Government study says ‘Havana syndrome’ caused by microwave energy

The mysterious neurological symptoms experienced by U.S. diplomats in China and Cuba are in line with the effects of directed microwave energy, according to a long-awaited report from the National Academy of Sciences, citing medical evidence to support U.S. intelligence officials ’long-standing beliefs. .

A report obtained by NBC News on Friday does not conclude that the controlled energy was deliberately delivered at gunpoint, as some U.S. officials have long believed. But it raises this confusing possibility.

NBC News reported in 2018 that U.S. intelligence officials saw Russia as a leading suspect in what some believe were deliberate attacks overseas against diplomats and CIA officers. But there was – and now is – no convincing intelligence pointing in that direction, several officials who were briefed on the case said.

According to a report by the National Academies of Science, a team of medical and scientific experts who studied the symptoms of up to 40 foreign ministries and other government employees concluded that nothing like this had been documented in the medical literature before. Many heard a loud voice and felt pressure in their heads and then experienced dizziness, unsteady gait, and blurred vision. Many suffered from long-lasting, debilitating effects.

“The committee considered that many of the distinctive and acute signs, symptoms and observations reported by (government) employees are consistent with the effects of directed, pulsed radio frequency (RF) energy,” the report said. “Studies published in the open literature more than half a century ago, in the decades that followed, by Western and Soviet sources provide indirect support for this possible mechanism.”

While important questions remain, “merely considering such a scenario raises serious concerns about a world in which unscrupulous malicious actors and new means of harming others as if the U.S. government is no longer full of natural threats.” says the report, Dr. David Relman, a Stanford professor of medicine, microbiology and immunology, and Julie Pavlin, a physician who heads the global health department at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington.

Over the past year, as first reported by GQ Magazine, a number of new incidents have been reported by CIA officers in Europe and Asia, including Marc Polymeropoulos, who retired after a long and ornate career as a case manager last year. He told NBC News that he was still suffering from the brain injuries he thought he had suffered on his way to Moscow.

A source familiar with the case told NBC News that, using CIA cell phone location data, it found that some Russian intelligence agents working on microwave weapons programs were present in the same city at the same time that CIA officers were experiencing mysterious symptoms. . CIA officials say this is a promising leader, but not convincing evidence.

The State Department and the CIA did not respond immediately to the request for comments late Friday. Russia has denied involvement in the events.

The study examined four options for explaining symptoms: infection, chemicals, psychological factors, and microwave energy.

“Overall, directed pulsed RF energy … seems to be the most reliable mechanism to explain these cases among those considered by the committee. … The committee cannot rule out other possible mechanisms and considers it likely that a multitude of factors will explain some cases and differences between others. “

According to the report, further investigation is needed.

Tourists with a vintage car will pass the U.S. Embassy in Havana on November 1, 2018.Alexandre Meneghini / Reuters

Electromagnetic energy, including frequencies such as radio and microwave, is seen as a leading option from the earliest days of the mystery. Early, investigators also considered the possibility that sound waves, toxins, or other mechanisms may be involved, although there is no known evidence to support these theories.

Over the years, cases have been investigated by the FBI, the CIA, the U.S. Army, the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service, National Institutes of Health, and Centers for Disease Prevention and Control. None came to any conclusions, and the State Department quietly abandoned the word “attacks” to describe what happened, as then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other senior officials did in the early days after the events first came to light. publicly in 2017.

Beginning in late 2016, U.S. diplomats and other government workers in Havana heard strange noises and experienced strange physical feelings and then fell ill. The events caused hearing, balance, and cognitive changes, with mild traumatic brain injury, also known as concussion.

It was confirmed that more than two dozen U.S. workers who had served in Cuba and a smaller number of Canadians were affected, in addition to a Chinese-Chinese government worker who was judged in 2018 to have experienced similar symptoms.

For some of the employees involved, these symptoms disappeared and the individuals were eventually able to return to a relatively normal life. Others say the effects have dragged on and have been a constant and significant barrier to their jobs and well-being, NBC News interviews with U.S. officials found to be affected by the government show.

Cuba has firmly and consistently denied knowledge or participation in the events. In late 2018, NBC News reported that U.S. intelligence agencies investigating the incidents considered Russia the main suspect, based on interviews with three U.S. officials, and informed the investigation with two more.

Some external medical experts not affected by the study hypothesized that the workers may have simply suffered from mass hysteria. But doctors who evaluated University of Pennsylvania patients, including advanced brain imaging, found differences in their brains, including less white matter and connectivity in areas that regulate vision and hearing, than similar healthy people.

Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo, who was asked about the investigation in October, indicated that there was still no firm conclusion, although it offended allegations made by many of the diplomats concerned that the State Department had not taken sufficient steps to protect them and injure them accordingly.

“We did a lot of work to try to recognize how it all went,” Pompeo said. “And we will continue to try to pinpoint the cause of this, while doing everything we can to ensure the health and safety of these people.”

The report recommends that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs establish a response mechanism for similar cases, which will allow new cases to be studied more quickly and efficiently.