Interim CIA Report Says Most 'Havana Syndrome' Cases Not Likely Caused by Foreign Powers

24 Jan, 2022 Liz Carey


Washington, DC ( – A majority of the 1,000 cases of ‘Havana Syndrome’ reported to by federal employees are less likely to be caused by a foreign power, a new interim report from the CIA says. 

Three intelligence officials who discussed the report with Politico said the causes are most likely undiagnosed medical conditions, stress or environmental causes. Previously, the cause of the illness striking U.S. diplomats across the globe was thought to possibly be directed energy or microwave attacks from U.S. foreign adversaries. 

“Havana Syndrome” was identified in 2016 after government personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba reported unusual and unexplained medical symptoms like severe headaches, dizziness, tinnitus, visual and hearing problems, vertigo and cognitive difficulties. In many cases, the reported hearing strange high- and low-frequency sounds just before the symptoms appeared. Some reported that they felt like they’d been hit by an invisible blast wave. 

Since then, U.S. diplomatic employees around the world have reported similar symptoms. Officials have said the symptoms are “consistent with the effects of directed, pulsed, radio frequency energy,” but that there was no concrete information on who or what could be responsible for the attack. 

In late 2020, a State Department panel created in conjunction with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine found that “directed, pulsed radio frequency (RF) energy” was most likely the cause of the syndrome, but offered no evidence to back up its theory. 

In 2021, a report said that while there was suspicion that they symptoms could be caused by intense electromagnetic energy waves from devised used by foreign entities, there was no consensus in the intelligence community on the technique or purpose of the “attacks,” or whether the incidents are just coincidence. 

The CIA said it is continuing to investigate some two dozen cases that remain unexplained. And, the report is not final, CIA Director William Burns said in a statement on Thursday.

“We are pursuing this complex issue with analytic rigor, sound tradecraft, and compassion and have dedicated intensive resources to this challenge,” Burns said. “While we have reached some significant interim findings, we are not done. We will continue the mission to investigate these incidents and provide access to world-class care for those who need it.” 

The news angered victims of the attacks, some of whom are current and former officials who are battling chronic ailments years after developing symptoms, with no clear understanding of what happened to them. 

“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,” a group of victims said in a statement to the New York Times. 

The report also angered some Congressmembers. 

“I’m anxious to hear what CIA’s response is going to be. I’m anxious to hear other affected departments [too],” Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Mark Warner, D-Va., said in a brief interview. 

Warner and others from both sides of the aisle questioned the interim report’s timing, as well as the fact that it appeared to contradict previous information shared with congressional intelligence committees, which seemed to indicate directed-energy attacks were the cause. 

Warner said an expert panel by the intelligence community is expected to wrap up their investigation into Havana Syndrome in less than two weeks. 

But the interim report would notchange Congress’ mind on how to care for the government’s employees who are experiencing these symptoms, he said.

“There is no question that members of the intelligence workforce have suffered from conditions requiring a medical response,” Warner said in a statement. “I am heartened that

there are now procedures in place to ensure that those who are affected by these anomaloushealth incidents finally have access to the world-class care that they deserve. In a briefing before the Senate Intelligence Committee, CIA leadership emphasized that there will be no changes to the seriousness with which they investigate AHIs, process for reporting AHIs, or eligibility for care as a result of these interim findings. We’re going to continue to take care of our folks and treat them with the empathy that they deserve.”

Last year, legislation co-authored by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., strengthened the federal government’s response to government employees who experienceHavana Syndrome. The legislation passed unanimously in the House and Senate and was signed into law by President Joe Biden.

Congressmembers said what’s in the report doesn’t match up with what they’ve been told in classified briefings. 

“Everything we’ve been told up to now is different. All of a sudden we come up with a different conclusion?” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Menendez, D-N.J., told Politico. “If you have an inconclusive determination, which isn’t a determination, why do you feel compelled to issue an interim report that is inconclusive?” 

Other lawmakers downplayed the report’s finality on the matter. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chair, said the current assessment is only the interim report, while House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff, D-Cal., said the findings were “a first step toward answering the many questions that we have about these incidents, but it is far from the last.”

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    • Liz Carey

      Liz Carey has worked as a writer, reporter and editor for nearly 25 years. First, as an investigative reporter for Gannett and later as the Vice President of a local Chamber of Commerce, Carey has covered everything from local government to the statehouse to the aerospace industry. Her work as a reporter, as well as her work in the community, have led her to become an advocate for the working poor, as well as the small business owner.

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