An intelligence review of mystery symptoms “shatters” the theory that Russia or China are to blame
Whatever caused the enigmatic symptoms dubbed the ‘Havana Syndrome’, the US intelligence community has concluded that it was not a secret weapon operated by a foreign adversary, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday, citing officials familiar with the report.
The final report on the issue “shatters a long-disputed theory” that some kind of Russian energy weapon was to blame, according to the Post. However, some State Department officials continue to believe that “a foreign government, probably Russia,” is to blame, pointing out that the number of reported cases dropped after the conflict in Ukraine escalated last February.
According to the outlet, a total of seven intelligence agencies took part in the investigation. A special group of seasoned analysts, led by a senior CIA officer, “devoted extraordinary resources” to find the possible cause, reviewing around 1,000 cases of what Washington has dubbed “anomalous health incidents” (AHI). They ended up finding “no pattern to connect reported cases to a potential cause,” said the Post.
Five of the agencies involved said it was “very unlikely” a foreign actor was responsible. One agency said it was just “unlikely,” while one agency abstained. However, none of them disagreed with the conclusion that “a foreign actor did not cause the symptoms,” one official told the paper.
For years, hundreds of American diplomats, intelligence officers and other personnel at embassies on every continent have reported headaches, nausea, ringing in the ears, and even brain damage caused by strange sounds. The term ‘Havana Syndrome’ was coined because the first reports came from the recently-reopened US embassy in Cuba in 2016. Some of those affected argued they were targets of a deliberate attack, by Russia or some other adversary, using sonic weapons. The final report contradicts that claim “in nearly every respect,” the Post’s sources said.
Intelligence analysts found “no pattern or common set of conditions that could link individual cases” and “no evidence, including forensic information or geolocation data,” that would suggest the use of directed energy, including radio waves and ultrasonic beams. There was no evidence even in places where the US had the “total ability to monitor the environment” for malicious activity.
“There was nothing,” one of the officials told the Post.
Moreover, none of the agencies considered it likely that Russia or China had an energy weapon capable of causing the symptoms. Medical experts could not attribute the described symptoms to any external factor “separate from a preexisting condition or environmental factors,” the report found.
The directed-energy hypothesis was boosted by a 2020 report of a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine panel, which suggested a “directed, pulsed radio frequency (RF) energy” was to blame. However, other experts quickly cast doubt on that theory.
In September 2021, BuzzFeed published a declassified report by a State Department advisory group called JASON, which concluded it was “highly unlikely” the reported symptoms were caused by microwaves or ultrasound beams. The report, authored in November 2018, ended up being classified and not shared with the NASEM panel.
JASON’s report said the most likely culprit in a third of the reported Havana cases were local crickets. This matched the 2017 conclusion of experts in California, who pinpointed the sound released by the Associated Press as the mating call of the male Indies short-tailed cricket.
In the meantime, Congress has established a fund to compensate those who reported symptoms of the ‘Havana Syndrome’, and a compensation package reportedly in the range of over $100,000 was announced last summer.