A spokesman for the director of the National Intelligence Service declined to comment.
The investigation is part of a broader effort to investigate targeted energy attacks on US officials in multiple agencies in recent years. As of late 2016, nearly 50 officials have reported symptoms of a mysterious illness known as “Havana Syndrome” among US diplomats posted to Cuba. Symptoms included acute ringing and pressure in the ears, as well as loss of hearing and balance, fatigue, and residual headache. Some victims have suffered long-term brain damage.
Directed energy attacks on US spies and diplomats are well documented. the CIA recently configuration a separate task force that deals with the topic. However, recent efforts by the Pentagon to investigate similar incidents affecting US forces have not yet been reported.
The circumstances of these incidents are dire, and US officials are struggling to attribute the alleged attacks to a particular weapon or country.
A directed energy attack uses highly concentrated electromagnetic energy, including high-powered radio frequency or microwave devices and particle beams, to damage a target. The attacks can take many forms, from malfunctioning electronic devices to causing pain or permanent injury.
A report Commissioned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and published in December, “Directed, pulsed radio frequency energy” was pointed out as the most likely cause of the “Havana Syndrome” incidents.
The news of Russia’s alleged behavior comes as President Joe Biden is already staring at an increasingly aggressive Moscow and last week imposed a second round of sanctions for its cyberattacks and meddling in US elections. This round of sanctions specifically precluded efforts to halt a large Russian pipeline project and came when historic numbers of Russian troops were gathering on the border with Ukraine.
The investigation grew into a larger discussion that included the National Security Council, the CIA, the State Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said three former national security officials involved in the discussions.
Members of Congress, who are privy to top secret intelligence services known as the Gang of Eight, have been energetically informed of Russia’s alleged targeting of Americans in Syria, according to the two people with direct knowledge. The Senate Armed Forces Committee has also been briefed, people said.
Congressional officials briefed on the incidents said the Pentagon believed that the nature of the targeted energy attacks were similar to those against Americans in Cuba, but hesitated to draw direct parallels.
Jim Inhofe, Senator from Oklahoma, the Republican chief on the Armed Forces Committee, told POLITICO he was waiting for more information on the matter.
“I know we will have an informal discussion, briefing about it – and frankly, it will be confidential,” he said in a brief interview. “So let’s wait and see.”