In 2016, officials in the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba reported ringing in the ears followed by pressure in the head and nausea, headaches and acute discomfort. Subsequently similar symptoms were reported by “U.S. career diplomats, intelligence officers and others serving in U.S. missions around the world” and the symptoms became known as the “Havana Syndrome.”
Apparently in late February 2023, the CIA and six other U.S.intelligence agencies concluded their joint participation in reviewing approximately 1,000 cases of “anomalous health incidents.” Here are their conclusions:
- “Five of those agencies determined it was ‘very unlikely’ that a foreign adversary was responsible for the symptoms, either as the result of purposeful actions — such as a directed energy weapon — or as the byproduct of some other activity, including electronic surveillance that unintentionally could have made people sick, the officials said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the findings of the assessment, which had not yet been made public.”
- “There was no ‘credible evidence’ any adversaries had developed a weapon or an intelligence-collection device cable to cause the injuries that American officials have reported.”
- “One [unnamed] agency . . . determined that it was ‘unlikely’ that a foreign actor was at fault, a slightly less emphatic finding that did not appreciably change the consensus. [Another] agency abstained in its conclusion regarding a foreign actor. But when asked, no agency dissented from the conclusion that a foreign actor did not cause the symptoms.”
- “The officials said that as analysts examined clusters of reported cases, including at U.S. embassies, they found no pattern or common set of conditions that could link individual cases. They also found no evidence, including forensic information or geolocation data, that would suggest an adversary had used a form of directed energy such as radio waves or ultrasonic beams. In some cases, there was no ‘direct line of sight’ to affected personnel working at U.S. facilities, further casting doubt on the possibility that a hypothetical energy weapon could have been the culprits.”
- This “assessment also examined whether an adversary possessed a device capable of using energy to cause the reported symptoms. Of the seven agencies, five determined that it was ‘very unlikely,’ while the other two said it was ‘unlikely.’”
“William J. Burns, the C.I.A. director, said in a statement that the findings reflected more than two years of ‘rigorous, painstaking collection, investigative work and analysis’ by the C.I.A. and [the] other U.S. intelligence agencies.’ [Burns continued,] ‘I and my leadership team stand firmly behind the work conducted and the findings. I want to be absolutely clear: These findings do not call into question the experiences and real health issues that U.S. government personnel and their family members — including C.I.A.’s own officers — have reported while serving our country.’”
In contrast to the above conclusions, last year “an independent panel of experts [investigated and] found that an external energy source plausibly could explain the symptoms” and that “a foreign power could have harnessed ‘pulsed electromagnetic energy’ that made people sick.” These conclusions “were consistent with earlier conclusions by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, which found that ‘directed, pulsed radio frequency energy appears to be the most plausible mechanism in explaining these cases.’”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken reportedly “remains of the view that something happened to those employees who have reported significant ailments, and he is committed to making sure they are cared for.”
 Harris & Hudson, ‘Havana syndrome’ not caused by energy weapon or foreign adversary, intelligence review finds, Wash. Post (Mar. 1, 2023); Barnes & Entous, Foreign Adversaries Unlikely to Blame for Havana Syndrome, Intelligence Review Finds, N.Y. Times (Mar. 1, 2023); Strobel, Havana Syndrome Unlikely Caused by Foreign Adversary or Weapon, W.S.J. (Mar. 1, 2023). This blog has discussed the previous occurrences of this medical problem and attempts to determine its causes. (See the following sections “U.S. Diplomats Medical Problems in Cuba, 2017-18” and “U.S. Diplomats Medical Problems in Cuba, 2019” in List of Posts to dwkcommentaries—Topical: Cuba [as of 5/4/20]. )
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Objection to Report’s Rejection of Foreign Cause of Syndrome
A former high-ranking CÍA officer says on a 2017 trip to Moscow he suffered inner head aches, brain fog and difficulty getting out of bed and that five years later he is getting better. He understands that U.S. intelligence agencies still do not know what made him and others sick. But he believes it is a mistake to rule out foreign adversaries as the cause since they had the means, motive and opportunity to do so. He also believes it is an insult to those who have suffer these injuries.
O’Grady, Havana Syndrome Revisited, W.S.J. (Mar. 19, 2023).