CIA Watchdog Launches Investigation into Handling ‘Havana Syndrome’ Cases Affecting 200 US Diplomats
The office of CIA Inspector General Robin Ashton’s assessment will focus on how sick officers are cared for (pictured June 9)
The CIA’s inspector general is reportedly launching an investigation Friday into the treatment of reported cases of “Havana syndrome” that have plagued 200 US diplomats, intelligence officers and military members on every continent except Antarctica.
It is expected that specific attention will be paid to the care of sick officers.
The review — which is not yet a formal investigation — comes a day after CIA Director William Burns tasked an unnamed intelligence officer to find the source of the mysterious ills, first reported by US diplomats serving in Cuba. were stationed.
News from the CIA Review, first reported by CNN, appears to come after mounting pressure from more than six years of frustration from lawmakers and victims.
People apparently suffering from ‘Havana syndrome’ have reported symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, hearing and vision problems and a ringing in the ears known as tinnitus.
Some US officers told the outlet it was difficult to get adequate care, in part because of Trump CIA Director Gina Haspel’s skepticism about the matter.
Victims also complained that Haspel stood her ground when responding to what they described to CNN as matters of both personal health and national security.
House Intelligence Committee lawmakers expressed “great concern about how some individuals may not be able to access needed benefits and medical care” after speaking with people familiar with the mysterious situation.
Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire lashed out at victims’ alleged lack of care.
“It is shameful that U.S. officials and their loved ones affected by these targeted energy attacks have endured so much hardship to access the care they need, and we still have no clarity as to the cause.” , the Armed Services Committee member said in a statement. .
The lack of answers and reported resources for victims of ‘Havana Syndrome’ has been a source of frustration since the cases were first reported in 2016. New CIA Director William Burns (left) was praised for his handling of the mystery while former CIA chief Gina Haspel (right) was reportedly criticized as being too skeptical
Biden’s new top spy has been praised for demonstrating a “personal commitment” to improve the situation for patients.
A former senior CIA official praised Burns as a “welcome change from the previous leadership team,” whom he accused of ignoring victims and treating their suffering as “annoyance.”
Since the acquisition of the agency Burns told… NPR On Thursday, he cut the waiting time of affected officers to receive care from Walter Reed from “more than eight weeks to less than two weeks” and also tripled the number of CIA personnel charged with medical care for victims.
His new appointee to head the “Havana Syndrome” task force — which was involved in the hunt for Osama bin Laden — comes after Cynthia Rapp’s retirement, less than a year after he took on the role.
Rapp was appointed by Haspel.
The former CIA analyst frustrated senators during an intelligence commission briefing earlier in 2021 when her answers about the incidents and how they were handled did not satisfy them.
Since it was first reported in 2016, about 200 US diplomats, intelligence officers and others have experienced symptoms consistent with ‘Havana syndrome’
Symptoms include headaches, nausea, dizziness, and even disabilities consistent with traumatic brain injury
Burns receives daily updates on the investigation, which covers employees who reported cases this year.
He has met people who report injuries, as have other top CIA officials. The agency has been working to shorten the wait time for its employees to receive outpatient treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
The CIA also replaced its chief of medical services with a doctor more sympathetic internally to potential cases.
“We’ve been treated so terribly in the past,” said a 26-year-old CIA veteran. “Now they are turning on people who not only believe us, but also advocate for our health care.”
Vienna recently became the latest hotspot for Havana syndrome, with more than two dozen cases reported — making it the largest cluster outside of Cuba.
The mysterious condition was first reported in the fall of 2016 when an employee of the US Embassy in Havana suffered from headaches, hearing loss, memory problems and other symptoms.
US intelligence agencies still haven’t released an official explanation for the sickening dozens of Americans stationed abroad, though one theory relates to targeted “microwave” attacks from Russia.
However, the explanation is missing in some of the reported cases and the intelligence community has not even been able to confirm that attacks were primarily involved.
The US Embassy in Vienna, Austria. The cluster of two dozen cases in Vienna is the largest yet outside Cuba
The reports in Vienna, as well as previously undisclosed reports that a US diplomat’s term in Germany was shortened by the unexplained illness, brings the total number of cases to 200, NBC reported.
Among them, about half were associated with CIA officers or their relatives, about 60 were associated with Defense Department employees or relatives, and about 50 were associated with the State Department, the outlet reported.
Possible cases among Americans abroad have now been reported on every continent except Antarctica and in the past year, including reports of more than one American stationed in Kyrgyzstan with a baby who had experienced symptoms.
In addition, two cases were discovered near the White House in recent months, with the US government now accelerating sensor technology to try to identify and track the microwave technology.
The suspected targeted-energy attacks have baffled American researchers who have been trying to pinpoint who and what are causing them since they first started in Cuba five years ago.
The US Embassy in Havana, Cuba. The problem has been labeled ‘Havana syndrome’ as the first cases hit embassy staff in 2016, pictured
A major analysis identified “targeted pulsed radiofrequency energy” as the most plausible culprit.
The report, published in December by the National Academy of Sciences, said a radiofrequency attack could alter brain function without causing “gross structural damage.” But the panel was unable to make a definitive finding on how American personnel may have been affected.
And a 2018 State Department released report called “a lack of senior leadership, ineffective communication and systemic disorganization” in responding to the Havana cases.
The report says the cause of the injuries was ‘currently unknown’. The document is published by the National Security Archive at George Washington University.
The report also noted that the CIA eventually closed its Havana station, a win for a potential adversary.
What is the ‘Havana Syndrome’?
The problem has been dubbed the “Havana syndrome” because the first cases hit US embassy staff in Cuba in 2016.
According to a US defense official who was not authorized to discuss details publicly, at least 130 cases are now under investigation across the administration, up from several dozen last year. The National Security Council is leading the investigation.
People believed to be affected have reported headaches, dizziness and symptoms consistent with concussions, with some requiring months of medical treatment. Some have reported hearing a loud noise before symptoms suddenly started.
Investigators believe there are at least four cases involving Trump White House officials.
Supporters of those affected accuse the US government of failing to take the problem seriously or provide necessary medical care and benefits.
US senators last month said the government is investigating an apparent increase in mysterious directed-energy attacks.
Symptoms include: hearing loss, severe headache, memory problems, dizziness, brain injury