Beginning in 2016, U.S. and Canadian embassy staff in Havana, Cuba, reported a cluster of mysterious health symptoms: a loud noise, pressure, and pain and ringing in the ears. Doctors who interviewed 35 potential victims -- diplomats and others in their homes ― concluded the staff were being targeted by a type of weapon with an electronic source, potentially directed energy or some combination of directed energy and biological or chemical weaponry.
A directed energy attack harms the victim by creating air pockets in the ear that can travel to the brain and burst, similar to a stroke, one of the doctors who interviewed the victims told National Defense Magazine. The victims told doctors “if they moved in their domicile, the beam ― as it were ― would follow them.”
Since the initial cases were reported, the number of publicly reported cases has grown to 130, according to the New York Times. The geographic scope has broadened from Havana and, in 2017, Guangzhou, China, to include other similar incidents in other parts of Asia and in Europe.
The attacks have not all been abroad. In 2019, a White House staffer walking her dog in Arlington, Virginia, reported the same cluster of symptoms: ringing in the ears, headache, tingling on her face. Her dog began behaving mysteriously, too, “seizing up,” according to GQ Magazine. In 2020, a National Security Council official reported a similar attack near the Ellipse south of the White House.
Some victims have reported lasting damage, including hearing loss, brain damage, persistent headaches, dizziness, and other motor-sensory and cognitive problems.
What’s not known at this point is who is responsible, though one theory points toward Russia.
The theory goes that “agents of the G.R.U., the Russian military’s intelligence service, have been aiming microwave-radiation devices at U.S. officials to collect intelligence from their computers and cell phones, and that these devices can cause serious harm to the people they target,” the New Yorker reported. “Yet during the past four years U.S. intelligence agencies have been unable to find any evidence to back up this theory, let alone sufficient proof to publicly accuse Russia.”
Diplomats affected by Havana syndrome have voiced concern they are not receiving adequate medical care from the U.S. government. Their accounts have been minimized in some quarters as being caused by “mass hysteria” ― in other words, an ailment caused by stress but not rooted in biology.
Our legal team is investigating on behalf of officials who developed Havana syndrome. We believe them, and we believe they deserve appropriate care.