General view of the U.S. Embassy in Havana after the U.S. government pulled more than half of its diplomatic personnel out of Cuba in September 2017. (Photo: Ernesto Mastrascusa/Getty Images)
Intelligence agencies investigating mysterious “attacks” that led to brain injuries in U.S. personnel in Cuba and China consider Russia to be the main suspect, three U.S. officials and two others briefed on the investigation tell NBC News.
The suspicion that Russia is likely behind the alleged attacks is backed up by evidence from communications intercepts, known in the spy world as signals intelligence, amassed during a lengthy and ongoing investigation involving the FBI, the CIA and other U.S. agencies. The officials declined to elaborate on the nature of the intelligence.
The evidence is not yet conclusive enough, however, for the U.S. to formally assign blame to Moscow for incidents that started in late 2016 and have continued in 2018, causing a major rupture in U.S.-Cuba relations.
Since last year, the U.S. military has been working to reverse-engineer the weapon or weapons used to harm the diplomats, according to Trump administration officials, congressional aides and others briefed on the investigation, including by testing various devices on animals. As part of that effort, the U.S. has turned to the Air Force and its directed energy research program at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, where the military has giant lasers and advanced laboratories to test high-power electromagnetic weapons, including microwaves.
Although the U.S. believes sophisticated microwaves or another type of electromagnetic weapon were likely used on the U.S. government workers, they are also exploring the possibility that one or more additional technologies were also used, possibly in conjunction with microwaves, officials and others involved in the government’s investigation say.
The U.S. has said 26 government workers were injured in unexplained attacks at their homes and hotels in Havana starting in late 2016, causing brain injuries, hearing loss and problems with cognition, balance, vision and hearing problems. Strange sounds heard by the workers initially led investigators to suspect a sonic weapon, but the FBI later determined sound waves by themselves couldn’t have caused the injuries. More here.
*** Truth be told, this investigation and the details are rather disjointed and weird.
Four scientists, including the first doctor to examine the diplomats reporting symptoms in Cuba, took part in a Pentagon-sponsored teleconference on Friday, where they announced new research results, including what they determined to be the probable use of “neuroweapons” in what they called the Havana Effect.
At issue are the more than two dozen U.S. government officials stationed in Havana, who have described hearing strange sounds, followed by a combination of medical symptoms, including dizziness, hearing loss and cognitive problems. More recently, a similar case has been reported in a U.S. embassy worker in Guangzhou, China. For months, a mix of secrecy and speculation has surrounded those incidents, including an increasingly popular theory that the diplomats were the victims of microwave weapons.
Michael Hoffer, an otolaryngologist at the University of Miami, who was the first to conduct tests on the embassy workers, said on the Friday call that the diplomats are suffering from a “neurosensory dysfunction,” which is primarily affecting their sense of balance.
The Friday call was organized as part of a study program sponsored by the Pentagon and titled “Probable Use of a Neuroweapon to Affect Personnel of US Embassy in Havana: Findings, Pathology, Possible Causes, and Disruptive Effects.”
A Pentagon official told Yahoo News that the briefing was offered by the scientific team for interested people in the Defense Department and was to gain “general knowledge” about their findings. “This didn’t have an operational element,” the official said. Read on from here.