October 28 2021 — On Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken formally announced the establishment of a new cyber bureau at the State Department to help tackle cyber and emerging technology diplomatic issues. Blinken also made a cryptic reference to the ‘Havana Syndrome pandemic’ which seems to indicate that he may make an important announcement very soon, possibly today. Follow us on twitter: @Intel_Today
Near the end of the speech [@50:46 — See transcripts below], Secretary Blinken made the following comment:
“We will leave no stone unturned to get to the bottom of what and who is
behind these incidents and I will have more to say about that in the next day.”
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken gives a speech on Modernizing American diplomacy
“What and who is behind these incidents.”
Both the Washington Post and the New York Times are rather skeptical about the ‘Havana Syndrome’ pandemic.
“Uncertainty rears its ugly head again in foreign affairs,” writes Daniel W. Drezner in a piece posted by the Washington Post yesterday.
According to Politico’s Andrew Desiderio and Lara Seligman, U.S. intelligence officials are showing greater confidence about the what and who of Havana Syndrome: “The U.S. government’s investigation into the mysterious illnesses impacting American personnel overseas and at home is turning up new evidence that the symptoms are the result of directed-energy attacks.” That is the what.
As for the who: “Lawmakers are also growing increasingly confident that Russia or another hostile foreign government is behind the suspected attacks, based on regular briefings from administration officials — although there is still no smoking gun linking the incidents to Moscow.”
Well, it sure seems like that’s that! Except that maybe it is not.
“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” writes Spencer Bokat-Lindell in an piece published by the New York Times yesterday. [Is ‘Havana Syndrome’ an ‘Act of War’ or ‘Mass Hysteria’?]
Despite the lack of conclusive evidence that U.S. officials were victims of “targeted attacks,” much less of secret microwave weapons deployed by a foreign power, many intelligence officials and journalists seem increasingly convinced of the narrative. The latest big story on the “Havana syndrome,” published in the media outlet Puck News, led with the following admission from the author, the national security reporter Julia Ioffe: “I always suspected that these illnesses were the product of deliberate attacks and that the Russian government was behind them — it was exactly the kind of weird thing they’d be both into and capable of.”
Americans should be wary of how the “Havana syndrome” is being framed in this way as a warrant for retaliatory action, Natalie Shure argues in The New Republic.
Perhaps most shocking, in Shure’s view, an anonymous member of the intelligence community quoted in Ioffe’s story seemed to call for punishing the alleged culprits, alluding to intelligence of “medium confidence” that the alleged culprits were Russian.
“Of course, we also invaded Iraq with ‘medium confidence,’” Shure writes. “If ‘Havana syndrome’ has mercifully yet to be used to agitate for war as concretely as the imaginary nukes of Iraq were, it’s clearly been seized on by a national security apparatus formidably expanded since 9/11 — and if more people don’t come to their senses, harm will surely result.”
Meanwhile… Yesterday, during a House Intelligence Committee hearing, Rep. Eric Swalwell [Dem – California] pressed Intelligence Community leaders to acknowledge that the unexplained health incidents known as “Havana syndrome” are the result of targeted attacks.
“Considering that we are not doing this to our people, they are not doing this to themselves, public reports suggest they are happening in an escalating fashion worldwide, can we stop calling them incidents and call them attacks?”
CIA Director William J. Burns didn’t answer directly, but agreed that “real harm is being done to real people and we take each report very seriously.”
Swalwell called for an effort to hunt down those behind the suspected attacks, on par with the Intelligence Community’s effort to hunt down Osama bin Laden.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Mark Warner [Dem – Va.] said that the lack of information about the alleged Havana Syndrome is very problematic.
“The fact that we still don’t know for sure who did it and how these attacks were carried out is very, very problematic, to say the least. We are, in a bipartisan way, absolutely on top of this.”
“I think that the administration, when they reach their conclusion, will lay that out. The challenge will be, when they lay it out — particularly if it’s a nation-state that originates this activity — what we do then is going to pose one of the most challenging policy choices for this administration to date.”
During the Annual Intelligence and National Security Summit (Sept. 14 2021), CIA Deputy Director David Cohen stated that:
“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.”
I have great doubt that the CIA (or the ODNI) will release a declassified report. I am looking forward to hearing what Secretary of State Antony Blinken may have to say about “What and who is behind these incidents.” Stay tuned!
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken gives a speech on Modernizing American diplomacy — Automatic transcripts:
our embassy teams around the world are
still facing a dangerous pandemic
too many of our people have been
affected by the anomalous health
incidents that we continue to
i’ve met with colleagues around the
world who’ve been struck by these health
i’m deeply moved by what they’ve been
we will not spare any effort
to protect our people to make sure they
have access to the best care
and we will leave no stone unturned to
get to the bottom of what and who is
behind these incidents
and i’ll have more to say about that in
the next day
these incidents remind us that
being a diplomat
can be dangerous
and we must do everything we can to keep
and their families safe.
Havana Syndrome — Secretary of State Antony Blinken to make an important announcement… Or not.