September 23 2021 — On Monday, CNN and the New York Times reported that a CIA officer who was traveling with CIA director William Burns to India earlier this month reported symptoms consistent with Havana syndrome. Follow us on twitter: @Intel_Today
UPDATE (October 10 2021) — On Friday (October 8 2021) Reuters posted a story titled: “Berlin police investigating ‘Havana syndrome’ cases at U.S. Embassy“.
At the end of the piece, they repeat the statement discussed in this post.
He [William Burns, director of the U.S. Central Intelligence agency] said there was a “very strong possibility” that the symptoms had been caused deliberately, and that Russia could be responsible.
Did you notice the difference? Yes, a comma was inserted after the word ‘deliberately’ and this makes a world of difference. Indeed, that statement, unlike the previous one, is correct.
Obviously, some people learn. On the other hand, some do not…
The Guardian covered the story [Police have been investigating possible cases of ‘Havana Syndrome’ associated with the diplomatic mission since August] and wrote the following statement:
(…) the agency’s director, William Burns, said in July that there was a “very strong possibility” that the symptoms had been caused deliberately, and pointed to Russia as a possible culprit.
This sentence also uses the comma and the statement is essentially correct. However…
BBC NEWS also reported the story under the title: “Havana syndrome: Berlin police probe cases at US embassy“.
The BBC piece ends with the following sentence:
In July, CIA director William Burns said there was “a very strong possibility” that the symptoms were being caused deliberately and that Russia could be responsible.
Here we have a problem. There is no comma in the sentence after the word ‘deliberately’.
As I have explained, that statement is absolutely incorrect. Make no mistake. A punctuation error can be very costly in a court of law. [Think commas don’t matter? Omitting one cost a Maine dairy company $5 million.]
As the BBC is fully aware, in one extreme example, a misplaced comma was at the heart of a death-penalty trial. [The commas that cost companies millions]
Roger Casement, an Irish nationalist, was hanged in 1916 under the 1351 Treason Act. He had incited Irish prisoners of war being held in Germany to band together to fight against the British.
The debate over whether Casement was guilty hinged on the wording of the 14th Century Treason Act and the use of a comma: with it, Casement’s actions in Germany were illegal; without it, he would get away with it.
Despite Casement’s lead counsel’s assertion that “crimes should not depend on the significance of breaks or of commas”, and “if a crime depended on a comma, the matter should be determined in favour of the accused, and not of the Crown”, the court ruled that the comma mattered. Casement was found guilty and executed.
“Punctuation matters,” says Ken Adams, author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting. But not all punctuation is made equal…
“It boils down to commas. They matter, and exactly how depends on the context.”
Back to the (new piece) from Reuters. The added comma creates separation between ” “very strong possibility” that the syndrome is intentionally caused” and “and that Russia could be responsible.
The original form can be analysed as: “there is a very strong possibility that the syndrome is intentionally caused” together with: “there is a very strong possibility that Russia could be responsible”.
The comma removes the connection between the “strong possibility” and Russia being responsible.
This added comma is clearly a deliberate attempt by Reuters to remove the accusation that there is evidence of Russian responsibility. This suggests that there is no evidence of Russian responsibility.
As for the BBC ‘Havana Syndrome’ investigators, “They never open their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge.” No exception…
PS — This is Sunday, and we could use a joke… The BBC correspondent in Moscow asks a close friend of Vladimir Putin what his favorite things in life are.
The guy answers that the President loves to cook, he enjoys to spend time with his friends and likes to go for long walks with his dogs.
The next day, a piece appears on the BBC website. Kremlin insider: “Putin likes to cook his friends and dogs.”
END of UPDATE
In a piece titled CIA officer reports Havana syndrome symptoms on India trip, REUTERS claims 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.”
This statement was quickly re-posted by others, such as the AXIOS website.
“Burns has said previously that there’s a ‘very strong possibility’ that Russia is behind the syndrome and that it could be intentionally caused, Reuters notes.”
In truth, this second quote is totally incorrect and the first quote is highly misleading.
In July 2021, William Burns gave his first sit-down interview since assuming the role of Central Intelligence Agency director.
In a wide-ranging conversation, NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly asked him several questions about the Havana Syndrome.
Beside a quick comment during his confirmation hearing, this is the only time Burns has spoken publicly about the Havana Syndrome. Please, read VERY carefully!
Q — Have you learned what causes it?
A — We still don’t know for sure, but I am absolutely determined to get to the bottom of the question of what and who caused this. (…)
Q — So you’re persuaded this is real.
A — I’m certainly persuaded that what our officers and some family members — as well as other U.S. government employees — have experienced is real and it’s serious. (…) we have a very strong team of people — the best across CIA — focused on those questions of “What?” and “Who?”, led by a very experienced and accomplished senior officer who, a decade ago, led the successful hunt for bin Laden. So we’re throwing the very best we have at this issue…
Q — When you say you’re trying to figure out what’s causing them and who is causing them, that suggests that this is someone taking action.
That’s certainly a very strong possibility. The National Academy of Sciences, a year ago, in a very extensive report that they did, suggested that the most plausible theory for what caused this was some form of directed energy, and that sort of narrows, then, the number of potential suspects who could have used this, have used it historically and have the reach to do this in more than one part of the world… So, yeah, we’re very focused on getting to the bottom of this.
Q — Is it Russia?
A — Could be, but I honestly cannot — I don’t want to suggest until we can draw some more definitive conclusions who it might be. But there are a number of possibilities. (…)
In other words, Burns said that:
1 — He is persuaded that the Havana Syndrome is real
2 — There is a very strong possibility that the attacks are intentional.
3 — There are a few suspects, and Russia is one of them.
Let me repeat and make it very clear.
CIA director William Burns NEVER said that there’s a very strong possibility that Russia is behind these attacks.
The Havana Syndrome is a serious, fascinating and highly complex issue. The last thing we need is this kind of disinformation.
Reuters should correct that piece and apologize to its readers.
PS — There has been a persistent rumor that Reuters cooperates with Western Intelligence agencies. [Carl Bernstein: “The CIA and the Media”] This kind of ‘reporting’ is unlikely to dispel these allegations.
Havana Syndrome — Textbook case of disinformation from Reuters
Havana Syndrome — Textbook case of disinformation from Reuters [UPDATE : In Intelligence Matters, Punctuation Really Matters!]