CIA evacuates intelligence officer from Serbia as ‘Havana Syndrome’ attacks on American spies and diplomats continue to grow
The CIA evacuated an intelligence officer from Serbia who was suffering from symptoms associated with ‘Havana Syndrome’ as more cases of this mysterious neurological attack continue to affect American spies and diplomats.
This incident in the Balkans – which hasn’t been previously reported – happened within recent weeks and continues a troubling uptick in attacks, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.
About a week ago, a CIA agent fell ill with suspected Havana syndrome while on a work trip to India with CIA director William Burns and another agent experienced the same symptoms about a month ago in Vietnam.
All the unidentified officers reported same symptoms associated with the unexplained syndrome, which include headaches, pain, nausea or vertigo brought on by sounds, pressure or heat.
There have been 200 reported cases of the yet-unexplained illness, which has been colloquially named for its first reported case in 2016 at the US Embassy in Havana, Cuba.
Roughly half of the cases involved CIA officers or their relatives, nearly 60 have been linked to Department of Defense workers or relatives, and about 50 involved State Department personnel.
As of August, the illness had reportedly affected American personnel stationed on every continent excluding Antarctica, including a baby in one case.
There have been 200 reported cases of the yet-unexplained illness, which has been colloquially named for its first reported case in 2016 at the US Embassy in Havana, Cuba, and affected American personnel on nearly every continent except Antarctica
The sonic weapon the could cause Havana syndrome is said to be a smaller version of this 1990s Soviet microwave generator, which is kept at the University of New Mexico
An unidentified CIA officer was evacuated from Serbia after suffering from symptoms associated with the unexplained Havana syndrome. The report comes a week after a second CIA officer travelling to India earlier this month with CIA director William Burns (pictured) suffered the same symptoms
The circumstances surrounding incidents are being investigating, including if the agent in India was targeted because of his proximity to Burns.
‘In the past 60 to 90 days, there have been a number of other reported cases’ on U.S. soil and globally, Dr. James Giordano, a Georgetown University professor of neurology who is advising the U.S. government on the issue, told The Wall Street Journal.
‘They are seen as valid reports with verified health indicators.’
What’s causing Havana Syndrome remains a mystery.
Some theorize that the symptoms are caused inadvertently by surveillance equipment; while others believe incidents are caused by a mysterious sonic weapon.
Dr. Giordano told The Wall Street Journal that cause could be some form of ultrasonic or acoustic device; a rapidly-pulsed microwave; or a laser-based system.
He told the newspaper that the intent is unclear but it could be employing an electronic surveillance system with unusual side effects, or ‘a discrete form of disruptive instrument,.
‘That’s a nice way of saying this is a weapon,’ he said.
On September 15, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a memo to DoD employees to report any symptoms of the so-called Havana Syndrome in an effort to get to the bottom of the mysterious illness.
Austin advised personnel who believe they have come down with Havana Syndrome to, ‘Immediately remove yourself, coworkers, and/or family member from the area, and report the incident,’ according to the memo, first reported on by the New York Times.
Although referred to as Anomalous Health Incidents by US government officials, the Havana Syndrome earned its colloquial name from the first reported instance of the illness in 2016 at the US embassy in Havana, Cuba (pictured)
What is ‘Havana Syndrome’?
The problem has been labeled the ‘Havana Syndrome,’ because the first cases affected personnel in 2016 at the U.S. Embassy in Cuba.
At least 200 cases across the government are now under investigation, up from several dozen last year, according to a U.S. defense official who was not authorized to discuss details publicly. The National Security Council is leading the investigation.
People who are believed to have been affected have reported headaches, dizziness and symptoms consistent with concussions, with some requiring months of medical treatment. Some have reported hearing a loud noise before the sudden onset of symptoms.
Investigators believe there are at least four cases involving Trump White House officials.
Advocates for those affected accuse the U.S. government of long failing to take the problem seriously or provide the necessary medical care and benefits.
US senators said last month that the government is investigating an apparent increase in the mysterious directed-energy attacks.
The request came amid a stepped-up investigation by the US government into the causes of the illness, and to discover who or what might be responsible.
‘There’s a classic intelligence problem, and we are approaching it with the same techniques,’ David S. Cohen, deputy CIA director said at the annual Intelligence and National Security Summit in September, The New York Times reported.
‘This is a serious issue. It’s real, it’s affecting our officers, it’s affecting others around their community and in government.’
In August, Vice President Kamala Harris’ trip to Vietnam was delayed by more than three hours due to an ‘anomalous health incident in Hanoi,’ which is what the U.S. government officially calls suspected Havana syndrome cases.
In May reports emerged that some US officials suspect Russia’s infamous foreign intelligence agency – the GRU – could be the culprit.
A U.S. military officer based in a country with a large Russian presence also said he felt like his head was going to explode during one incident when he was near a GRU vehicle.
And Politico reported that government investigators are examining a suspected attack on US personnel in Miami last year.
Earlier in July, former CIA officer and Iraq and Afghanistan veteran Marc Polymeropolous claimed that he was zapped by one of the attacks while visiting a Moscow hotel room in 2017 and blamed it for destroying his career, as well as debilitating headaches that he continues to get.
In October 2020, a story emerged of diplomat Mark Lenzi, 45, who was stationed in Guangzhou, China, in 2017, when he developed unexplained symptoms, including headaches, memory loss and trouble sleeping.
His neighbor Catherine Werner also fell ill and fellow US official Robyn Garfield was evacuated from Shanghai with his family in June 2018.
The incidents in China cast doubt on theories that Russia was behind the attacks, since it is a country where Russian intelligence would have trouble operating.
The memo was issued to all 2.9million DoD employees, including service members, civilians and contractors