WASHINGTON – U.S. intelligence agencies have been unable to link a foreign adversary to any of the incidents related to the so-called “Havana syndrome,” the hundreds of traumatic brain injuries and other symptoms reported by U.S. personnel around the world.
The findings, released Wednesday by U.S. intelligence officials, cast doubt on long-held suspicions by many who have reported cases that Russia or another country may have waged a global campaign to harass or attack Americans using some form of directed energy.
Instead, officials say, there is more evidence that foreign countries were not involved. In some cases, the US found confusion among enemy governments over accusations and suspicions that the Havana Syndrome was an American conspiracy.
Two officials familiar with the assessment briefed reporters on Wednesday on condition of anonymity in accordance with ground rules set by the US director of national intelligence.
Investigators reviewed about 1,500 cases in 96 countries. Many of those cases, officials said, were linked to other possible explanations besides foreign company: medical conditions, malfunctioning air conditioning and ventilation systems or electromagnetic waves emanating from benign devices such as a computer mouse.
A core group of about two dozen cases identified in an interim assessment released last year has been comprehensively studied, officials said. None of the cases was related to an enemy attack.
Investigators also found “no credible evidence” that any adversary received a weapon that could have caused the reported symptoms or a listening device that could have inadvertently injured people.
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The cases of Havana syndrome are part of a series of traumatic brain injuries reported in 2016 at the U.S. Embassy in Cuba. The incidents are reported by diplomats, intelligence officers and military personnel in the Washington area and at global posts. Some intelligence officials have long suspected Russia of using directed energy devices to attack U.S. personnel.
But the CIA said last year that it believed it was unlikely that Russia or another foreign adversary used microwave ovens or other forms of directed energy to attack US officials. Criticism of the agency has come from those who reported the cases and from advocates who accuse the government of having long denied a number of diseases.
Democrats and Republicans have also demanded that the Biden administration determine who and what may be responsible and improve the treatment of victims. Last year, President Joe Biden signed a bill to improve health care. The State Department also appointed a new case coordinator after victims criticized the previous coordinator.
Despite the lack of answers and attribution of responsibility, officials are trying to emphasize their commitment to the health of the victims.
“I want to be absolutely clear: these findings do not call into question the experiences and real-life health problems reported by US government employees and their family members, including CIA officers, while serving our country,” said CIA Director William Burns. in the statement. “We will continue to be alert to any risks to the health and well-being of the Agency’s officers, to ensure access to medical care and to show officers the compassion and respect they deserve.”