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Official says ‘Havana Syndrome’ style attack near White House left him thinking he was going to die

A senior National Security Council official says a ‘Havana Syndrome’-style sonic attack near the White House left him unable to speak and thinking he was going to die.  

Speaking to the New Yorker the staffer described leaving his office at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building last November before he fell to the ground after being hit with ringing in his ears. 

He said: ‘In a matter of about seven minutes, I went from feeling completely fine to thinking, ‘Oh, something’s not right, to being very, very worried and actually thinking I was going to die’.’

US senators said last month that the government is investigating an apparent increase in mysterious directed-energy attacks dubbed ‘Havana syndrome’, amid new reports of potentially brain-damaging incidents within the U.S. 

Two others – who spoke to the New Yorker anonymously – said they fell ill while on a trip to London in May 2019. 

They say they started to experience ringing noises and migraines during their stay at the InterContinental Hotel ahead of President Donald Trump’s state visit. 

Both visited the White House Medical Unit upon their return to the U.S., but ‘no one seemed to take it seriously,’ one, who spoke under the pseudonym Adrian Banks, noted. 

Banks said: ‘I have ringing in my ear and pressure changes. I have migraines frequently. I get dizzy. I am still struggling.’ 

The second, who spoke under the pseudonym Sandra Adams, also believes she was targeted walking her dog. 

Adams describes seeing a man following her before hearing a ringing noise.

A senior National Security Council official says a ‘Havana Syndrome’ style sonic attack near White House left him unable to speak and thinking he had a stroke

Charles Kupperman, former deputy national-security adviser, and John Bolton, pictured, Trump’s national-security adviser, both believe the syndrome is real, The New Yorker reports.

Charles Kupperman, former deputy national-security adviser

Charles Kupperman, former deputy national-security adviser, right, and John Bolton, left, Trump’s national-security adviser, both believe the syndrome is real, The New Yorker reports.

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.

The suspected directed-energy attacks have baffled US investigators who are working to determine who and what is causing them. 

Earlier this month reports emerged that some US officials suspect Russia’s infamous foreign intelligence agency – the GRU – could be the culprit. 

A U.S. military officer based in a country with a large Russian presence also says he felt like his head was going to explode during one incident where he was found to have been near a G.R.U. vehicle. 

And Politico reported that government investigators are examining a suspected attack on US personnel in Miami last year. 

In  October last year it was reported how diplomat Mark Lenzi, 45, was stationed in Guangzhou, China, in 2017, when he developed unexplained symptoms, including headaches, memory loss and trouble sleeping. 

His neighbor Catherine Werner also fell ill and fellow US official Robyn Garfield was evacuated from Shanghai with his family in June 2018. 

Charles Kupperman, former deputy national-security adviser, and John Bolton, Trump’s national-security adviser, both believe the syndrome is real, The New Yorker reports. 

Matthew Pottinger, another former deputy national-security adviser, said: ‘This is Russia’s M.O.’

The senior National Security Council official who fell near the White House said he made it to hospital in a cab where he was told he may have suffered a ‘massive migraine’. 

He was later contacted by a colleague, who told him about the so called ‘Havana Syndrome’. 

Investigators believe there are now more than 130 possible cases –  including four Trump White House officials. 

The Biden administration is facing new pressure to resolve the mystery with lawmakers from both parties, as well as those believed to be affected, are demanding answers. 

But scientists and government officials are not yet certain about who might have been behind any attacks, if the symptoms could have been caused inadvertently by surveillance equipment – or if the incidents were actually attacks.

Whatever an official review concludes could have enormous consequences. 

Confirmation that a U.S. adversary has been conducting damaging attacks against U.S. personnel would unleash calls for a forceful response by the United States.

For now, the administration is providing assurances that it takes the matter seriously, is investigating aggressively and will make sure those affected have good medical care.

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.

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

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.

‘The government has a much better understanding of it than it has let on,’ said Mark Zaid, a Washington lawyer who represents several people affected. 

Zaid has obtained National Security Agency documents noting it has information dating to the late 1990s about an unidentified ‘hostile country’ possibly having a microwave weapon ‘to weaken, intimidate, or kill an enemy over time.’

Chris Miller, the acting defense secretary during the last months of the Trump administration, created a Pentagon team to investigate the suspected attacks. 

That was after he met a soldier late last year who described how, while serving in a country Miller wouldn’t identify, he had heard a ‘shrieking’ sound and then had a splitting headache.

‘He was well-trained, extremely well-trained, and he´d been in combat before,’ Miller told The Associated Press. ‘This is an American, a member of the Department of Defense. At that point, you can´t ignore that.’

Defense and intelligence officials have publicly promised to push for answers and better care for people with symptoms. Lt. Col. Thomas Campbell, a Defense Department spokesman, said the causes of any incidents ‘are areas of active inquiry.’  

Marc Polymeropoulos, a 26-year CIA veteran who was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury following a 2017 visit to Russia

Marc Polymeropoulos, a 26-year CIA veteran who was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury following a 2017 visit to Russia

Diplomat Mark Lenzi, 45, pictured, was stationed in Guangzhou in 2017, when he developed unexplained symptoms, including headaches, memory loss and trouble sleeping

His neighbor Catherine Werner, right, also fell ill

Diplomat Mark Lenzi, 45, left, was stationed in Guangzhou in 2017, when he developed unexplained symptoms, including headaches, memory loss and trouble sleeping. His neighbor Catherine Werner, right, also fell ill

CIA Director William Burns testified before Congress that he would make the investigation ‘a very high priority to ensure that my colleagues get the care that they deserve and that we get to the bottom of what caused these incidents and who was responsible.’

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,’ said Marc Polymeropoulos, a 26-year CIA veteran who was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury following a 2017 visit to Russia. ‘Now they´re putting people in place who not only believe us but are going to advocate for our health care.’

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.

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'

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’

Dr. James Giordano, a neurology professor at Georgetown University, consulted with the State Department on the Havana cases and has been briefed on more recent incidents in the U.S. and abroad. 

In reviewing records of people affected in Havana, Giordano noted evidence of neurological injuries in several people, suggesting they may have been hit with radio waves.

He identified two possible culprits: a device intentionally used to target potential victims or a tool that used directed energy waves to conduct surveillance that may have unintentionally harmed the people targeted. 

One of the November attacks outside the White House had ‘substantial similarities’ to the Havana cases, Giordano said, adding that he was not authorized by the government to be more specific.

‘It´s very difficult, if not impossible, to fake or misrepresent certain findings to objective clinical evaluations,’ Giordano said. ‘I mean, there are certain things you can´t make your nerves do or not do.’

Matthew Pottinger, pictured, another former deputy national-security adviser, said: 'This is Russia’s M.O.'

Matthew Pottinger, pictured, another former deputy national-security adviser, said: ‘This is Russia’s M.O.’

Other scientists remain skeptical. Dr. Robert Baloh of the University of California, Los Angeles, argued that scans of healthy people´s brains sometimes display mini-strokes and that any possible weapon would be too large or require too much power to be deployed without detection.

Baloh said the growing number of cases considered directed energy attacks is actually linked to ‘mass psychogenic illness,’ in which people learning of others with symptoms begin to feel sick themselves.

‘Many people are hearing about it and that´s how it gets propagated,’ Baloh said.

‘There’s no greater priority than ensuring the health and safety of our people, and the anomalous health incidents that have afflicted our personnel around the world are of grave concern,’ said Rep. Adam Schiff, the California Democrat who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, in a statement. 

Rep. Devin Nunes, the committee’s top Republican, said the people reporting symptoms ‘were apparently subject to attack.’

Polymeropoulos, the former CIA officer, said he believed the U.S. would ultimately identify what was behind the incidents and who is responsible.

‘The actual intelligence is going to take us to the truth on this,’ he said. ‘If we find that a certain adversary did this, there´s going to be uncomfortable decisions on what to do.’    


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