WASHINGTON: Havana Syndrome Attacks Widen With CIA Officer’s Evacuation From Serbia

According to current and former US officials, the CIA removed an intelligence officer serving in Serbia in recent weeks who had serious injuries consistent with the neurological disorders known as Havana Syndrome.

The event in the Balkans, which has not previously been published, is the latest in what officials characterise as a steady increase in attacks on American spies and diplomats stationed abroad by unknown assailants using what government officials and scientists assume is a directed-energy source.

More alleged attacks have occurred overseas and in the United States, according to current and former officials, in addition to recently disclosed incidents in India and Vietnam.                                                                                                                                    “There have been a number of other documented cases” on US territory and around the world in the last 60 to 90 days, according to Dr. James Giordano, a Georgetown University professor of neurology who is advising the US government on the subject. “They are regarded as reliable reports with verifiable health markers.”                                                                                                             

According to current and former officials, the ongoing attacks, which may induce dizziness, memory loss, and other health difficulties, have created frustration within the US government and drained morale at the State Department and Central Intelligence Agency. According to officials, several professional diplomats and spies have been hesitant to accept overseas postings for themselves and their families.

CIA Director William Burns has tripled the number of medical staff focused on Havana Syndrome,

                                                   Photo: jim lo scalzo/epa/Shutterstock

“The lights are now blinking red. “This is a crisis for VIP travel, officers overseas,” said Marc Polymeropoulos, a veteran CIA operations officer who retired in 2019 due to ongoing symptoms from a 2017 trip to Moscow and has been critical of the federal government’s response.

According to an administration official, the Biden administration has made determining the source of the strikes a “top priority.” The CIA and State Department also acknowledged the matter was a top priority, but they declined to comment on the Serbian case or other particular occurrences.

“We take each report we receive very seriously and are working to ensure that affected workers receive the care and support they require,” said a State Department spokesman.

According to a CIA official, the agency is doing all possible to protect its officers. According to the spokeswoman, CIA Director William Burns has made leadership changes in the agency’s Office of Medical Services and quadrupled the amount of medical employees dedicated to the issue. This summer, he appointed a veteran of the agency’s decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden to command a task group investigating the occurrences.

The CIA also recalled the chief of the agency’s station in Vienna, where a substantial number of attacks have occurred, in recent weeks over management difficulties, including the individual’s handling of people who fear they have been struck, according to a source familiar with the matter. The recall was initially reported by the Washington Post.

Some recent attacks have targeted the highest levels of the Biden administration. When Mr. Burns visited India earlier this month, a member of his crew reported symptoms comparable with Havana Syndrome and sought medical assistance, according to a US official. CNN was the first to report on the occurrence.

Vice President Kamala Harris temporarily postponed her visit to Vietnam in August when the State Department informed her office of a “potential anomalous health incident”—the US government’s technical word for Havana Syndrome—in Hanoi.

Vice President Kamala Harris visited in Hanoi, Vietnam, in August                                                                           Photo:evelyn hockstein/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     The inexplicable health episodes are referred to as Havana Syndrome since they initially occurred in late 2016 among US diplomats and intelligence employees in Cuba. Dizziness, headache, weariness, nausea, anxiety, cognitive impairments, and memory loss are among the symptoms. Since then, there have been reports of attacks in China, Colombia, Austria, and Germany, as well as Serbia, India, and Vietnam. While around 200 U.S. government personnel have been impacted, officials warn that a specific figure is impossible to obtain because each case must be medically verified, and some people’s symptoms wind up having alternative reasons.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The US government has struggled to ascertain who is behind the attacks and what mechanism or processes are being employed five years after the first symptoms appeared. “In terms of progress, have we made any progress?” “I believe the answer is yes—but not close enough to make the analytic conclusion that folks are expecting,” said CIA Deputy Director David Cohen earlier this month at the annual Intelligence and National Security Summit. A panel of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine concluded in December that the sudden start of symptoms was most consistent with “a directed radio frequency (RF) radiation attack” rather than incidental or environmental exposure.                                                                                                                                                                                                                         However, it also stated that more research was required. Avril Haines, Director of National Intelligence, has assembled a task force of intelligence personnel and independent specialists to try to identify the mechanism or device used in the attacks. Its report is scheduled later this fall, but what will be made public is unknown. Dr. Giordano of Georgetown University believes the culprit could be an ultrasonic or acoustic device, such as a rapidly-pulsed microwave. According to Dr. Giordano, they could be using an electronic surveillance system with unique side effects or “a discrete sort of disruptive device.” “That’s a lovely way of saying it’s a weapon,” he explained.
                                                        Avril Haines, the director of National Intelligence                                                                                                                    Photo:Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Zuma Press                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Earlier this month, the House enacted and submitted to Mr. Biden legislation authorising the CIA and State Department to compensate personnel who suffer brain injuries while on duty. “We suffered the moral injury of a silent wound for so long, when the [US government] medical staff did not believe us.” “Everything is changing now, and it’s a watershed moment for the victims,” Mr. Polymeropoulos said. According to him, the bill provides both a confirmation from the US government that the attacks are real as well as compensation “for victims who have paid thousands of dollars out of pocket for healthcare.”                                                                                                                                                                                            The Biden administration’s response to the attacks includes ensuring “any affected folks get the care they need,” according to an administration official. “In some cases, these incidents have turned the lives of US servicemen who have dedicated their careers to defending our country upside down.” A difficult topic, according to officials and policy experts, is how Washington should react if it blames a foreign opponent. Some current and former officials believe Russia is behind the assaults, despite the fact that no public evidence has emerged and Moscow has refuted the charges.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     According to Jason Killmeyer, a former Deloitte Consulting LLP counterterrorism and international policy expert, the United States should strike now rather than wait for attribution. He advocated for more defensive measures, making Havana Syndrome a greater issue in its diplomacy, and putting more pressure on adversary intelligence services to see how they respond. “We’ve been at this for five years,” he remarked. “There will be no’smoking gun.'”

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