More than 130 US personnel, including a military officer and his two-year-old son, have suffered brain injuries in suspected directed-energy attacks possibly made by Russia, a report said on Wednesday.
Spies, diplomats and soldiers started experiencing mysterious brain injuries five years ago with the tally now higher than 130 people – more than double the number of 60 previously confirmed cases, The New York Times reported.
That number does not include a group of injured CIA officers, the total of which is not public, according to the outlet.
The 60 cases previously known were concentrated in China and Cuba, leading for the injuries to be called ‘Havana Syndrome,’ but the new total adds cases from Europe and Asia – many of which remain classified.
Officials have investigated incidents both in the United States and in other countries – where the majority of the episodes have taken place, according to the outlet.
The Times revealed that in one 2019 case, which had not previously been reported, a military officer serving overseas had been targeted with his two-year-old son.
The mysterious brain injuries started in 2016 after dozens of Americans became ill in Havana, Cuba – leading for the injuries to be called ‘Havana Syndrome’
Spies, diplomats and soldiers started experiencing mysterious brain injuries five years ago with the tally now higher than 130 people
The Times revealed that in one 2019 case, which had not previously been reported, a military officer serving overseas had been targeted with his two-year-old son
The officer was driving his car when he pulled into an intersection and was ‘overcome by nausea and headaches’ while his toddler sat in the back seat crying, current and former officials told the outlet.
The officer was able to pull away from the intersection when the nausea stopped and his kid stopped crying, according to The New York Times. Several other military personnel were hurt in Europe and Asia, though none were injured in combat zones.
That incident reportedly angered officials in both the Trump and Biden administrations leading them to investigate further. The CIA has reportedly formed a new ‘targeting cell’ to investigate the episodes ‘with a similar rigor and intensity’ to hunting Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
At least three CIA officers have reportedly been required to undergo outpatient treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center or other facilities since December – with one of the cases happening in just the last two weeks.
Some Pentagon officials told the Times they believe Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU, was behind the incident with the officer and his son – and that evidence points to Russia in other cases too.
Intelligence agencies and the White House have not determined what is responsible for the episodes or whether they constitute as attacks from foreign powers – while Moscow officials have repeatedly denied being involved.
‘As of now, we have no definitive information about the cause of these incidents, and it is premature and irresponsible to speculate,’ Amanda J. Schoch, the spokeswoman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, told The New York Times.
Marc Polymeropouloss, a former Russia-based CIA officer, developed such bad migraines he had to retire
Emily J. Horne, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said the agency started an intelligence review to find if more unreported incidents fit the pattern.
‘We are bringing the U.S. government’s resources to bear to get to the bottom of this,’ she said.
The White House has tried to balance showing the issue being taken seriously while trying to keep panic from spreading within the government – and has worked to standardize reporting of the episodes while improving medical treatment.
However, even some Democrats have ripped the administration while demanding the White House be more aggressive in addressing the episodes.
Rep. Ruben Gallego, an Arizona Democrat, is a former Marine and heads the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations.
‘I don’t believe that we as a government, in general, have acted quickly enough. We really need to fully understand where this is coming from, what the targeting methods are and what we can do to stop them,’ he said.
The National Academy of Sciences issued a report in December that claimed the injuries were probably caused by a ‘microwave weapon,’ the outlet reported at the time. Some intelligence officials have been skeptical a foreign country could be behind the episodes as others even doubted the cause of the brain injuries.
A view shows the building of the US Embassy at 8 Bolshoi Devyatinsky Lane in Moscow, Russia
Cubans drive past the US embassy during a rally calling for the end of the US blockade against Cuba, in Havana, March 28, 2021
Marc Polymeropoulos, pictured in the Middle East, fuels suspicion that Russia is carrying out sonic attacks on Americans
A painting by one former CIA officer injured while overseas is on display at Walter Reed, the outlet reported. Marc Polymeropoulos, a former CIA officer who was hurt in Moscow in 2017, said it signified the artist’s feeling that victims wished they had been shot instead so their injuries would be more readily believed.
The mysterious brain injuries started in 2016 after dozens of Americans became ill in Havana, Cuba. Similar cases were later identified in Guangzhou, China. In October, the Times revealed that CIA officers in Russia reported symptoms as early as 2017.
In February, Polymeropoulos told BBC News that CIA agents were ‘suffering in silence’ after ‘several senior agency officials’ were affected by headaches, dizziness or loud noises in their head.
‘What happened to US diplomats in Cuba, happened to me in Moscow,’ Polymeropoulos said.
Lawmakers have also been briefed on injuries sustained by U.S. troops in Syria, Politico reported.
Last year, one incident reportedly took place near the Ellipse, a 52-acre park south of the White House fence in Washington D.C. when a National Security Council official is believed to have developed the mystery illness.
In 2019, a White House official who was walking her dog in a Virginia suburb near Washington reported experiencing symptoms of the mystery illness.
Victims of the so-called ‘sonic attacks’ have suffered long-term brain injuries including debilitating headaches, vertigo, nausea, and head or neck pain – while physicians at Walter Reed have warned officials that some are at risk for suicide.