Multi-year research by US agencies casts doubt on speculation that a hostile force was behind unexplained ailments.
The United States intelligence community has concluded that there is little evidence to support the belief that a hostile foreign power was responsible for the “Havana Syndrome,” a series of unexplained ailments that diplomats and officials say they have experienced around the world.
The declassified findings were released on Wednesday and show the results of an investigation conducted by seven US intelligence agencies over the course of several years.
The story was first reported by the Washington Post, which wrote that the investigation “contradicts in almost every respect” claims by the affected individuals that they were “victims of a deliberate attack — possibly by Russia or another hostile force.” government”.
Some had speculated that “Havana syndrome” symptoms, including migraines, nausea, memory loss and dizziness, could have been caused by a mysterious energy weapon, a theory called into question by Wednesday’s report.
The cause of “Havana Syndrome” remains a mystery. The investigation examined 1,000 reported cases, but in January a CIA official said the majority “could be reasonably explained by medical conditions or environmental and technical factors, including previously undiagnosed illnesses,” according to the Reuters news agency.
The first known cases appeared in Havana, Cuba, in 2016, with later incidents reported in countries including Australia, Austria, China, Colombia, Germany, and Russia. The US government has labeled the cases as “abnormal health incidents”.
Of the seven agencies involved, the Washington Post reported that some expressed varying levels of assurance that no foreign power was involved in the incidents, including one abstention.
However, the consensus did not differ significantly and none of the agencies disputed the conclusion that a foreign power did not cause the symptoms.
Uncertainty about the mysterious illnesses led to widespread speculation in the US, with some officials characterizing them as a targeted attack on US personnel abroad.
In October 2021, the US Congress passed a bill (pdf) mentioned the Helping American Victims Afflicted by Neurological Attacks (HAVANA) Act, which allows state agencies to “compensate affected current employees, former employees, and their dependents for eligible brain injuries.”
In a statement on Wednesday, CIA Director William Burns said the agency would work to address the “real health issues” experienced by agency staff with “honesty and compassion.”