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
UPDATE (September 24 2021) — The CIA station chief in Vienna has been sacked amid criticism of his management, including what some considered “an insufficient response to a growing number of mysterious health incidents at the U.S. Embassy there.”
The sidelining of the station chief in one of the largest and most prestigious CIA posts is expected to send a message that top agency leaders must take seriously any reports of “Havana Syndrome.” [Washington Post]
There have been more cases of illness reported in Vienna than in any other city except Havana. Dozens of U.S. personnel in Vienna, including diplomats and intelligence officials, as well as some of the children of U.S. employees, have reported symptoms this year.
The ouster of the CIA station chief comes as Ambassador Pamela Spratlen — the State Department’s top official overseeing Havana Syndrome cases — leaves her position after six months.
[Ambassador Pamela Spratlen ] faced calls for her resignation after a teleconference with victims who had asked a question about an FBI study that determined the illnesses had a psychological origin rather than a physical one.
Spratlen declined to say if she believed the FBI study was accurate or not, angering victims who believe their symptoms are the result of an attack, possibly with microwaves or some form of directed energy. NBC News first reported the exchange. The FBI declined to comment.
Earlier this month, an intelligence officer traveling with CIA director William Burns in India reported symptoms of Havana Syndrome and required medical attention.
This week, the House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation that would provide funding for treatment and aid to individuals who may have been affected by Havana Syndrome. The Senate passed the bill in June, and it heads to President Biden for his expected signature.
Yesterday, I pointed out that REUTERS was misinforming its readers when they reported that “[CIA Director William] Burns has said there is a ‘very strong possibility’ that the syndrome is intentionally caused and that Russia could be responsible.”
According to the Post, some US officials speculate that several countries could be using energy weapons to sicken U.S. personnel. They argue that the focus on Russia might be too narrow.
END of UPDATE
UPDATE (Sept. 17 2021) — CIA Deputy Director David Cohen : “This is real and we are going to figure it out.”
During the Annual Intelligence and National Security Summit (Sept. 13 & 14 2021), leaders from across the US Intelligence Community today discussed their agencies’ priorities and challenges, ranging from Russia to counter-terrorism, cyber-security, and foreign influence operations.
The wide-ranging discussion touched on a number of other areas, including space security, innovation, emerging technologies, and the agencies’ recruitment efforts.
One of the more interesting exchanges came when CIA Deputy Director David Cohen was asked for an update on the CIA “Havana Syndrome” investigation.
“This is a classic intelligence problem, and we are approaching it with the same techniques.
We’ve gotten closer. Not close enough to make the kind of judgment that people want.
We’ll get there.
I can’t tell you whether it will be tomorrow, next week, or six months from now.
But every piece of intelligence we collect on this helps build out the picture.
It’s real. It’s affecting our officers. It’s affecting others around the community, in government, and we’re going to figure it out.”
Cohen also said that the recent incident reported in Vietnam that delayed travel there by Vice President Kamala Harris was part of a “mosaic” of evidence the agency was evaluating.
According to a piece published by the NYT on Wednesday (Sept. 15 2021),
“There are various reasons the United States has struggled to identify who, and what, is responsible for the episodes. Officials have considered that intelligence services from multiple countries could be involved, each with varying motives and equipment causing the illnesses, according to some U.S. officials.
Cold War-era surveillance technology developed by the Soviet Union proliferated to other countries, each of which has equipment that could prompt symptoms similar to previous attacks.
In at least some of the Havana syndrome cases, the technology was used by the G.R.U., Russia’s military intelligence agency, to eavesdrop but not to deliberately injure, according to some American officials.
In other cases Russian intelligence may not be involved at all, beyond having shared the technology.
Some intelligence agencies may have used faulty or badly calibrated microwave-based surveillance technology and inadvertently injured the American officials they were spying on.“
This week, the Pentagon has asked all military personnel, civilian officials and contractors to report any anomalous health episodes similar to the illnesses that have befallen diplomats and C.I.A. officers at the American Embassy in Havana. [MEMORANDUM FOR ALL DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE EMPLOYEES (Sept. 15 2021)]
END of UPDATE
UPDATE (Sept. 6 2021) — Who Is Behind The Attacks? (Rising Show)
Ryan W. Grim (born March 23, 1978) is an American author and journalist. Grim was Washington, D.C. bureau chief for HuffPost and is the Washington, D.C. bureau chief for The Intercept. He has been a co-host of The Hill’s Rising since June 1, 2021.
Grim has been very skeptical regarding the Havana Syndrome. On December 8 2020, he tweeted:
“If any other country’s intelligence service had started making these claimed we’d have had a good laugh about. That people hear this microwave stuff and nod is so weird.”
A year later, Grim is still unconvinced that these attacks are real, but he sure appears far more open to the possibility that some of the reported symptoms may be induced by surveillance technology… Let’s give him another year to think about this.
In 2014, two years before the attacks ‘started’ in Havana, I began to suspect that ‘someone’ was conducting — or at least preparing to conduct — microwave attacks in Brussels, Belgium.
Today, we know that the NSA began to suspect such microwave attacks in an undisclosed city during 2014. Coincidence? I can not answer that question because that specific city is still classified.
But here is something that I can tell you. Based on the facts that were available to me at that time, I suspected two countries and one agency or inter-agency group.
China was one of the two countries on my shortlist. Keep in mind that this was years before China became an ‘official’ suspect. [The first incident reported by an American diplomat in China was in April 2018 at the Guangzhou consulate,]
And for sure, a joint CIA-NSA operation should not be ruled out. [Even within the closed intelligence community, the CIA/NSA Special Collection Service [SCS] has been a secret within a secret since it was created in the late 1970’s.]
I will not tell you what I concluded 7 years ago… But I will give you a clue. The top suspect on my short list was a country that has NEVER be mentioned in connection to the Havana Syndrome.
And by the way, I believe that the main target of these microwave attacks in Brussels was the president of the United States.
END of UPDATE
UPDATE (August 24 2021) — Today, Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to Vietnam was interrupted by a report of new cases.
At least 2 US personnel in Hanoi will be medevacked out of the country after Havana Syndrome incidents over the weekend.
This is not the first time Havana Syndrome incidents have occurred in Vietnam, sources told NBC News correspondent.
Both these recent and previous incidents involved the now infamous strange sound.
This is the first (publicly confirmed) report of an incident involving a senior U.S. leader’s travel overseas.
Harris eventually took off from Singapore’s Paya Lebar Air Base at 7:32 p.m. local time, after a more than three-hour delay.
END of UPDATE
Breaking News (August 18 2021) — Two U.S. officials in Germany hit by Havana syndrome – WSJ
At least two U.S. officials stationed in Germany began to seek medical treatment after developing symptoms of the mysterious health ailment known as Havana Syndrome, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, citing unnamed U.S. diplomats.
The symptoms, which included nausea, severe headaches, ear pain, fatigue, insomnia and sluggishness, began to emerge in recent months and some victims were left unable to work, according to the diplomats. They are the first cases to be reported in a NATO country that hosts U.S. troops and nuclear weapons.
U.S. diplomats said that similar incidents had been registered among American officials stationed in other European nations but declined to provide any detail.
Some victims were intelligence officers or diplomats working on Russia-related issues such as gas exports, cybersecurity and political interference, according to U.S. diplomats and people familiar with an investigation into the illness.
By the way… In 2014, I recommended a simple way to document microwave attacks in Brussels, Belgium. The culprits could have been caught “Red Handed”. Pure and simple.
But a few days before the project was about to begin, someone decided to cancel the 24/7 monitoring of RF signals in Brussels. Who gave that order and why?
For the record — The expression “Havana Syndrome” was coined by Dr. Ludwig De Braeckeleer and appeared for the first time in a story published by the Intel Today blog on October 3 2017. [Here is the tweet]
END of UPDATE
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.
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
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?
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…”]
Havana Syndrome — CIA still investigating cause of ‘Havana Syndrome’ ailments affecting U.S. diplomats [Breaking News — Two U.S. officials in Germany hit by Havana syndrome – WSJ]
Breaking News — Havana Syndrome — Two new cases in Vietnam delay Vice President Harris’ visit [UPDATE : Who Is Behind The Attack? (Rising Show)]
Havana Syndrome — Two new cases in Vietnam delay Vice President Harris’ visit [UPDATE : CIA Deputy Director David Cohen : This is real and we are going to figure it out.”]
Havana Syndrome — Two new cases in Vietnam delay Vice President Harris’ visit [UPDATE : CIA station chief in Vienna sacked amid criticism]