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

Irish Examiner - - News - Josh Le­d­er­man

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”.

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