Hear the word “Havana,” and you probably think of palm trees, cigars, and rum. But these days the Cuban capital is known for being the first place mysterious attacks on U.S. intelligence officers, diplomats, and government officials were reported. In fact, the result of such attacks bears the city’s name; it’s called the Havana Syndrome. But the Havana Syndrome has spread to other countries around the world causing enough concern for a U.S. Government inquiry to be commenced.
Unlike COVID-19 which strikes any and all people regardless of race, creed, or country of origin, the Havana Syndrome is found in a narrow group. The typical victim is a U.S. citizen who is a government employee. Over 200 Americans have come forward with symptoms of Havana Syndrome. Almost half of these individuals were CIA officers or their relatives; another 60 cases involved Department of Defense officials with an additional 50 being connected to the State Department. This target group seems pretty suspicious to me and to many others as well. And the more you know, the more suspicious it becomes.
The Havana Syndrome is a set of medical issues reported by U.S. embassy staff in Cuba dating back to 2016. Its symptoms include sudden vertigo, nausea, headaches, and head pressure. Those affected experienced an abrupt onset of health problems. The victim hears strange, high-pitched grating noises from a specific direction which continue for anywhere from 20 seconds to 30 minutes. Besides the sound, feelings of pressure or vibration might accompany the debilitating symptoms. These events always happen at home or in a hotel room. So much for staying quarantined at home to avoid health issues.
The physical consequences of such incidents do not end when the strange noises end. Victims have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries. For example, Marc Polymeropoulos, the CIA Deputy Chief of Operations for Europe and Eurasia, suffered a round-the-clock migraine from a brain injury and was forced to retire at age 50.
The vast majority of Havana Syndrome cases reported have occurred overseas. Besides Cuba, such cases have also appeared in China, Russia, and Uzbekistan. Marc Polymeropoulos, for example, suffered an attack leading to symptoms while on a brief visit to Moscow. In 2018, about a dozen staffers were evacuated from the American consulate in Guangzhou, China due to medical incidents. Most recently, a Vienna, Austria cluster of cases affecting around 24 Americans has come to light; this number of cases is second only to those documented in Cuba.
More alarming is the fact such incidents are occurring in or near our nation’s capital. In 2019, a White House official walking her dog in a Virginia suburb was attacked and suffered Havana Syndrome symptoms. Another incident took place in November 2020 on the Ellipse, the lawn adjacent to the south side of the White House; the victim was an official of the National Security Council. Several weeks later, another incident happened near the entrance to the White House. What’s next? The Oval Office?
So these incidents are being described as “attacks.” This word choice indicates the events are not randomly occurring; the victims are being targeted. But by what?
To date the specifics are unclear, but reports indicate the symptoms experienced arise from direct energy attacks. The symptoms are consistent with the effects of directed microwave energy which Russia has studied for a long time. American biologist Allan H. Frey’s work back in 1961-1962 found high-intensity microwave beams can produce a sensation of an odd loud noise and cause brain damage without any head trauma. The plot thickens!
During the Cold War, the U.S. feared Russia was using microwave radiation as a secret weapon that could produce “neural impact.” In fact, in 1976 the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency warned back that microwave research by the Soviets show much promise for disrupting the behavior patterns of military or diplomatic personnel. To my non-scientific mind, this sounds like a plot in a James Bond movie.
But a December 2020 report by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine concluded “directed, pulsed radio frequency energy appears to be the most plausible mechanism in explaining these cases….” According to the scientific experts, a “directed” action indicates the energy was not simply randomly dispersed by something like a cell phone. One possibility is that a satellite dish mounted on a small van could have been used to direct microwave beams at a target through walls and windows from as far away as a couple of miles. So, Mr. CIA Guy can’t simply look out the window and determine the coast is clear from enemy interference or attack.
The top Democrat and the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee have warned that the pattern of these attacks appears to be increasing. So do we know who is behind these attacks in order to stop them? In 2017 President Trump accused Cuba of perpetrating these attacks. Consequently, the U.S. reduced staff at the embassy in Havana to a minimum. However, once the attacks began occurring globally, a new villain was identified. Both the Trump and the Biden administrations see Russia as the actor likely responsible. (Did you get that? Trump and Biden AGREE on an issue.) Makes sense to me. Putin has been known to poison his opponents such as Alexei Navalny, so aiming microwave bursts at U.S. intelligence officers isn’t a big leap.
But since the attacks have hit so close to home (home being Washington, D.C. for our government’s leaders), inquiry into these mysterious attacks is moving forward. The Biden Administration is encouraging U.S. officials to come forward if they are experiencing symptoms so help can be given to them and additional information obtained. Also, a new panel of experts was established in July to look into the matter. Serving on the panel are senior CIA officials, outside scientific and medical experts, and senior officials from the Office of Director of National Intelligence. Here’s hoping that those in intelligence will use theirs to get to the bottom of what and who is causing people to suffer from the Havana Syndrome. It couldn’t hurt to see if James Bond is available for an assist since he’s on hiatus from the movie theaters due to COVID-19.
It’s scary enough to think our enemies might be out to harm us by tangible, visible means such as guns and bombs. But invisible threats are are even scarier. I’d have never thought of microwaves as a dangerous thing. I’ll approach my microwave to pop popcorn way more cautiously now. While I’d love to visit Havana one day, I don’t care to experience the Havana Syndrome in the meantime.
What’s your guess as to who is behind these attacks? How concerning to you is it that these attacks are occurring in the United States and near the White House? Does the use of microwaves as a weapon sound like something out of a James Bond movie to you?