Havana Syndrome — White House Official Confirms Microwave Attacks

“I will have no higher priority than taking care of people, of colleagues, and their families. And I do commit to you that, if I am confirmed, I will make it an extraordinarily high priority to get to the bottom of who is responsible for the [Havana] attacks.”

CIA Director Nominee William Burns

April 16 2021 — For the first time ever, a top ranking US official appears to confirm that US diplomats in Havana have suffered microwave attacks. During a recent interview on CNN (Spanish), Juan Gonzalez (Special Assistant to POTUS & NSC Senior Director for Western Hemisphere) admitted that US diplomats in Havana were indeed subjected to microwave attacks. Follow us on twitter: @Intel_Today

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“The priority is making sure that our diplomats are safe and secure, but also that we find out who is responsible, if a state actor or others are responsible, having accountability and making sure that we put the protections in place.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken

The Biden administration has signaled a commitment to solving the “Havana Syndrome” mystery.

During his confirmation hearing, CIA Director William Burns stated that it would be a “High priority to solve Havana attacks mystery.”

Both US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and CIA Director Nominee William Burns promised to get answers on who is responsible for these attacks on U.S. spies and diplomats.

On March 12, 2021, the State Department announced the appointment of retired Ambassador Pamela Spratlen as Senior Advisor to the task force handling the agency’s response to the Havana Syndrome.

The CIA is working with others to “double down” on finding answers regarding the unexplained global health incidents,” CIA press secretary Timothy Barrett has stated. 

The CIA has set up a centralized team with doctors, counterintelligence officials, and human resources for anyone affected.

Last week, during an interview on CNN (Spanish), Juan Gonzalez — Special Assistant to POTUS & NSC Senior Director for Western Hemisphere — admitted that US diplomats in Havana were subjected to microwave attacks. [Joe Biden no es Barack Obama en la política hacia Cuba]

“Tenemos que asegurarnos de que nuestro personal en la embajada estadounidense en La Habana estén seguros y no corran peligro de un ataque de microondas o no sé cómo lo están llamando hoy.”.

[“We have to make sure that our staff at the US embassy in Havana are safe and not in danger of a microwave attack or I don’t know what they are calling it today.”]

“Quienes piensan que EEUU va a entrar en estos momentos con un diálogo de múltiples años con Cuba, yo creo que no entiende el momento político y la situación en donde estamos viviendo y el desorden que heredamos de la Administración previa.”

[Those who think that the US is going to enter into a dialogue of multiple years with Cuba, I believe that they do not understand the political moment and the situation in which we are living and the disorder that we inherited from the previous Administration.]

“No se invertirá de forma inicial el capital político o el tiempo de esta Administración.

[“The political capital or time of this Administration will not be invested initially.”]

This is the first time ever that a high level US official appears to confirm that us diplomats in Havana have indeed suffered microwave attacks.

On Wednesday (April 14 2021), US Senator Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, thanked CIA Director William Burns for his focus on Havana Syndrome. 

“I promised in my confirmation hearing that I take very seriously ensuring that our colleagues at CIA… receive the care that they deserve and that we get to the bottom of the question of what caused these [Havana Syndrome] incidents and who might have been responsible,” CIA Director Burns told Senator Collins.  

“And I look forward to staying in close touch with you on that. I know my colleagues at CIA deeply appreciate your personal commitment on this issue.”

Did you know? — On October 3 2017, I coined the expression “Havana Syndrome”. [Here is the tweet] The expression is now universally used, both by the media and the research community. A Google search of the expression “Havana Syndrome” brings about  3.5 million results!

The expression “Havana Syndrome” has entered the lexicon of widely different people, from judges and lawyers to various kind of artists. Why did I coin the expression “Havana Syndrome” and what does it mean?

As soon as I heard about this rather unusual saga, I immediately made a connection between the Havana attacks and the old story of the Microwave Syndrome, thus the conflation Havana Syndrome.

FLASHBACK — A formerly classified internal State Department review obtained by the National Security Archive reveals that the CIA closed its station in Havana before the diplomats were pulled out.

The Accountability Review Board [ARB] report provides the first official confirmation that the CIA closed down its Havana station and pulled its operatives out of Cuba in September 2017.

A September 13, 2017, entry in a chronology of U.S. government actions states: “CIA informs [Acting Assistant Secretary Francisco] Palmieri of its decision to withdraw personnel from Havana for the foreseeable future.” Secretary Tillerson ordered the departure of all non-emergency personal on September 29 2017.

The decision appeared to be precipitated by two more U.S. intelligence officers falling ill on August 22 2017, while staying at the Hotel Nacional in Havana, reinforcing suspicions at the CIA that their agents were being targeted.

“In August 2017, two TDY [temporary duty travel] personnel experienced medical injury from an incident at a Havana hotel.”

The ARB criticized the CIA for failing to share information about the health-related experiences of its agents in Havana in late 2016 and early 2017, delaying the State Department’s ability to rapidly react.

“Both at [Havana] Post and in Washington, response to the incidents was characterized by excessive secrecy that contributed to a delayed response,” the report noted in its findings on communication and information sharing.

The Board forcefully recommended that:

“The Secretary of State should advise employees, and his counterparts at other agencies represented at missions overseas, that he expects complete transparency and prompt notification regarding any episode that results in harm or increased danger for USG employees.”

The Board received information on similar health incidents in at least three other countries. “In addition to Embassy Havana, there were reports of similar incidents at several other posts (Tashkent, [redacted country/city name], and China).”  

In the case of China, the report included a cable (not released with the declassified version) from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, dated May 21, 2018, stating that the Embassy had convened an Emergency Action Committee to address a “victim of auditory or sensory phenomena.”

According to the Board, there was “one medically confirmed report regarding a Consulate Guangzhou employee, who described incidents in Guangzhou, China, similar to those experienced by Embassy Havana community members and whose injuries were confirmed by medical experts to match those of the Havana victims.”

The CIA’s involvement may have also made the U.S. response more difficult, as the spy agency was reticent in sharing information about its affected personnel, the report said. [ABC News]

“Both at Post and in Washington, response to the incidents was characterized by excessive secrecy that contributed to a delayed response,” it said, calling for “complete transparency and prompt notification regarding any episode that results in harm or increased danger for USG (U.S. government) employees.”

CIA spokesperson Nicole de Haay declined to answer specific questions.

“CIA’s first priority has been and continues to be the welfare of all of our officers,” said de Haay.

“The U.S. investigation into attacks that had sickened American diplomats in Havana in 2017 is still underway and remains a high priority,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said on February 11 2021. [REUTERS]

CNN Interviews Senator Jeanne Shaheen on Havana Syndrome

REFERENCES

Biden administration gears up to solve ‘Havana Syndrome’ attacks mystery —  Washington Examiner

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Havana Syndrome — White House official confirms Microwave attacks

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