U.S. Intel Agencies Say There’s No Sign That Foreign Enemies Are Behind Havana Syndrome

In late 2016, American and Canadian embassy personnel in Havana, Cuba, began complaining of strange and unexplained health problems: dizziness, memory loss, hearing loss, and nausea.

By August 2017, “Havana Syndrome,” as the condition was named, became public knowledge, and that’s when other diplomats and their families began complaining of similar symptoms in other embassies and consulates. The government began an intensive investigation, and government employees began to demand compensation.

At first, the CIA believed that the illnesses came from a “directed energy weapon” — probably some kind of microwave device. But any kind of weapon like that would have to operate at close range to be effective, and no such weapon had been seen at the several embassies or anywhere in the vicinity where the “attacks” occurred.

Meanwhile, government employees agitated for compensation for the “attacks,” despite growing evidence that there were no attacks at all.

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Now, the most comprehensive government study has concluded that there are no links to foreign enemies in the hundreds of cases of Havana Syndrome around the world. In fact, the report managed to debunk all but a handful of cases and chalk them up to many different causes.

It should be noted that many of the effects of Havana Syndrome are real and lasting. The government is not accusing those afflicted with the symptoms of “faking it” or imagining it. But it seems clear from the evidence that we’ll have to look elsewhere for a cause.

Associated Press:

Most of the cases investigated appear to have different causes, from environmental factors to undiagnosed illnesses, said the officials, who say they have not found a single explanation for most or all of the reports.

Instead, officials say, there is evidence that foreign countries were not involved. In some cases, the U.S. detected among adversarial governments confusion about the allegations and suspicions that Havana syndrome was an American plot. And investigators found “no credible evidence” that any adversary had obtained a weapon that could cause the reported symptoms or a listening device that might inadvertently injure people.

The Biden administration has been under pressure to respond to Havana syndrome cases from government personnel who have reported injuries and their advocates, including members of Congress. President Joe Biden in 2021 signed into law the HAVANA Act, which provided compensation to people deemed to have sustained injuries consistent with what the government calls “anomalous health incidents.”

From the beginning of the investigation, there has been a bias against identifying Havana Syndrome as a possible psychogenic illness — mass hysteria. Robert E. Bartholomew, who wrote a book about Havana Syndrome, points out that the NSA dismissed the notion of a psychogenic illness without examining any evidence. That evidence was there if the NSA cared to look.

Noted journalist Timothy Golden works as both a reporter and editor at ProPublica, concentrating on national security, foreign policy, and criminal justice. He and Bartholomew undertook a careful examination of the evidence and concluded that the most likely explanation for the mystery illnesses was “an outbreak of mass psychogenic illness that was exacerbated by government incompetence … In many respects, it is a story that is far more interesting than any sonic or microwave weapon.”

Skeptic Magazine:

Golden provides a rich description of the early social patterning and spread of Havana Syndrome. Once the State Department had accepted the sonic device explanation, U.S. diplomats who were being posted to Havana “were quietly warned they could face a mysterious threat that was causing American Foreign Service officers to fall ill, some with long-lasting symptoms.”11 Those diplomats who were about to be posted to Havana were even played audio recordings made by staff in Cuba, of the mysterious sounds that had accompanied their symptoms. These recordings were later identified as crickets and cicadas.

Mass hysteria is as good an explanation as any at this point. And it’s looking more and more plausible, as investigations fail to come up with a better explanation.

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