Officials still at risk of ‘Havana syndrome’

The cause of the attacks — which have serious and lasting health consequences — remain a mystery.

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Editorials

September 30, 2021 - 10:29 AM

The CIA symbol on the floor of CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images/TNS)

After nearly five years, someone and something is still causing serious injury to U.S. officials abroad. The source of “Havana syndrome,” first detected in Cuba in late 2016, has not been identified nor attributed. The attacks — and they do seem to be deliberate attacks — now total more than 200 cases.

After then-President Donald Trump’s chaotic handling of the crisis, the Biden administration has intensified the search for the source and attempted to break down the silos that hampered internal government cooperation. The State Department’s top official overseeing the issue, Pamela Spratlen, has stepped down after six months on the job, following friction with some of the victims. The department says her permitted time serving as a retiree was up. Meanwhile, Congress just passed legislation to help victims. But the cause of the illnesses remains a mystery. If the source is “directed, pulsed radio frequency” energy, as some research suggests, who is aiming it at U.S. diplomats and intelligence officers? How have the perpetrators managed to conceal sneak attacks on U.S. officials around the world? They have not made any demands. Are they trying to disrupt the work of spies and diplomats to create chaos and uncertainty? Or worse?

The victims have reported suffering headaches, dizziness, blurred vision and memory loss after hearing strange noises and feeling odd sensations. The injuries are real and have serious and lasting consequences. The latest cases involve dozens of U.S. personnel in Vienna, as well as some children. More cases have been reported in Vienna than in any other city but Havana. John Hudson and Shane Harris of The Post report that the CIA has recalled its station chief in Vienna for insufficient attention to the problem. Some offices within the U.S. mission were shut down, impairing embassy functions.

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