Havana Syndrome sufferer labels condition ‘act of war’
Havana syndrome, the mysterious illness which has caused dozens of US personnel stationed round the world to fall sick with symptoms including dizziness and extreme headaches, has left scientists baffled, a government insider has said. Now it has emerged up to 36 current and ex-CIA offers have accused a specially appointed task force of not taking their concerns seriously enough.
The phenomenon first impacted US government staff stationed in the Cuban capital six years ago, hence its nickname – although officially cases are referred to as “anomalous health incidents” (AHIs).
All developed symptoms consistent with head trauma, and similar reports subsequently emerged from others stationed around the globe, including China.
They ranged in severity from headaches and vertigo to what some doctors diagnosed as traumatic brain injury.
Havana Syndrome: The cause of the illness remains a mystery
William Burns, the CIA’s director
There’s just no answer
One member of the US House of Representatives’ Intelligence Committee who has been briefed about the task force’s investigation told CNN: “There’s just no answer.
“They’ve done an immense amount of work, literally spreadsheeting every catastrophic set of symptoms down to the headache and there’s just nothing. None.”
However, in recent months CIA officers have complained the agency’s task force is failing to investigate claims vigorously enough, with some launching official whistleblower proceedings.
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Havana is the capital of Cuba
Mark Zaid, an attorney who is representing some of the complainants, said: “From what I have seen, there are tons of significant, credible leads that to the best of our knowledge the agencies are not addressing.
“Leads that clients of mine put into the system – and they’re not doing it. To me, this is where they need to be held accountable to explain why.”
The agency countered by insisting it was conducting “among the most full-scale and aggressive approaches to an investigation that CIA and other agencies have taken.”
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New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen
Senator Susan Collins in Washington
CIA director William Burns said: “We have assembled a large team of some of our very best officers who are focused exclusively on this issue, and we are following every single lead.
“I have great confidence in the professionalism of the people, who come from both the CIA and the wider Intelligence Community, who are carrying out this mission, in their commitment to objectivity and in the findings they have reached to date.”
The complaints come at a time when both the CIA and the State Department are starting to pay compensation to some victims, including one who has allegedly developed a rare form of cancer associated with exposure to radiation.
CIA headquarters in Virginia
A separate report prepared by a panel of scientific, medical, and engineering specialists said the injuries could “plausibly” have been caused by “pulsed electromagnetic energy” – but did not offer any firm conclusions about the source.
There is also no evidence proving the injuries were caused by a “weapon” used by a nation-state actor, another CIA source said.
They explained: “We have solicited and received many potential leads from AHI-affected officers as well as other members of our workforce. We have followed up rigorously on each of those.”
Speaking to Express.co.uk in 2018, Dr Ian McLoughlin, Professor of Computing at the University of Kent, suggested episodes of Havana Syndrome reported in China were likely the result of attempted surveillance rather than specific attacks.
Some of the incidents happened in Xi Jinping’s China
He added: “We have the tools to detect these sounds in the lab but that’s not where something like this would happen. It would be very difficult to detect.”
Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat, and Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, last year introduced legislation which would create a new position on the White House’s National Security Council to get to the bottom of the mystery.
She commented: “US public servants injured by directed energy attacks should be treated with the same urgency as any other American injured in the line of duty.
“They shouldn’t have to jump through bureaucratic hoops to access the care they need, which compounds the suffering they’ve already endured.”