The intelligence community is still unsure who is causing the strange set of nervous system symptoms or whether they can be definitively called “attacks.” Even the technology that can cause such a controversial set of symptoms is the subject of debate.
The second officer, whose case had not been reported before, was hit weeks later near the entrance to the White House, two people familiar with the matter told CNN. The second employee suffered from more serious symptoms and was ill enough to seek immediate medical treatment, sources said.
This story is based on interviews with more than a dozen current and former employees who know about US efforts to respond to these mysterious incidents.
There have also been suspicious cases in Europe, CNN reported earlier, and additional suspects are being investigated in the country, according to sources familiar with the matter.
“Anomalous health incidents”
Under pressure from lawmakers and victims, the Biden administration has stepped up its efforts to “identify the cause of these incidents, determine recognition, increase collection efforts and prevent what the intelligence community calls ‘abnormal health incidents,'” a cabinet spokesman said. the director of national intelligence said in a statement on tuesday.
CIA Director Bill Burns has begun receiving daily briefings on the issue, including some of the victims of these bizarre encounters, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
But even the final diagnosis, proving any case, is actually “Havana Syndrome,” has proved disappointingly difficult, officials say. Victims suffer from a myriad of different symptoms, both initially and over time, and scientists, engineers and medical experts are divided over whether all cases investigated can be attributed to the same cause.
The government has successfully identified and set up a blood test that could target some markers that may indicate exposure, according to two U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the subject. This test is among the diagnostic tools used in recent cases by scouts who report symptoms corresponding to Havana syndrome, and in the case of at least one White House victim, according to sources familiar with the matter. But the test alone is not enough to offer a clear diagnosis.
Numerous agencies are also trying to create or reassign a type of sensor that could be used to detect abnormal activity and, in theory, help determine that personnel have been hit, according to two current U.S. officials and one former U.S. official – despite that sources warn such a tool could only detect the activity but not prevent it.
“How do you counter something you don’t know is coming?” Said an intelligence officer.
“The whole microwave theory is not because someone has some intelligence to suggest it, or someone has seen it happen,” said a source familiar with the matter. “It’s so insane. It’s based on symptoms.”
“We have no hard evidence – just all the circumstantial evidence,” the official added. “And this is circumstantial evidence, which can also be something completely different.”
A National Security Agency report released in 2014 revealed that the agency had intelligence from 2012 indicating the possible existence of a “powerful microwave weapon … designed to bathe the target’s living quarters in the microwave causing many physical effects, including damage to the nervous system. “But the note does not definitively confirm the existence of such a weapon or which country may have developed it.
And some officials questioned how such a weapon could be triggered discreetly — especially in the crowded center of Washington — and focused so precisely that it would only injure the target’s brain, not the rest of the body.
It’s just as murky who could be behind these incidents if they really are attacks. Some evidence points to Russia as a possible culprit, officials say, but this is largely indirect: Russia is one of the few countries that has devoted research and development to what some experts say could be the weapon that can cause symptoms. corresponding to Havana syndrome.
Some officials tracking Havana syndrome have suggested that if a foreign adversary uses a targeted energy weapon, the intent may not be harassment or mutilation of U.S. personnel, but rather the collection of information from their cell phones.
“I don’t know if they’ve come across a collection mechanism that allows it to be used as a weapon system, or if they’re just trying to collect (cell phone data) and (cause) adverse side effects,” said one person with direct knowledge of the incidents. “From what I read, the jury still hasn’t figured out exactly what people were thinking.”
“We don’t have a smoking gun”
The new incidents, including in Washington, have sparked growing frustration among Capitol Hill lawmakers, who say the intelligence community has not provided Congress with enough information about what it knows and how it has reacted – and has not cared for victims properly.
“I am appalled that many of these people who were injured in the line of duty had to fight to receive adequate medical care, even to have their injuries recognized and acknowledged and to receive financial compensation,” said Senator Susan. Collins, Maine Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Lawmakers from the intelligence committees and armed services of Parliament and the Senate are demanding further details and are calling on intelligence officials to declassify information about the attacks. Lawmakers praised Burns’ stated commitment to the issue, but the Senate Intelligence Committee’s recent briefing on the issue was one of the most controversial in the committee’s latest memo, according to two sources familiar with the briefing.
Congress also expressed concern that the government had failed to coordinate sufficient efforts by a number of agencies – including the Pentagon, the intelligence community and the State Department – to address the issue.
“There are a lot of entities in the government that look at this. We need to coordinate it better,” said Senate Intelligence Chairman Mark Warner. “I think that’s given a level of seriousness that frankly wasn’t there until Director Burns came and made it a priority.”
The Virginia Democrat said it was disappointing that five years after these apparent attacks began, there were still difficulties in everything from caring for the wounded to determining responsibility and even what tools or weapons were used.
For some victims of these strange incidents – some of whom suffer from debilitating ongoing health problems – the government’s response has been just as disappointing. Current and former officials say that during the Trump administration, people who reported experiencing these symptoms did not always believe.
“It took some time for some people to take it very seriously,” said an employee who is directly aware of the incidents.
Even now, staff who report these symptoms are scrutinized to confirm whether their symptoms are physical or psychosomatic.
“The problem with a handful (of episodes) that I know happened here in this country is the smoking gun,” the official said. “We don’t have a smoking gun.”