global campaign by a foreign power, C.I.A. officials said,” The New York Times reported. “The C.I.A. is continuing its investigation into two dozen cases that remain unexplained. Those cases, said a U.S. official briefed on the findings, offer the greatest chance of yielding clues to whether a foreign power is responsible for some of the unexplained health incidents that have plagued American diplomats and C.I.A. personnel in Havana and Vienna, among other cities.”
Victims of Havana Syndrome slammed the findings, saying that it “cannot and must not be the final word on the matter.”
“The C.I.A.’s newly issued report may be labeled ‘interim’ and it may leave open the door for some alternative explanation in some cases, but to scores of dedicated public servants, their families and their colleagues, it has a ring of finality and repudiation,” they added in a statement.
The Times said that the release of the interim findings “angered victims” who viewed it as “a breach of faith.”
As recently as a few months ago, Havana Syndrome cases were reported by U.S. officials at the Embassy in Colombia.
“One U.S. official said there were at least two known cases, both American citizens, but several more are thought to have been affected,” The Wall Street Journal reported. “This official said that at least one family was flown out of the country for treatment and concerns have grown ‘more serious’ in recent days.”
“There was definitely a family including a minor hit,” a source familiar with the matter told the Journal. “Adults sign up for what they sign up for and the risks that come with it … . Targeting or even incidentally hitting kids should be a hard red line.”
U.S. officials from Republican and Democrat administrations have previously believed that Russia is likely responsible for the attacks, which were first reported in 2016 in Havana, Cuba. Symptoms of Havana Syndrome include intense headaches that hit erupt instantly, loss of balance, and numerous hearing issues. In some cases, the neurological damage lasted years or was permanent and forced those who were attacked to retire.
There have been at least two other major incidents involving travel from top U.S. officials where Havana Syndrome cases were reported on foreign soil.
A member of CIA Director Bill Burns’ team was reportedly attacked during a trip to India and there was reportedly another believed case of Havana Syndrome back in August in Hanoi, Vietnam, as Vice President Kamala Harris waited on the runway waiting to depart Air Force Two to meeting with Vietnamese officials. Roughly two dozen U.S. intelligence officials in Vienna have reported symptoms of Havana Syndrome.
“The incidents have allegedly occurred all over the world, including in Europe, Miami, northern Virginia and near the White House,” Politico reported in May. “The GRU’s [a secret Russian military unit] inclusion as a suspect in the investigation, which has not been previously reported, comes as Biden administration officials are working to reassure outraged lawmakers that they are committed to getting to the bottom of the issue and holding those responsible to account.”
While the sources that spoke to the publication said they do not have smoking gun proof, they pointed to several factors that they say makes the GRU the prime suspect. The GRU has a known presence in all of the areas where U.S. officials have gotten sick, it’s the only Russian agency with the technology capable of the attacks, and Russia has stated in the past that it sought to pursue “irregular warfare” against the U.S. because it cannot compete at the same level as the U.S. on the battlefield.