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.
“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.