The White House on Friday revealed that radio frequency attacks against U.S. personnel — like that kind that were suspected to have occurred in Cuba and elsewhere around the world — have also happened in the U.S.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said possible incidents occurred in the United States that appear similar to other attacks that caused mysterious illnesses. One reportedly occurred near the White House.
“At this point, at this moment, we don’t know the cause of these incidents, which are both limited in nature and the vast majority of which have been reported overseas,” Psaki said in answer to questions. One of the incidents happened last year near the White House Ellipse, sickening a national security council staffer. In another, a White House official reported feeling symptoms while walking her dog in Arlington, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C, the Daily Mail reported.
In the past few years, there have been several incidents affecting U.S. embassy personnel, including two that made diplomats in Cuba sick — prompting the nickname “Havana syndrome.” “Dozens of Americans have been diagnosed with a range of symptoms, including traumatic brain injuries, with several describing bizarre experiences like strange noises and sensations. The U.S. government has acknowledged cases in Cuba, China, Uzbekistan and Russia — but there are media reports of other countries now, too,” ABC News reported.
Here’s the exchange between Psaki and a reporter on Friday:
Q: Thanks. There have been a number of media reports in recent days on a series of newly reported cases, over the past 12 months, of Americans experiencing “Havana Syndrome” at home and abroad, including CIA officers, U.S. troops, and U.S. government officials in the Washington area. So a couple of questions on this: How concerned are you about these newly reported cases over the past couple of months?
PSAKI: Well, first let me say that the health and wellbeing of American public servants is of paramount priority to the administration, and we take extremely seriously reports by our personnel of anomalous health incidents.
Our national security staff is working closely with agencies and departments across the federal government to address unexplained health incidents that some government employees have suffered, and to ensure the safety and security of Americans serving around the world.
And we are, of course, investigating incidents in which personnel have reported experiencing sensory phenomena, such as sound pressure or heat, concurrent with or followed by physical symptoms, such as sudden onset vertigo, nausea, and head or neck pain.
At this point — at this moment, we don’t know the cause of these incidents, which are both limited in nature and the vast majority of which have been reported overseas. So right now we are working to investigate, taking every report seriously, and our national security team is overseeing that process.
Q: You say the vast majority have taken place overseas. How many cases have been reported to have occurred in the United States?
MPSAKI: I don’t have any more specifics on reported incidents. I’m happy to see if there’s more we can provide on that.
Q: And how many cases total have been reported over the five years that this phenomenon has been known to us?
MPSAKI: It’s an excellent question. It’s limited, but let me see if there’s a more specific number we can provide to all of you.
Q: And my last question on this: What is the NSC doing that is new? That — again, over the five years, three administrations — we’ve seen this phenomena — phenomenon occur. What’s new that they’re doing to try to get to the bottom of it?
PSAKI: Well, I can’t obviously speak to what the last administration did or didn’t do. What I can tell you is that our team is coordinating a full review of intelligence reporting to ascertain whether there may be previously unreported incidents that fit a pattern.
We are also working closely, as I noted, with agencies and departments across federal government to address unexplained health incidents that — sometimes they’re reported in to different agencies and it hasn’t all been gathered into one place. So that’s how you can look at it across the board and see if there are patterns. So that’s a way we are approaching it. And I can’t, obviously, assess how that compares with past administrations.