“There have been new additional attacks, which is very disturbing,” said Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), who led the search for answers on Capitol Hill. “It’s being taken very seriously now because of the director of the CIA … [who] has put very highly qualified people on it. “
“Hopefully we will make some progress because it is an escalating problem,” added Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Deputy Chairman of Senate Intelligence. “This has not happened in the past – it is something that has happened and is ongoing.”
Earlier this year, CIA Director William Burns tapped an officer who had assisted the manhunt for Osama bin Laden to lead the agency’s investigation. It was the most significant escalation in the longstanding government review of the incidents first reported in Havana, Cuba in 2016 and referred to as “Havana Syndrome”.
The phenomenon is receiving increasing attention as government officials have been reporting incidents throughout the year in countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America.
The best known is the trip of Vice President Kamala Harris from Singapore to Vietnam in August was more than three hours late when several U.S. workers reported symptoms consistent with Havana Syndrome in Hanoi. And in September a member of Burns’ team reported similar symptoms and needed medical attention during the director’s trip to India. CNN reported.
A Biden government official said the investigation is ongoing and no concrete conclusions have been drawn.
“We are determined to get to the bottom of this as soon as possible,” said the officer. “The [intelligence community] is actively investigating a number of hypotheses, but has not provided any information on the causes of these incidents or who was responsible. “
POLITICO first reported in May that US officials believed Russia’s elite espionage unit, the GRU, was behind the events. While Burns and lawmakers have publicly labeled the incidents as attacks, some officials are skeptical of the prevailing theory, and some prominent neurologists have called this explanation implausible.
But members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who receive weekly updates on the state of the investigation from the intelligence services, said the latest information they received has disproved the skeptics – and in public statements these lawmakers increasingly refer to the incidents as directed energy attacks.
“I think this is quackery,” Rubio said of those who have argued that the symptoms are psychosomatic. “I would invite you to explain this to the now dozen or so people who have suffered documented brain injuries that, in many cases, have rendered them unable to work.”
According to three people familiar with the matter, the intelligence committee review – based on weekly updates from the intelligence community – has continued to back a December 2020 report from the National Academy of Sciences, which concluded that the most plausible explanation for the incidents was “directional, pulsed radio frequency energy.”
The victims – including diplomats, as well as intelligence officials and White House staff – have reported symptoms such as dizziness, intense ringing and pressure in the ears, debilitating headaches, and even permanent brain damage.
The authors of the National Academy of Sciences report did not have access to classified information, but the Biden government has since set up a group of medical experts who have been given this access.
A recent 2018 State Department investigation into the loud noises described by several victims of the Havana incidents found that the most likely culprit was the Indian short-tailed cricket.
But Rubio, one of eight lawmakers familiar with the most sensitive intelligence information, said the neurologists and US officials who examined the victims found they were suffering from “very traumatic brain injuries,” likely from an external one Force were caused.
The Florida Republican also suggested that some of the skeptics, many of whom have commented lately, are “influencing agents who are paid and / or encouraged to write these on behalf of those – foreign governments or whatever – who do not want this must be discussed out there and would like to raise doubts. “
“I mean, they are repeating the lines we heard from the Cuban regime and others,” added Rubio.
In one recently op-edFor example, neurologist Robert Baloh claimed that the symptoms stem from a psychosomatic illness – one caused by stress or emotional problems. Baloh said the more likely explanation is “mass hysteria” or mass psychogenic illness.
The members of the Intelligence Committee flatly denied this claim.
“That’s not my view,” said Collins, based on the committee’s briefings and “the extensive victim interviews and brain imaging conducted at the University of Pennsylvania.”
“So I don’t know how to argue that if brain imaging shows traumatic brain injury, it’s kind of psychosomatic,” she added.
The rapid acceleration of the CIA-led investigation comes when President Joe Biden signed law on Friday to aid victims of the alleged attacks by expanding access to medical treatment. The law, introduced by the leaders of the Intelligence Committee in the House and Senate, unanimously approved both houses.
“Handling these incidents was a top priority for my government,” Biden said in a statement. “We use all resources of the US government to provide those affected with first-class medical care and to get to the bottom of these incidents, also to determine the cause and who is responsible.”
There are other signs that the administration is taking the incidents more seriously. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin last month new instructions issued to the Pentagon about the “disturbing” events and urged employees who believe they have been attacked to leave the area “immediately” and report the incident.
“As part of a government-wide effort, the ministry is working to find the cause and source of it [anomalous health incidents] and ensure that affected individuals receive appropriate medical care as soon as possible when needed, ”Austin wrote in the Sept. 15 memo.
Marc Polymeropoulos, a former CIA officer who suffered debilitating symptoms of an alleged targeted energy attack while on a mission to Moscow in 2017, urged Congress and the Biden government to respond vigorously to the attacks.
“I think it is now time that Congress and the government jointly discuss and formulate possible political responses in an act of war in preparation for future attribution by the national security establishment,” said Polymeropoulos.
Rubio said he hoped the Intelligence Committee would be able to share more information with the public “soon” and commended Burns and other high-ranking officials in the Biden administration for advancing the investigation and providing additional resources to assist the victims.
“It is still a shame that this was not treated with seriousness in the last administration,” said the chairman of the secret service Mark Warner (D-Va.). “And I think all parts of the government are working together now. But that has been going on for four or five years. “
It is unclear when the Biden government could begin publicly dealing with the investigation. CIA deputy director David Cohen said during a national security summit last month that the intelligence services are getting closer to identifying the source of the incidents “but not close enough to make the analytical judgment people are waiting for.”