Havana syndrome: ‘directed’ radio frequency likely cause of illness – report | US foreign policy

The mysterious symptoms that have afflicted American diplomats stationed in Cuba, puzzling scientists and intelligence agencies alike, are most likely to have been caused by “directed, pulsed radio frequency energy”, according to a report commissioned by the US government.

Those suffering from Havana syndrome, as the condition has become known, have complained of headaches, nausea, dizziness, blurred vision and other ailments.

Possible explanations have included everything from mosquito fumigation to noisy crickets.

But a report from National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, commissioned by the State Department, suggests the involvement of radio frequency energy.

“After considering the information available to it and a set of possible mechanisms, the committee felt that many of the distinctive and acute signs, symptoms, and observations reported by state department employees are consistent with the effects of directed, pulsed radio frequency energy,” the report concludes.

Researchers did not identify the source of the energy – nor a possible culprit – but they said western and Soviet studies going back decades offered “circumstantial support for this possible mechanism”.

The report says that while psychological and social factors could play a part in Havana syndrome, they did not explain “the acute initial, sudden-onset, distinctive, and unusual symptoms” and signs.

“However, the significant variability and clinical heterogeneity of the illnesses affecting state department personnel leave open the possibility of multiple causal factors including psychological and social factors,” said the researchers.

“These factors could exacerbate other causes of illness and cannot be ruled out as contributing to some of the cases, especially some of the chronic symptoms or later in the course of illness in some cases.”

US and Canadian embassy staff posted to Cuba began complaining of hearing loss, speech problems, nosebleeds and other unexplained symptoms in 2016.

Some said they had heard high-pitched chirping like that of crickets, while others reported hearing a grinding noise or experiencing a ringing in their ears.

The incidents led the US state department to expel two Cuban diplomats from Washington in 2017.

Donald Trump blamed the episodes on the Cuban government, saying: “It’s a very unusual attack, as you know. But I do believe Cuba is responsible.”

The Cuban authorities have flatly denied any involvement but said they treated the matter “with utmost importance”, adding: “Cuba has never, nor would it ever, allow that the Cuban territory be used for any action against accredited diplomatic agents or their families, without exception.”

The report committee said it had been left with a number of concerns.

“Even though it was not in a position to assess or comment on how these state department cases arose – such as a possible source of directed, pulsed radio frequency energy and the exact circumstances of the putative exposures – the mere consideration of such a scenario raises grave concerns about a world with disinhibited malevolent actors and new tools for causing harm to others, as if the US government does not have its hands full already with naturally occurring threats,” it said.

The committee recommended that more research be conducted and said it was worried about the possibility of new cases among US staff working overseas – and about the government’s ability to recognise and respond to such cases effectively.

The report concluded that future cases would require “a well-coordinated, multi-disciplinary, science-based investigation and effective interventions”.

In October, the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said “significant US government resources” had been deployed to investigate the syndrome and its causes.

“We are pleased this report is now out and can add to the data and analyses that may help us come to an eventual conclusion as to what transpired,” a state department source told the New York Times.


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