WASHINGTON – The Biden administration is facing renewed pressure to solve a mystery that has pissed off its predecessors: is an adversary using a microwave or radio wave weapon to attack the brains of US diplomats, spies and military personnel?
The number of reported cases of possible attacks is increasing sharply, and lawmakers of both parties and those affected are calling for answers. However, scientists and government officials are still unsure who might be behind the attacks, whether the symptoms were inadvertently caused by surveillance devices – or whether the incidents were actually attacks.
Whatever an official review reveals could have enormous consequences. Confirmation that a US opponent has carried out harmful attacks on US personnel would trigger calls for a forceful response from the United States.
Currently, the administration gives assurances that they will take the matter seriously, conduct aggressive investigations and ensure that those affected receive good medical care.
The problem has been referred to as “Havana Syndrome” because the first cases in 2016 involved staff at the US Embassy in Cuba. At least 130 cases are currently being investigated across the government, up from several dozen in the last year, according to a U.S. Defense official who was not empowered to discuss details publicly. The National Security Council is leading the investigation.
People believed to be affected have reported headaches, dizziness, and symptoms compatible with concussions. Some require months of medical treatment. Some have reported hearing a loud noise before symptoms suddenly appeared.
Of particular concern are revelations of at least two possible incidents in the Washington area, including a case near the White House in November where an official reported fraud.
The new higher number of possible cases was first reported by the New York Times. CNN first reported the case near the White House and another incident in November.
Lawyers for those affected accuse the US government of not taking the problem seriously or of providing the necessary medical care and services for a long time.
“The government has a much better understanding of this than it has allowed,” said Mark Zaid, a Washington attorney who represents several victims. Zaid has received documents from the National Security Agency indicating that there is information from the late 1990s about an unknown “hostile country” that may have a microwave weapon “to weaken, intimidate or intimidate an enemy over time kill”.
Chris Miller, the acting Secretary of Defense for the last few months of the Trump administration, formed a Pentagon team to investigate the alleged attacks. That was after meeting a soldier late last year who described hearing a “screeching” noise and then having a severe headache while serving in a country Miller could not identify.
“He was well educated, very well educated, and he had been in combat before,” Miller told The Associated Press. “This is an American, a member of the Department of Defense. At this point it cannot be ignored. “
Defense and intelligence officials have publicly promised to press for answers and better care for people with symptoms. Lt. Col. Thomas Campbell, a Department of Defense spokesman, said the root causes of incidents were “areas of active investigation.” Officials have not identified a suspicious country, although some suspect Russian involvement.
CIA Director William Burns testified before Congress that he will make the investigation “a very high priority, to ensure that my colleagues are getting the due diligence they deserve and that we are investigating the causes of these incidents.” who is responsible for it. “
Burns receives daily updates from the investigation, which covers employees who have reported cases this year. He has met with people who have reported injuries, as well as other senior CIA officials. The agency has worked to reduce the waiting time for outpatient treatment for its employees at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
The CIA also replaced their chief medical officer with a doctor who was internally viewed as more sympathetic to possible cases.
“We have been treated so badly in the past,” said Marc Polymeropoulos, a 26-year-old CIA veteran who was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury after visiting Russia in 2017. “Now they are using people who not only believe us, but are committed to our health care.”
A key analysis identified “directional, pulsed radio frequency energy” as the most plausible culprit. The report, released in December by the National Academy of Sciences, said a radio frequency attack could alter brain function without causing “gross structural damage”. However, the panel was unable to make a definitive determination on how U.S. personnel may have been hit.
A 2018 US State Department approved report pointed to “a lack of leadership, ineffective communication and systemic disorganization” in response to the Havana cases. The report said the cause of the injuries was “currently unknown”. The document was published in the National Security Archives at George Washington University.
The report also found that the CIA ultimately closed its Havana station, a victory for a potential adversary.
Dr. James Giordano, a professor of neurology at Georgetown University, has consulted with the State Department on the Havana cases and has been briefed on recent incidents in the US and abroad. While reviewing the records of those affected in Havana, Giordano found evidence of neurological injuries in several people, suggesting that they may have been hit by radio waves.
He identified two possible culprits: a device that is deliberately used to combat potential victims, or an instrument that uses targeted waves of energy to conduct surveillance that may have inadvertently harmed the target. One of the November attacks outside the White House had “significant similarities” to the Havana cases, Giordano said, adding that it was not authorized by the government to be more specific.
“It is very difficult, if not impossible, to falsify or misrepresent certain results for objective clinical evaluations,” said Giordano. “I mean, there are certain things that you can’t get your nerves to do or not to do.”
Other scientists remain skeptical. Dr. Robert Baloh of the University of California at Los Angeles argued that scans of the brains of healthy people sometimes show mini-strokes, and that any possible weapon would be too large or require too much force to be used without detection.
Baloh said the growing number of cases considered targeted energy attacks are actually related to a “mass psychogenic illness,” where people who experience symptoms from others feel sick themselves.
“A lot of people hear about it and that’s how it gets spread,” said Baloh.
Legislators from both parties urge the Biden government to take this seriously. A bill tabled in both the House and Senate on Wednesday would support the payment of disability benefits for traumatic brain injuries sustained in the incidents.
“There is no greater priority than ensuring the health and safety of our employees, and the abnormal health incidents affecting our workforce around the world are extremely worrying,” said California Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of House Intelligence Committee. in a statement. Rep. Devin Nunes, the committee’s top Republican, said the people reporting symptoms “appeared to have been attacked”.
Polymeropoulos, the former CIA officer, said he believed the US would ultimately find out what was behind the incidents and who was responsible.
“The real intelligence will lead us to the truth in this regard,” he said. “If we find that a certain opponent has done this, there will be uncomfortable decisions about what to do.”
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