Exclusive: Declassified report suggests “Havana syndrome” could result from energy weapon

A newly obtained declassified report prepared for the director of national intelligence by a panel of experts appears to show conclusively that “Havana syndrome” — a cluster of unexplained symptoms experienced by diplomats and government personnel abroad — is not a naturally occurring health problem. It does not reach any conclusions about who or what may be responsible, but suggests that an unknown device or weapon using “pulsed electromagnetic energy” remains a plausible explanation.

The document was declassified after the James Madison Project, a nonprofit dedicated to reducing government secrecy, sued to obtain further information on “Anomalous Health Incidents” or AHIs, the official term used to designate the syndrome.

“The U.S. government is covering up evidence as to what AHIs are,” said James Madison Project attorney Mark Zaid, who also represents a number of Havana syndrome patients. “This report differs from the summary released earlier this month and previous statements from the intelligence community. It is becoming apparent that these events were perpetrated either by foreign actors, or it is an experiment gone horribly wrong.”

Although heavily redacted, the 153-page report clearly outlines that the “signs and symptoms” of Havana syndrome are “genuine and compelling,” and finds that some of the cases “cannot be easily explained by known environmental or medical conditions and could be due to external stimuli.” Four core characteristics of the AHIs are “distinctly unusual and unreported elsewhere in the medical literature,” the report goes on to say.

The declassified report, officially titled “Anomalous Health Incidents: Analysis of Potential Causal Mechanisms,” also says that “pulsed electromagnetic energy, particularly in the radio frequency range, plausibly explains the core characteristics” of at least some reported medical conditions, and finds that “sources exist that could generate the required stimulus, are concealable, and have moderate power requirements.”

Such electromagnetic signals, the report continues, “could be propagated with low loss through air for tens to hundreds of meters, and with some loss, through most building materials.”

Declassified U.S. intelligence reportDeclassified U.S. intelligence report on “Anomalous Health Incidents,” better known as Havana syndrome. Click image to read full PDF. (Obtained by Salon)For the most part, the federal government has strongly implied that there was no reason to believe AHIs were caused by human activity. The issue first came to light in 2016 after diplomats from Canada and the U.S. stationed in Cuba reported a variety of symptoms, ranging in severity from and pain and ringing in the ears to cognitive dysfunction. One national security source, speaking on background, said, “This most definitely occurred before 2016. We just don’t know for how long, who was involved or why.”

The CIA had not responded to a request for comment at the time this article was published. Zaid said the agency needs to explain “why and how this happened. Was it inadvertently done, as some in the government are now trying to sell us, or was it done on purpose? How was it done and how are we responding to the threat?”

Zaid also said that the declassified document appears to contradict an interim intelligence report released earlier this year that found “no evidence of a comprehensive, global campaign targeting U.S. personnel.”

“Now it is obvious that the CIA probably already has the answers we need,” Zaid said, suggesting those answers are likely “buried in the information they’ve classified.”

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The national security source quoted above said that the State Department had been caught “in the crossfire of this mess” and likely knew very little about the depth and breadth of any hypothetical operation against U.S. personnel, or its possible source. “The question is, was this a concerted effort?” the source said.

In January, Secretary of State Antony Blinken defended U.S. diplomats who had come forward to report suspected incidents. “Their pain is real,” he said then. “I have no higher priority than the health and safety of each of you.”

“We are going to continue to bring all of our resources to bear in learning more about these incidents,” Blinken wrote in January, saying that additional reports would follow.

The report even outlines a possible method of causing Havana syndrome ailments, using small, portable battery-powered devices that employ “commercial off-the-shelf technology.”

Earlier in March, U.S. intelligence sources were quoted as saying they had determined that Havana syndrome was not caused by an energy weapon or foreign adversary. The idea of a directed energy weapon was discounted because there was no “direct line of sight” to affected personnel “working at U.S. facilities, further casting doubt on the possibility that a hypothetical energy weapon could have been the culprit,” as the Washington Post reported at the time.

“If it is a foreign actor, it is essentially an act of war,” Zaid said. “I can understand the concern from our government. But there’s just no way to conclude, after seeing this declassified report, that the AHIs are anything but manmade.”

In January, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said it was “very unlikely” that a foreign adversary was responsible for the AHIs reported. Some published reports have suggested that the symptoms were characteristic of “mass psychogenic illness,” but the declassified report rejects that, finding that the AHIs “do not fit criteria for mass psychogenic illness.”

The declassified report even outlines one possible method of causing AHIs, using small devices that consist of “commercial off-the-shelf technology, use mature technology, are easily portable and concealable, and can be powered by standard electricity or batteries. Parametric acoustic arrays — also referred to as directional loudspeakers or acoustic lasers — are the most plausible technology, although other ultrasound technology may be at play.”

No line of sight would be necessary, according to the report:

For radio frequency, no direct air pathway or line of sight is required. The strongest factors affecting the power received at a given location are the power transmitted, the antenna gain, the distance between the transmitter and the location, and what kinds of materials are in between. A number of different biological effects may occur, as a function of the frequencies and power densities on target. Any one specific transmitter type may have controllable power and variable pulsing.

The declassified report urges further sustained efforts to find the root cause of Havana syndrome, more and better collaboration among intelligence agencies and greater respect for those who have suffered from related disorders. The expert panel “was moved by the experiences of individuals affected by AHIs,” the report concluded. “They deserve the best possible care, as well as appreciation for their sacrifices.”

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