The U.S. intelligence community has yet to determine what is causing the debilitating symptoms and bizarre experiences of hundreds of U.S. government personnel in dozens of locations around the world, according to a new report from a group of experts. experts.
But the latest intelligence report on what is commonly referred to as “Havana Syndrome” – because the first cases were reported to the US Embassy in Cuba – narrows the scope and suggests that ” pulsed electromagnetic energy, particularly in the radio frequency range,” could be responsible. That leaves open the possibility that an actor or device is responsible, just as a CIA assessment last month did for a small group of affected personnel.
The panel of experts — drawn from science, medicine and engineering and inside and outside the U.S. government — ruled out multiple causes for a key group of affected personnel whose cases continue to baffle US officials and medical professionals, including radiation, chemicals or biological agents, and sound waves at a “great” distance.
The report, however, found that close-range ultrasound could also be responsible, while psychogenic factors like stress could exacerbate individual cases or cause other reported incidents.
But the signs and symptoms of AHI, or Abnormal Health Events as the Biden administration calls them, are “authentic and compelling,” according to an intelligence official familiar with the work of the IC’s expert panel, including damage to nervous system cells and reports of traumatic brain injury. Some critics have previously dismissed the reports as false or “mass hysteria”.
Wednesday’s report is the intelligence community’s latest effort to explain the mysterious set of symptoms reported by diplomats, spies and other U.S. personnel in Cuba and beyond, including major clusters the last year in Vienna, Austria, and Bogotá, Colombia.
“The work of the IC Expert Panel will help refine the work of the IC and the broader U.S. government as we focus on possible causes. We will stay there, with continued rigor, for as long as ‘it will have to,’ said Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines. and CIA Director Bill Burns said in a joint statement after the report’s summary was released.
Last month, the CIA released an assessment that the “majority” of reported incidents can be “reasonably explained by medical conditions or environmental and technical factors,” a senior CIA official told ABC News. era. But they left the door open to the possibility that some staff members may have been attacked by an as-yet-unknown actor or device, saying the role of a foreign actor has not been ruled out “in specific cases. We are looking into still”.
This small cluster of cases of affected staff “cannot be easily explained by known environmental or medical conditions and could be due to external stimuli”, according to Wednesday’s new report, which largely focused on these cases. .
It’s still unclear what it could be, including whether it’s a device or a weapon of some kind – a theory that has been floated in the five years since the first cases were reported in Havana.
“It’s more than theory,” the intelligence official said Wednesday. “A very specific device with settings that would cause biological effects – we don’t have any.”
But the panel looked at the first-hand experience of lab researchers who have experimented with radiofrequency and ultrasound and reported symptoms and experiences similar to four characteristics that define the smallest cluster of unexplained cases.
Although officials declined to say how many cases this group includes, they said these features are a common set of experiences: “Acute onset of audio vestibular sensory phenomenon; dizziness, loss of balance and pain ear; a strong sense of locality or directionality and the absence of known environmental or medical conditions that could have caused the reported signs and symptoms.”
“Whether or not it was directed energy, we don’t have enough information to know. But there seems to be a small number of cases we looked at that had no other plausible mechanism that we currently know about, so we left it open for the possibility of other mechanisms, such as directed energy,” said a second intelligence official familiar with the findings.
In particular, the report found that pulsed electromagnetic energy can disrupt cells and tissues, is possible to create “covertly” with “moderate” power, and can be transmitted up to hundreds of meters in the air. air or over shorter distances through buildings. , officials said.
But the top intelligence official said there were still “information gaps” in the theory, particularly due to a “lack of systematic research into the effects of relevant electromagnetic signals on humans”. Sections of the Wave Energy Expert Panel Summary are redacted.
The other mechanism that was not ruled out by the expert panel was ultrasound, which “also plausibly explains baseline features, but only in close-access scenarios and with information gaps “, according to the first intelligence official.
Ultrasound waves can produce a narrow beam and be portable, but would need to be close to a victim to affect them, they said.
While the “Havana Syndrome” incidents have been repeatedly dismissed in some corners as “mass hysteria”, the intelligence report says the psychological phenomenon “cannot by itself explain the fundamental characteristics, although that they may cause other incidents or contribute to long-term symptoms.” “, according to the first intelligence official.
In other words, the increase in incidents reported in recent years, on all continents except Antarctica, could be partly due to “psychosocial factors”, including “hypervigilance and rights normal humans to stress and ambiguity,” the official said, especially given spies and diplomats are more “attuned [their] environment and trained to think about safety.”
For some staff affected by unexplained incidents, this stress and anxiety could also worsen existing symptoms, according to the report.
This is not to say that personnel affected by psychosocial factors do not show true symptoms either, with stress and mass psychogenic illnesses capable of causing debilitating health effects such as neurological disorders.
“No case should be dismissed,” the first intelligence official said.
But the report ruled out ionizing radiation, chemical and biological agents, infrasound, audible sound, ultrasound propagated over long distances, and massive heating by electromagnetic energy” as “implausible explanations” for this cluster of cases. unexplained.
“These mechanisms are unlikely on their own to account for the required effects or are technically or practically unfeasible,” the first official said.
The lack of a definitive answer continues to confound officials in the intelligence community and across the US government.
“It’s frustrating, but we’re just as persistent in helping to understand and elucidate what’s going on,” the first official said. “The cases are not consistent, they are heterogeneous – it adds a dimension that is difficult to that.”
The report calls on the US government to better collect data on reported incidents and affected personnel, match incident and patient data, and strengthen its ability to investigate incidents as soon as they are reported.
That includes through “detectors,” officials said, declining to provide more information. In the executive summary, the section on detectors, as well as “search aids”, is redacted.
In November, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States was “developing, securing, and deploying technology in the field to protect our personnel” and “evaluating various potential causes more quickly and thoroughly.” He declined to say more about the sensitive technology.
The panel held dozens of briefings, reviewed more than 1,000 pages of classified information and interviewed between 10 and 20 affected US personnel, including reviewing their medical records and “many more” affected employees.
“This is the first time a panel has had such broad access to intelligence reports and patient data and directly engaged with the affected individual,” said Dr. Eric Lander, President Biden’s science adviser and director. of the White House Office of Science and Technology. Politics, said in a statement.
Their findings echo a December 2020 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine which concluded that “directed pulsed radiofrequency energy appears to be the most plausible mechanism.” A “small number” of intelligence community panel members were also part of the team that produced this report.