Ill­nesses in del­e­ga­tion to Cuba con­tinue to puz­zle in­ves­ti­ga­tors

The Columbus Dispatch - - Not To Be Missed - By Josh Le­d­er­man and Lau­ran Neer­gaard

WASH­ING­TON — There must be an an­swer.

What­ever is harm­ing U.S. diplo­mats in Ha­vana, it’s eluded the doc­tors, sci­en­tists and in­tel­li­gence an­a­lysts scour­ing for an­swers. In­ves­ti­ga­tors have chased many the­o­ries, in­clud­ing a sonic at­tack, elec­tro­mag­netic weapon or flawed spy­ing de­vice.

Each ex­pla­na­tion seems to fit parts of what’s hap­pened, con­flict­ing with oth­ers.

The United States doesn’t even know what to call it. Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son used the phrase “health at­tacks.” The State Depart­ment prefers “in­ci­dents.”

Ei­ther way, sus­pi­cion has fallen on Cuba. But in­ves­ti­ga­tors also are ex­am­in­ing whether a rogue fac­tion of its se­cu­rity ser­vices, another coun­try such as Russia, or some com­bi­na­tion is to blame, more than a dozen U.S. of­fi­cials fa­mil­iar with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion said.

Those of­fi­cials spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause they weren’t au­tho­rized to pub­licly dis­cuss the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Also ques­tioned were sci­en­tists, physi­cians, acous­tics and weapons ex­perts, and oth­ers about the the­o­ries be­ing pur­sued.

Per­haps the big­gest mys­tery is why the symp­toms, sounds and sen­sa­tions vary so dra­mat­i­cally from per­son to per­son.

Of the 21 med­i­cally con­firmed U.S. vic­tims, some have per­ma­nent hear­ing loss or con­cus­sions, while oth­ers suf­fered nau­sea, headaches and ear-ring­ing. Some are strug­gling with con­cen­tra­tion or com­mon word re­call. Some felt vi­bra­tions or heard loud sounds mys­te­ri­ously au­di­ble in only parts of rooms, and oth­ers heard noth­ing.

“These are very non­spe­cific symp­toms. That’s why it’s dif­fi­cult to tell what’s go­ing on,” said Dr. H. Jef­frey Kim, a spe­cial­ist on ear dis­or­ders at MedS­tar Ge­orge­town Univer­sity Hos­pi­tal who isn’t in­volved with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

While Cuba has been sur­pris­ingly co­op­er­a­tive, even invit­ing the FBI to fly down to Ha­vana, it’s not the same as an in­ves­ti­ga­tion with the U.S. govern­ment in full con­trol.

And maybe no one tried to hurt the Amer­i­cans at all.

Sev­eral U.S. of­fi­cials have em­pha­sized the pos­si­bil­ity that the cul­prit merely used some new, untested tech­nol­ogy that caused un­in­tended harm.

You might think eaves­drop­ping de­vices sim­ply re­ceive sig­nals. But the world of es­pi­onage is full of strange tales.

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