The mysterious Havana “sonic attacks” are back in the media after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday said an investigation is still underway. He was responding to newly published allegations of a cover-up.
Recall that starting in 2016 into 2017 there were bizarre reports that nearly two dozen American diplomats – and a handful of Canadians – serving at embassies in Havana suffered hard-to-pin-down symptoms from the alleged “sonic attacks”. Personnel reported experiencing everything from vomiting to concussions to chronic headaches to minor brain injuries.
“It’s a very complicated situation and there is not yet any complete US government analysis which definitively tells us precisely how these all came to be, whether they’re part of a single cohort,” Pompeo told reporters Wednesday.
“There are multiple theories, and you should know there are significant US government resources… three-plus years on, devoted to getting to the bottom of this and then holding those responsible accountable should we determine that that’s required,” he said.
It was thought serious enough for the Trump administration to withdraw half the US embassy staff while expelling Cuban diplomats in September 2017, given the ‘sound waves’ were thought intentional, or “specific attacks”. Investigators had offered several theories about a high-tech attack by Cuba’s government, or perhaps a rogue faction of its security forces, or possibly a third country like – wait for it – Russia. Another theory was that an eavesdropping device may have gone awry.
The whole episode gave rise to endless theories, even that it was a natural phenomenon due to sounds produced by crickets in Havana, according to one scientific inquiry featured in The Guardian in 2019. Other scientists posited the possibility of mass hysteria among staff serving in a high stress environment.
Asked about the mysterious ‘Havana Syndrome’ among US diplomats in #Cuba, #China and elsewhere, @SecPompeo says it’s “patently false” that @StateDept didn’t protect its personnel because of larger political objectives. “We can continue to try to determine the causation of this.” pic.twitter.com/o1fGGdLxEq
— Steve Herman (@W7VOA) October 21, 2020
But apparently it wasn’t just American personnel stationed in Cuba that were harmed, as the AFP notes this week:
Similar cases began emerging in 2018 among US personnel in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, with Pompeo initially linking the situation to the episodes in Havana.
But The New York Times, in an investigation published Tuesday, said that the State Department had played down the incidents in China and did not open a similar investigation.
The newspaper said that a clandestine CIA officer in Moscow also suffered debilitating headaches that forced him into retirement, raising suspicions that Russia was waging non-traditional warfare in multiple sites.
The issue is also surfacing again over allegations the Trump administration ultimately did nothing to resolve the issue. US diplomats and spies have recently accused the White House and top brass in federal agencies of intentionally downplaying it to the point of cover-up, given they don’t have answers.
“There were no politics attached to this. The suggestion somehow is that we didn’t protect our officers because of some larger political objective – that is patently false,” Pompeo hit backed when pressed.
There now appears to be consensus within the US administration that Cuba or Russia may be using James Bond villain type high-tech devices which can imperceptibly impact the health of American personnel stationed abroad without them knowing about it. At this point there’s even a name for it and lengthy entry in Wikipedia, called “Havana Syndrome”.