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CIA watchdog launches probe into handling of ‘Havana Syndrome’ cases that have hit 200 US diplomats

The office of CIA Inspector General Robin Ashton’s review will focus on how sickened officers are cared for (pictured June 9)

The CIA inspector general is reportedly launching a review Friday into the handling of reported ‘Havana Syndrome’ cases that have plagued 200 American diplomats, intelligence officers and military members in every continent except for Antarctica. 

It is expected to focus specifically on how sickened officers are cared for. 

The review – which is not yet a formal investigation – comes a day after CIA Director William Burns assigned an unnamed intelligence officer the task of finding the source of the mysterious ailments, which were first reported by American diplomats stationed in Cuba

News of the CIA’s review, first reported by CNN, seems to come after mounting pressure over six years of frustration from lawmakers and victims.

People seemingly afflicted by ‘Havana Syndrome’ have reported symptoms like nausea, vertigo, hearing and sight issues and a ringing of the ears known as tinnitus. 

Some US officers told the outlet it had been difficult to get adequate care due in part to Trump CIA Director Gina Haspel’s skepticism over the matter. 

Victims also complained about Haspel dragging her feet in responding to what they described to CNN as matters of both personal health and national security. 

Lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee expressed ‘significant concerns with how some individuals were unable to access needed benefits and medical care’ after speaking to people familiar with the mysterious situation.

New Hampshire Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen lashed out at the alleged lack of care victims received.

‘It’s shameful that U.S. public servants and their loved ones afflicted by these directed energy attacks have endured such hardships to access the care they need, and that we still do not have clarity on the causation,’ the Armed Services Committee member said in a statement. 

CIA Director William Burns has been praised for his 'personal commitment' to 'Havana Syndrome' victims (pictured April 15)

Former CIA Director Gina Haspel was reportedly criticized as too skeptical and slow to respond to what many see as a national security crisis (pictured May 2018)

The lack of answers and reported resources for ‘Havana Syndrome’ victims has been a source of frustration since cases were first reported in 2016. New CIA Director William Burns (left) has been praised for his handling of the mystery while former CIA chief Gina Haspel (right) was reportedly criticized as too skeptical

Biden’s new top spy is being lauded for demonstrating a ‘personal commitment’ to improving the situation for sufferers. 

A former high-ranking CIA official praised Burns as a ‘welcome change from the previous leadership team,’ who he accused of disregarding victims and treating their suffering as an ‘annoyance.’

Since taking over the agency Burns told NPR Thursday he reduced afflicted officers’ wait time for receiving care from Walter Reed from ‘more than eight weeks to less than two weeks,’ and has also tripled the number of CIA personnel tasked with medical care for victims.

His new appointee to head the ‘Havana Syndrome’ task force – who was involved in the hunt for Osama bin Laden – comes after the retirement of Cynthia Rapp less than a year after taking the role.

Rapp was appointed by Haspel.

The former CIA analyst frustrated senators at an Intelligence Committee briefing earlier in 2021 when her answers on the incidents and how they were handled failed to satisfy them.

Since it was first reported in 2016 roughly 200 US diplomats, intelligence officers and others have experienced symptoms consistent with 'Havana Syndrome'

Since it was first reported in 2016 roughly 200 US diplomats, intelligence officers and others have experienced symptoms consistent with ‘Havana Syndrome’

Symptoms include headaches, nausea, vertigo and even impediments consistent with traumatic brain injuries

Symptoms include headaches, nausea, vertigo and even impediments consistent with traumatic brain injuries

 Burns receives daily updates on the investigation, which covers employees who have reported cases this year.

He has met with those reporting injuries as have other top CIA officials. The agency has worked to reduce the wait time for its employees to receive outpatient treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

The CIA also replaced its chief medical officer with a doctor seen internally as more sympathetic to possible cases.

‘We were treated so awfully in the past,’ a 26-year CIA veteran said. ‘Now they´re putting people in place who not only believe us but are going to advocate for our health care.’

Vienna recently became the latest hotspot for Havana Syndrome, with more than two dozen cases reported – making it the largest cluster outside of Cuba. 

The mysterious condition was first reported in the fall of 2016 when a staffer at the US embassy in Havana suffered headaches, hearing loss, memory issues and other symptoms.  

US intelligence officials still haven’t released an official explanation for what is sickening dozens of Americans stationed overseas, though one theory involves targeted ‘microwave’ attacks from Russia.

However, the explanation lacks evidence in some of the reported cases and the intel community has not even been able to confirm they were attacks in the first place.   

The United States embassy in Vienna, Austria. The cluster of two dozen cases in Vienna is the largest so far outside of Cuba

The United States embassy in Vienna, Austria. The cluster of two dozen cases in Vienna is the largest so far outside of Cuba

The reports in Vienna, as well as previously undisclosed reports that a US diplomat’s term in Germany was cut short by the unexplained illness, brings the total number of cases to 200, NBC reported.

Among them, roughly half involved CIA officers or their relatives, roughly 60 have been linked to Department of Defense workers or relatives, and about 50 involved State Department personnel the outlet reported.

Possible cases among Americans abroad have now been reported on every continent except Antarctica and in the past year including reports of more than one American stationed in Kyrgyzstan with a baby, having experienced symptoms.

Additionally, two cases were detected close to the White House in recent months, with the US government now fast-tracking sensor technology to try and identify the microwave technology and track it down.

The suspected directed-energy attacks have baffled US investigators who are working to determine who and what is causing them since they first began in Cuba five years ago.   

The United States Embassy in Havana, Cuba. The problem has been labeled the 'Havana Syndrome,' because the first cases affected personnel in 2016 at the embassy, pictured

The United States Embassy in Havana, Cuba. The problem has been labeled the ‘Havana Syndrome,’ because the first cases affected personnel in 2016 at the embassy, pictured

One key analysis identified ‘directed, pulsed radio frequency energy’ as the most plausible culprit.

Published in December by the National Academy of Sciences, the report said a radio frequency attack could alter brain function without causing ‘gross structural damage.’ But the panel could not make a definitive finding on how U.S. personnel may have been hit.

And a declassified 2018 State Department report cited ‘a lack of senior leadership, ineffective communications, and systemic disorganization’ in responding to the Havana cases.

The report says the cause of the injuries was ‘currently unknown.’ The document was published by George Washington University´s National Security Archive.

The report also noted that the CIA ultimately closed its Havana station, a victory for a potential adversary.

What is ‘Havana Syndrome’?

The problem has been labeled the ‘Havana Syndrome,’ because the first cases affected personnel in 2016 at the U.S. Embassy in Cuba. 

At least 130 cases across the government are now under investigation, up from several dozen last year, according to a U.S. defense official who was not authorized to discuss details publicly. The National Security Council is leading the investigation.

People who are believed to have been affected have reported headaches, dizziness and symptoms consistent with concussions, with some requiring months of medical treatment. Some have reported hearing a loud noise before the sudden onset of symptoms.

Investigators believe there are at least four cases involving Trump White House officials.

Advocates for those affected accuse the U.S. government of long failing to take the problem seriously or provide the necessary medical care and benefits. 

US senators said last month that the government is investigating an apparent increase in the mysterious directed-energy attacks.

Symptoms include: hearing loss, severe headaches, memory issues , dizziness, brain injury  


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