Havana Syndrome — CIA still investigating cause of ‘Havana Syndrome’ ailments affecting U.S. diplomats [UPDATE : TOP Classified Meeting Report: “Still Little Evidence…”]

“We do not know who, if anyone, is actually responsible, state actor, individuals. This is exactly what we’re trying to get to the bottom of.”

Secretary of State Tony Blinken

August 3 2021 — Judy Woodruff and Nick Schifrin discuss the debilitating medical ailments affecting U.S. diplomatic and intelligence officers in Cuba — which have become known as Havana Syndrome. Nothing new but a good summary of the current situation. Follow us on twitter: @Intel_Today

RELATED POST: Havana Syndrome — Who is the new boss of the CIA Havana Syndrome Task Force?

RELATED POST: Havana Syndrome — Chris Carter [X-Files] : “I Believe the Havana Syndrome and your government denied it.” [UPDATE — CIA officer from bin Laden unit will lead Havana Syndrome probe]

“This is a top priority for the intelligence community. We are supporting the N.S.C. led effort to get answers, take care of our people and prevent future incidents.”

Timothy Barrett — Assistant director of National Intelligence for strategic communications

UPDATE (August 18 2021) — As I told you in my last update, DNI Haines held a Joint Intelligence Community Council meeting on Friday August 6 2021, in support of inter-agency efforts to address the cause of the Havana Syndrome.

Here is what we know about that meeting according to The New York Times [Mystery Attacks on Diplomats Leave Scores of Victims but Still Little Evidence] and other MSM reports.

The meeting of the Joint Intelligence Community Council was led by Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and attended by other senior officials including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, CIA Director Bill Burns, Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Chris Wray.

The high-ranking nature of this unusual meeting indicates how getting to the bottom of the so-called Havana Syndrome incidents is a “top priority” for the White House and the intelligence community.

The meeting included briefings from a wide range of experts. [according to the release]

The intelligence community still doesn’t have an official explanation for the incidents.

“It is possible that this began as an espionage effort that turned into a stealthy means of attack,” one official familiar with the investigations said.

The official noted that microwave technology had been used over the years by American adversaries to try to recreate documents by detecting the emissions of typewriters and then computer keyboards, and later to pick up cellphone communications.

“But the frustrating part is that there is still no definitive conclusion,” the official said, “that would enable the president to call out the Russians, the way he has with cyberattacks.”

Some officials suspect that along with Russia, Iran may be responsible for some attacks, but there is also a focus on Cuba, China and other nations.

At the meeting, the expert groups reported that the leading theory remained that microwave beams were aimed at government buildings and residences, either as part of an espionage effort or as a deliberate attempt to hit American officials with a debilitating, invisible and hard-to-trace weapon.

The National Security Council has begun an urgent effort to address the issue, and two separate task forces are now in operation, one investigating the cause and led by the C.I.A. and another focused on finding commercial technology that could detect or block attacks.

Mr. Biden made a rare public reference to the issue in a speech to intelligence officials late last month. He said the administration is “coordinating a government-wide effort to respond to these incidents, because this challenge demands that departments and agencies, including the entire intelligence community, work together with urgency.”

Some officials have been reluctant to take up posts in places where the episodes were reported, or bring their families, because some of the suspected attacks have been directed at residences.

Mr. Blinken said in a letter to all State Department employees that he had “heard the growing concerns from many of you about the Unexplained Health Incidents that have afflicted U.S. government employees and their families.”

He added that “this is a top priority for me, the State Department and leaders across the U.S. government.”

Two senior officials — Brian P. McKeon, a deputy secretary of state, and Ambassador Pamela Spratlen — are leading a State Department task force that has begun to hold town-hall-style meetings in embassies that were suspected targets.

One element of that effort is to develop portable sensors that could be widely distributed to detect attacks.

But it is hard to ensure that the sensors will work, one official said, without any certainty that microwaves are the cause of the unexplained illnesses.

And even if they are the cause, the sensors would have to be able to pick up signals across a large part of the electromagnetic spectrum.

At this point, one thing is about obvious. This CIA Havana Syndrome Task Force is not going anywhere fast.

“The ODNI and the CIA are well aware that some people may soon be asking why the U.S. spends $85 billion annually on an intelligence community that cannot answer a basic question.”

Intel Today (Aug. 3 2021)

UPDATE (August 9 2021) — On Friday August 6 2021, DNI Haines held a Joint Intelligence Community Council meeting in support of inter-agency efforts to address the cause of the Havana Syndrome.

According to the press Release (ODNI News Release No. 29-21) :

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines late Friday convened the Joint Intelligence Community Council (JICC) to promote and strengthen coordinated Intelligence Community support to the existing interagency efforts to address anomalous health incidents (AHI) affecting U.S. Government personnel and their families.

The JICC is a statutory body that assists the Director in developing and implementing a joint, unified national intelligence effort to protect national security. In addition to the Council’s statutory members, the Director invited additional Intelligence Community components to participate in the meeting.

Friday’s meeting included briefings from a wide range of experts. Additionally, the JICC participants unanimously agreed to support the National Security Council-led interagency efforts to address AHI and expressed their view that it is a top priority to identify the cause of AHI, provide the highest level of care to those affected, and prevent such incidents from continuing.

Participants also made clear that they will support those affected by AHI to ensure they are believed, heard, and respected, and will work together, including through the sharing of relevant information and by following agreed, standardized medical protocols.

The CIA inspector general is carrying out a review into the agency’s handling of officers sickened by the mysterious Havana Syndrome.

END of UPDATE

“I think the gravity of this can’t be overstated. But there’s so much that we don’t know as to the cause.”

House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff

The U.S. government is intensifying its efforts to establish the cause of the “Havana Syndrome” as reported cases proliferate.

The prevalent but unofficial hypothesis is that the cases are the result of attempted intelligence collection by Russian government operatives who are using directed energy technology to gather information from cell phones or computers, but which has damaging neurological effects on its human targets. [CBS News (July 27 2021)]

The U.S. intelligence community has said it has not determined the cause of the incidents or even whether a foreign actor is responsible. [Office of the Director of National Intelligence]

The new CIA task force chief, who at one point led the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center and remains undercover, is expected to boost the use of ‘targeting’ — a term in intelligence collection and analysis to describe a more focused, resource-intensive approach to identifying new leads or existing gaps — in order to invigorate the investigation.

At the State Department, Secretary Blinken has designated Pamela Spratlen, a former U.S. ambassador to Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, to oversee the department’s response and engage with affected employees. 

The Pentagon said it was working with the National Security Council to investigate reported cases.

“I think the gravity of this can’t be overstated. But there’s so much that we don’t know as to the cause,” House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff said.

“I think we have to reserve judgment until we get the answers, and then when we do have the answers, there needs to be real accountability for any who may be responsible.” 

The ODNI and the CIA are well aware that some people may soon be asking why the U.S. spends $85 billion annually on an intelligence community that cannot answer a basic question.

Interview [Judy Woodruff and Nick Schifrin]

Judy Woodruff: And that is these debilitating medical ailments. They have become known as the Havana Syndrome. What steps is the Biden administration taking on this?

Nick Schifrin: So, these are serious ailments reported by hundreds of people across government over the last five years for — the first ones were in Havana.And the Biden administration says this is one of their top priorities. And so they have created new standards of care. That allows or ensures that people who report symptoms get proper treatment. They have created new processes for intelligence-sharing across the agency, so everyone can see details of possible cases.And they have lowered the reporting threshold to encourage possible victims to report their symptoms. But understanding the source, Judy, remains a real challenge. Last administration, CIA analyzed what device could exist that could possibly recreate some of these symptoms.And they had real challenges on the size of a device and a device needing line of sight to these hypothetical targets. They also had a review or a scrub of all intelligence, current and former, of any foreign entity talking about or deploying any of this kind of technology. And it came up empty.So this administration says those efforts have been reinvigorated, not only the reporting, the treating, but the technical hunt for the cause of this. And CIA has approached that hunt like it did the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

Judy Woodruff: Wow. So, are they any closer to figuring out the cause?

Nick Schifrin: In a word, no. They don’t know who, what or if anyone set out to target U.S. officials.

CIA still investigating cause of ‘Havana Syndrome’ ailments affecting U.S. diplomats

Six months in, what steps has the Biden administration taken to aid those affected?

REFERENCES

CIA still investigating cause of ‘Havana Syndrome’ ailments affecting U.S. diplomats — PBS NewsHour

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Havana Syndrome — CIA still investigating cause of ‘Havana Syndrome’ ailments affecting U.S. diplomats [PBS NewsHour]

Havana Syndrome — CIA still investigating cause of ‘Havana Syndrome’ ailments affecting U.S. diplomats [UPDATE : DNI Haines Holds Joint Intelligence Community Council]

Havana Syndrome — CIA still investigating cause of ‘Havana Syndrome’ ailments affecting U.S. diplomats [UPDATE : TOP Classified Meeting Report: “Still Little Evidence…”]

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