A CIA agent fell ill with suspected Havana syndrome while on a work trip to India with Director William Burns.
The unknown officer required medical attention after the incident earlier this month. They reported symptoms associated with the unexplained syndrome, including headache, pain, nausea, or dizziness caused by noises, pressure, or heat.
Burns is said to be “smoking” with anger at the incident.
There is widespread speculation as to whether the incident — if caused by an adversary — was deliberately designed to attack Burns’ entourage, or whether the attackers were unaware they were targeting an officer traveling with the CIA chief.
But some within the agency say that getting someone sick who has traveled so closely with the director is a “direct message” to Burns that no one inside the agency is safe. CNN reported.
An unidentified CIA officer had to receive medical attention after reporting symptoms related to unexplained Havana syndrome after traveling to India earlier this month with CIA director William Burns (pictured)
The sonic weapon that could cause Havana syndrome is said to be a smaller version of this 1990s Soviet microwave generator preserved at the University of New Mexico
The circumstances surrounding the incident in India are still under investigation, including whether the officer was targeted because of his proximity to Burns.
Former officials say if it was an attack by a hostile force, targeting someone in Burns’s delegation is an “outrageous escalation.” New York Times reported.
This incident is the second reported case of the disease to affect US personnel in less than a month.
During Vice President Kamala Harris’ trip to Asia in late August, her departure from Singapore was delayed by more than three hours due to an “abnormal health incident in Hanoi,” what the US government officially calls suspected cases of Havana syndrome.
Multiple US staff members suffered from symptoms consistent with the syndrome, with at least two staff members in Hanoi having to be expelled from the country.
Officials are still looking for the cause of the symptoms, with theories that: symptoms are inadvertently caused by surveillance equipment, or that incidents are caused by a mysterious sound weapon.
Although referred to as abnormal health incidents by US government officials, Havana syndrome got its informal name from the first reported case of the disease in 2016 at the US Embassy in Havana, Cuba (pictured)
Vice President Kamala Harris’ departure from Singapore was delayed by nearly three hours due to an ‘abnormal health incident in Hanoi’, the next stop on her Asia trip
There have been 200 reported cases of the as-yet-unexplained disease, popularly named after the first reported case in 2016 at the US Embassy in Havana, Cuba.
About half of the cases involved CIA agents or their relatives, nearly 60 were associated with Defense Department employees or relatives, and about 50 involved State Department personnel, the outlet reported.
What is the ‘Havana Syndrome’?
The problem has been dubbed the “Havana syndrome” because the first cases hit US embassy staff in Cuba in 2016.
According to a US defense official who was not authorized to discuss details publicly, at least 130 cases are now under investigation across the administration, up from several dozen last year. The National Security Council is leading the investigation.
People believed to be affected have reported headaches, dizziness and symptoms consistent with concussions, with some requiring months of medical treatment. Some have reported hearing a loud noise before symptoms suddenly started.
Investigators believe there are at least four cases involving Trump White House officials.
Supporters of those affected accuse the US government of failing to take the problem seriously or provide necessary medical care and benefits.
US senators last month said the government is investigating an apparent increase in mysterious directed-energy attacks.
Last week, the Department of Defense asked all 2.9 million workers, including civilians and contractors, to report symptoms of Havana syndrome.
The request, signed by Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin, is part of a wider government effort to gather more information about the mysterious disease.
Austin advised personnel who believe they may have contracted Havana syndrome to: “Immediately remove yourself, colleagues and/or family member from the area and report the incident,” the memo, first reported by the New York City, said. times.
“There’s a classic intelligence problem, and we’re approaching it with the same techniques,” David S. Cohen, deputy CIA director at the annual Intelligence and National Security Summit in September, said the Times.
‘This is a serious problem. It’s real, it affects our agents, it affects others in their communities and in government.”
In August, the disease reportedly affected US personnel stationed on every continent except Antarctica, including a baby in one case.
On July 22, CIA Director William Burns assigned an intelligence officer involved in the hunt for Osama bin Laden to lead an investigation into Havana syndrome.
The unnamed officer, a veteran of the Counterterrorism Center, heads a task force made up of CIA experts specializing in human intelligence, human resources and intelligence gathering.
He took over after Cynthia Rapp’s retirement, less than a year after he took on the role.
Rapp was appointed by Trump CIA chief Gina Haspel.
A day later, the agency reportedly launched a review of how Havana syndrome cases are treated and how agents are treated for the illness reported by CNN.
Haspel’s agency had been criticized for being slow with the investigation into Havana syndrome and for not adequately caring for officers reporting symptoms.
Since taking over the agency, Burns told NPR on July 22 that he has reduced the waiting time of affected officers to receive care from Walter Reed from “more than eight weeks to less than two weeks” and also the number of CIA personnel. in charge of medical care has tripled. care for victims.
In addition, the House is considering a Senate-approved bill to expand aid to current and former government employees who had contracted the symptoms, with a vote potentially due by the end of this month, the Times reported.
In addition to the CIA and Pentagon, the State Department also announced in late July that it was stepping up investigations into the disease after more than two dozen diplomats were reported with symptoms at the US embassy in Vienna, making it the largest hot spot outside of Cuba.
In May, reports emerged that some US officials suspect Russia’s infamous foreign intelligence agency — the GRU — could be the culprit.
A US military officer, based in a country with a large Russian presence, also said he felt his head might explode during an incident when he was near a GRU vehicle.
And Politico reported that government investigators were investigating a suspected attack on American personnel in Miami last year.
Earlier in July, Marc Polymeropolous, a former CIA officer and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, claimed that he was zapped by one of the attacks while visiting a hotel room in Moscow in 2017. .
In October 2020, the story emerged of diplomat Mark Lenzi, 45, who was stationed in Guangzhou, China in 2017, when he developed unexplained symptoms, including headaches, memory loss and trouble sleeping.
His neighbor Catherine Werner also fell ill and fellow US official Robyn Garfield was evacuated from Shanghai with his family in June 2018.
The incidents in China cast doubt on theories that Russia was behind the attacks, as it is a country where Russian intelligence would struggle to operate.