Record­ing is re­leased of high-pitched sound Amer­i­cans heard in Cuba

Star Tribune - - FRONT PAGE - By JOSH LEDERMAN and MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN As­so­ci­ated Press

WASH­ING­TON – It sounds sort of like a mass of crick­ets. But not quite. A high-pitched whine, but from what? It seems to un­du­late, even writhe. Lis­ten­ing closely, some hear mul­ti­ple, dis­tinct tones col­lid­ing in a nails-on-the-chalk­board ef­fect.

The As­so­ci­ated Press ob­tained a record­ing of what some U.S. Em­bassy work­ers heard in Ha­vana, part of the se­ries of un­nerv­ing in­ci­dents later deemed to be de­lib­er­ate at­tacks. The record­ing is the first dis­sem­i­nated pub­licly of the many taken in Cuba of sounds that led in­ves­ti­ga­tors ini­tially to sus­pect a sonic weapon.

The record­ings from Ha­vana have been sent for anal­y­sis to the U.S. Navy, which has ad­vanced ca­pa­bil­i­ties for an­a­lyz­ing acous­tic sig­nals, and to the in­tel­li­gence ser­vices. But the record­ings have not sig­nif­i­cantly ad­vanced U.S. knowl­edge about what is harm­ing di­plo­mats. Of­fi­cials say the govern­ment still doesn’t know what is re­spon­si­ble for in­juries to its per­son­nel.

White House chief of staff John Kelly said Thurs­day that the United States be­lieves the Cuban govern­ment could stop at­tacks on U.S. di­plo­mats. He didn’t elab­o­rate.

Pre­vi­ously, the United States said merely that it was Cuba’s re­spon­si­bil­ity un­der in­ter­na­tional law to pro­tect di­plo­mats serv­ing on its soil. Cuba has de­nied in­volve­ment in or knowl­edge of the at­tacks.

Not all Amer­i­cans in­jured in Cuba heard sounds. Of those who did, it’s not clear they heard pre­cisely the same thing.

Yet the AP has re­viewed sev­eral record­ings from Ha­vana taken un­der dif­fer­ent cir­cum­stances, and all have vari­a­tions of the same high­pitched sound. In­di­vid­u­als who have heard the noise in Ha­vana con­firm the record­ings are gen­er­ally con­sis­tent with what they heard.

“That’s the sound,” one of them said.

The sound seemed to man­i­fest in pulses of vary­ing lengths — seven sec­onds, 12 sec­onds, two sec­onds — with some sus­tained pe­ri­ods of sev­eral min­utes or more. Then there would be si­lence for a sec­ond, or 13 sec­onds, or four sec­onds, be­fore the sound abruptly started again.

Whether there’s a di­rect re­la­tion­ship between the sound and the phys­i­cal dam­age On­line: suf­fered by the vic­tims is un­clear. The U.S. says that in gen­eral, the at­tacks caused hear­ing, cog­ni­tive, vis­ual, bal­ance, sleep and other problems.

A closer ex­am­i­na­tion of one record­ing re­veals it’s not just a sin­gle sound. Roughly 20 or more dif­fer­ent fre­quen­cies, or pitches, are em­bed­ded in it, the AP dis­cov­ered us­ing a spec­trum an­a­lyzer, which mea­sures a sig­nal’s fre­quency and am­pli­tude.

To the ear, the mul­ti­ple fre­quen­cies can sound a bit like dis­so­nant keys on a piano be­ing struck all at once. Plot­ted on a graph, the Ha­vana sound forms a se­ries of “peaks” that jump up from a base­line, like spikes or fin­gers on a hand.

“What it is telling us is the sound is lo­cated between about 7,000 kHz and 8,000 kHz. There are about 20 peaks, and they seem to be equally spaced. All th­ese peaks cor­re­spond to a dif­fer­ent fre­quency,” said Kausik Sarkar, an acous­tics ex­pert and en­gi­neer­ing pro­fes­sor at Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity who re­viewed the record­ing.

Those fre­quen­cies might be only part of the pic­ture. Con­ven­tional record­ing de­vices and tools to mea­sure sound may not pick up very high or low fre­quen­cies, such as those above or be­low what the hu­man ear can hear. In­ves­ti­ga­tors have ex­plored whether in­fra­sound or ul­tra­sound might be at play in the Ha­vana at­tacks.

The record­ings have been played for work­ers at the U.S. Em­bassy to teach them what to lis­ten for, said sev­eral in­di­vid­u­als with knowl­edge of the sit­u­a­tion in Ha­vana. Some em­bassy em­ploy­ees have also been given record­ing de­vices to turn on if they hear the sounds.

DES­MOND BOY­LAN • As­so­ci­ated Press

The record­ings have been played for work­ers at the U.S. Em­bassy in Ha­vana to teach them what to lis­ten for. To lis­ten to the record­ing, go to star­tri­bune.com

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