U.S. Unpersuaded by Report Blaming Russia for ‘Havana Syndrome’

IC agencies have varying confidence levels because we still have gaps given the challenges collecting on foreign adversaries — as we do on many issues involving them,” the assessment added, noting intelligence analysts continue to monitor developments “in areas we have identified as requiring additional research and analysis.”

U.S. officials have recorded about 1,500 cases of Havana Syndrome since staff at the U.S. embassy in Havana, Cuba, first reported unexplained illnesses in 2016. Victims in Cuba, Russia, China, Poland, Austria and even the United States have reported a variety of symptoms, including nausea and dizziness, debilitating headaches and memory problems.

An initial investigation pointed to the possibility that at least some of those suffering symptoms were impacted by some sort of weapon, findings that were supported by a 2022 report by a panel of experts.

Pulsed electromagnetic energy, particularly in the radiofrequency range, plausibly explains the core characteristics,” the 2022 report said.

But that same year, U.S. intelligence officials began backing off the hypothesis that the mystery ailments were the result of a weapon. The CIA, for example, said it appeared most of the cases could be “reasonably explained” by medical conditions or environmental and technical factors.

Russia on Monday rejected the conclusions of the investigation by CBS’ “60 Minutes,” Germany’s Der Spiegel, and The Insider.

“This is nothing more than a groundless accusation,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by Russia’s TASS news agency.

“This is not a new subject at all,” Peskov said. “From the very beginning it was somehow tied to accusing the Russian side of it but nobody has ever published or voiced any convincing support to these unfounded accusations.”

Still, there have been reports of new cases.

The Pentagon Monday confirmed one of them, involving a U.S. defense official who was struck with symptoms “similar to those reported in anomalous health incidents” during a NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania last July.

Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh told reporters the individual was not part of the delegation attending the summit with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

I’m not aware that the secretary’s delegation was at risk,” Singh said, adding that Austin “has confidence in the intelligence community.”

As for the possibility that Russian agents, or those working for other U.S. adversaries, may be deploying a directed-energy weapon, “We’d always be concerned,” Singh said.

“We’d always be concerned of any type of impact to our servicemembers, to our civilians that causes health defects, health impacts,” she said in response to a question from VOA.

State Department officials Monday said there would be no repercussions for any employees speaking against the U.S. intelligence findings and noted those affected by Havana Syndrome have been given access to medical care and compensation through the HAVANA ACT, signed into law in 2021.

“The safety and security of our personnel remains the top priority of the secretary and we are doing everything possible to help those affected,” said State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller.

Jeff Seldin is VOA national security reporter.  This article is published courtesy of the Voice of America (VOA).