Latest Havana Syndrome Report
The Office of the Director for National Intelligence (ONDI) issued its latest report on health incidents overseas that have become known collectively as “Havana Syndrome.”
The most important conclusion of this report is that most US intelligence community agencies now believe that it is “very unlikely” that a foreign adversary is responsible for the reported health incidents. Only two agencies have a slightly lesser position, saying merely that it was “unlikely” that an adversary was responsible for the incidents. In general, it appears that this is the prevailing view because the community has failed itself to detect any foreign adversary activity that might lead to Havana Syndrome symptoms.
In terms of physical symptoms, the report concludes that ongoing medical analysis has not found a consistent set of physical injuries among those reportedly affected by the Syndrome, including neurologic injuries such as traumatic brain injury. The report concludes that this fact helps support the opinion that the cause was not the work of one or more foreign adversaries.
An unclassified summary of initial findings from early 2022 was not conclusive on the foreign adversary question.
This latest report, however, provides no insight into the actual causes of the health incidents. And, it is unclear what happens next, if anything, with respect to further study and analysis of persons supposedly affected by the Syndrome.
Last year’s report concluded:
A subset of Havana Syndrome cases "cannot be easily explained by known environmental or medical conditions and could be due to external stimuli."
A plausible explanation is "pulsed electromagnetic energy, particularly in the radiofrequency range" that can explain "core characteristics" of the symptoms, though information gaps exist.
Other potential causes are implausible, such as ionizing radiation, chemical and biological agents, infrasound, audible sound, ultrasound propagated over large distances, and bulk heating from electromagnetic energy.
Psychosocial factors alone cannot account for the core characteristics, although they may cause some other incidents or contribute to long-term symptoms.
Reporting on Diplomat Complaints
CNN reported (October 5) that “dozens” of current and former CIA staff have complained to the Congress about the slow pace of work of a CIA task force dedicated to investigating syndrome incidents.
CNN’s reporting summarizes that some of the persons, including those that identify themselves as syndrome victims, complain that the task force is not doing enough to look into leads that might expose who/what is causing the syndrome incidents. Some, as a result, have launched formal whistleblower proceedings.
CNN reports that CIA officials disagree that the task force isn’t conducting a rigorous and thorough investigation, and that the agency has assembled a large team that includes some of the best CIA officers focused exclusively on this issue and following up on every lead.
Havana Syndrome Payments
Reporting in The Washington Post (June 23rd) indicates that at least some diplomats and intelligence officials will receive payments from the Federal Government of between $100K and $200K as compensation for health problems tied to the Havana Syndrome. The assistance was authorized in a law enacted last October.
Compensation will go to those determined to have suffered the most significant setbacks, such as job loss or career derailment. While the number of potential Havana Syndrome cases have never been confirmed officially by the Federal Government, the Post reports that investigators have reviewed “more than 1,000 cases.”
The Post article indicates that the compensation plan is still being reviewed and has not yet been finalized.
Presidential Senior Lead Official
The 2022 National Defense Authorization Act requires the President to appoint a senior official to lead the whole-of-government effort to address anomalous health incidents. Also included in the Act is a provision that requires the creation of a Department of Defense cross functional team to coordinate the Pentagon’s efforts to confront anomalous health incidents.
The State Department appointed two senior officials in November 2021 to coordinate State's response.
Number of Cases/Affected Employees
While an official number of Havana Syndrome cases are not publicly known, news reports from July 2021 indicate there could be up to 200 current cases of persons affected by Havana Syndrome-like symptoms. Cases have been reported tied to locations not only in Havana, Cuba, but also Vienna, Austria, Guangzhou, China, and other cities. The July case estimate preceded new reported cases in Berlin, Germany and Bogota, Columbia in the September/October 2021 timeframe.
Financial Assistance to Affected Employees
Legislation was enacted into law (October 8, 2021) to provide financial assistance to employees with brain injuries that are presumed caused by Havana Syndrome. The new law authorizes the CIA Director, the Secretary of State, and other agency leaders to provide injured employees with additional financial support for brain injuries that:
were incurred during a period of assignment to a foreign or domestic duty station;
are in connection with war, insurgency, hostile acts, terrorist activity, or other agency-designated incidents; and,
are not as the result of willful misconduct.
Defense Department Employee Memo
The Secretary of Defense sent a memo to all DOD employees (September 15, 2021) asking them to take certain actions including immediately reporting "anomalous health incidents" consistent with known Havana Syndrome symptoms.
National Academies Study
The National Academies released a study (December 2020) of the experiences of State Department staff and families of what has now become know as "Havana Syndrome" (symptoms such as as a perceived loud noise, ear pain, intense head pressure or vibration, dizziness, visual problems, and cognitive difficulties). The study was limited to staff/families in Havana, Cuba and Guangzhou, China. The central finding of the study was that "directed, pulsed radio frequency energy" appears to be the most plausible mechanism to explain cases of the syndrome. Other possibilities considered by the study included chemical exposures, infectious diseases such as Zika, and psychological issues.
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