Details have emerged about alleged ‘health attacks’ on US diplomats in Cuba which indicate at least some of the incidents involved laser-like precision.
■ US calls incidents ‘health attacks as 21 officials hospitalised
New details have emerged about alleged “health attacks” on US diplomats in Cuba which indicate at least some of the incidents were confined to specific rooms or even parts of rooms with laser-like exactness.
The Associated Press learned that in one case, an American diplomat was jolted from his bed in a Havana hotel by a blaring, grinding noise. It went silent when he moved a metre away, and it returned when he stepped back into bed.
Soon he began suffering from hearing loss and speech problems, symptoms both similar and different from others among at least 21 US victims. The incidents, which the American called “health attacks”, have been baffling US officials who say the facts and the physics do not add up.
“None of this has a reasonable explanation,” said Fulton Armstrong, a former CIA official who served in Havana long before America reopened an embassy there.
“It’s just mystery after mystery after mystery,” he said. Suspicion initially focused on a sonic weapon and on the Cubans.
Yet the diagnosis of mild brain injury, considered unlikely to result from sound, has confounded the FBI, the State Department and US intelligence agencies involved in the investigation.
Some victims now have problems concentrating or recalling specific words, several officials said, the latest signs of more serious damage than the US government initially realised.
The US first acknowledged the attacks in August — nine months after symptoms were first reported. The Trump administration still has not identified a culprit or a device to explain the attacks, according to interviews with more than a dozen current and former US officials, Cuban officials and others briefed on the investigation.
In fact, almost nothing about what happened in Havana is clear.
Investigators have tested several theories about an intentional attack — by Cuba’s government, a rogue faction of its security forces, a third country like Russia, or a combination thereof.
Yet they have left open the possibility that an advanced espionage operation went horribly awry, or that some other, less nefarious explanation is to blame.
Aside from their homes, officials said Americans were attacked in at least one hotel, a fact not previously disclosed. An incident occurred on an upper floor of the recently renovated Hotel Capri, a 60-year-old concrete tower steps from the Malecon, Havana’s famous waterside promenade.
The cases vary deeply: different symptoms, different recollections of what happened — making the puzzle difficult to crack. In several episodes recounted by US officials, victims knew it was happening in real time, and there were strong indications of a sonic attack.
Cuba’s government declined to answer specific questions about the incidents, pointing to a previous Foreign Affairs Ministry statement denying any involvement, vowing full co-operation and saying it was treating the situation “with utmost importance”.