WASHINGTON – The most likely cause of a number of mysterious afflictions that made American spies and diplomats abroad sick in recent years has been radio frequency energy, a type of radiation that includes microwaves, report.
In the conclusion of a committee of 19 medical and other experts, “directional, pulsed radio frequency energy” was cited as the “most plausible mechanism” for explaining the disease known as Havana Syndrome, although they said it could not prevail, according to a copy of the New York Times report, other possible causes and secondary factors may have contributed to symptoms.
The report, commissioned by the State Department, provides the most definitive explanation yet for the disease, which has affected numerous government workers, first at the U.S. embassy in Havana in 2016 and then in China and other countries. Many of the officers suffered from dizziness, fatigue, headaches, and hearing, memory and balance loss, and some were forced into permanent retirement.
C.I.A. Officials visiting overseas stations had symptoms similar to The Times and GQ magazine reported in October. The officials traveled to speak to foreign intelligence agencies about the fight against covert operations in Russia, which heightened suspicions that Moscow was behind the consequences.
Although the new report is written in careful scientific language, it contains strong evidence that the incidents were the result of a malicious attack. It attributes the disease to “directional” and “pulsed” rather than “continuous” energy, meaning that the victim’s exposure was targeted and not the result of more common sources of microwave energy, such as a cell phone.
The committee also found that the immediate symptoms that patients reported – including strange sensations of pain, pressure, and noise that often seemed to come from a certain direction or occurred in a specific location in a room – tended to be more targeted with a ” Attack “were compatible” of radio frequency energy.
The committee looked at other causes, such as chemical exposures and infectious diseases, but said they were unlikely.
The report said that the variability of incidents, which appeared to affect people in different ways, left open the possible influence of “psychological and social factors”. And it is said that some of the victims may have a condition known as “persistent dizzying postural vertigo,” a nervous system disorder that causes a persistent feeling of dizziness or unsteadiness.
The consequences have been the subject of much speculation and controversy. Many of the victims, as well as some government officials and outside scientists, have long argued that radio frequency energy is the most likely cause, possibly the result of a weapon used by a foreign power.
However, since 2018, the U.S. government has refused to publicly speculate on the cases, and some scholars have advocated alternative theories, like a type of mental illness that spreads in the stressful environment of foreign missions.
Amid the controversy and confusion, some of the officials concerned have complained that the United States did not support them. In several cases, the government initially refused to grant vacation and provide necessary medical care, officials said. And with the government remaining silent about the possibility of a foreign attack, many of the victims felt that the public believed they had made it all up.
Several of the victims have accused Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other Trump administration officials of downplaying the issue in order to avoid disrupting international relations. You are now asking how President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his candidate for Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken will react, especially in light of the new scientific evidence.
After months of pressure from lawmakers on the State Department to publish the report, the agency gave it to some congressional officials and others on Thursday and Friday, asking them not to share it. The Times and NBC News received the report separately and NBC on Friday earlier reported the results. The National Academies published the report publicly on Saturday evening.
“We are pleased that this report has now been published and can complement the data and analysis that can help us draw a final conclusion about what happened,” the State Department said in a statement on Saturday.
The department also said that “every possible cause remains speculative” and that various factors, including the committee’s lack of access to some information due to potential security concerns, “limit the scope of the report” although “they do not diminish its value.” ”
For the Trump administration, realizing the incidents were the result of a foreign attack could have required the evacuation of American missions in China and disrupted an important economic relationship. The government took a tougher approach in Cuba, in line with its larger objective of undoing President Barack Obama’s diplomatic opening with Havana.
The question of Moscow’s possible fault is a delicate one given President Trump’s sensitivity to matters affecting Russia or President Vladimir V. Putin. Moscow refused any role, and Gina Haspel, the C.I.A. Director, did not determine that the Kremlin was responsible. But some C.I.A. Analysts, who are experts, diplomats and scientists of Russia, claim that evidence points to Moscow, which has long been experimenting with the technology.
The report does not indicate a perpetrator, although it mentions “significant research in Russia / USA”. on pulsed radio frequency technology and the exposure of military personnel in Eurasian communist countries to microwave radiation. The Soviet Union bombed the American embassy in Moscow with microwaves in the 1970s and 1980s. In a 2014 documentThe National Security Agency discussed a microwave weapon used by a hostile country. Those familiar with the document said it was Russia.
Mark Lenzi, a diplomatic security officer who experienced the symptoms while working in Guangzhou, China, in early 2018, said the government’s treatment of its employees, including its efforts to “deny and cover up inconvenient scientific and medical facts “Having done so left him angrier at his own government than the government that had hurt him.
“My government looked the other way when it knew I and my family were hurt,” he said. “This report is just the beginning, and when the American people know the full extent of this government’s cover-up of radio frequency attacks in China, they will be outraged.”
Mr Lenzi has sued the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for disability discrimination. The Office of Special Counsel has conducted two investigations into the conduct of the State Department.
Some family members of the affected US government employees also became ill abroad, including Mr. Lenzi’s wife. At least 14 Canadian citizens living in Havana said they had similar symptoms.
The National Academies report also includes a strong warning about the possibility of future episodes and the ability of the US government to identify or respond to them. The fact that American government officials have reported distress not only in Cuba and China but also in Russia and other countries raises questions about how widespread the incidents could be.
The committee was unable to assess “specific scenarios involving malicious actors,” wrote Dr. David Relman, a Stanford University professor who chaired the committee, in a foreword to the report. However, he said, “The mere consideration of such a scenario raises serious concerns about a world with uninhibited malicious actors and new tools to harm others.”
The report recommends that the State Department take action now to establish plans and logs so that it can immediately begin an investigation if similar incidents occur.
“The bigger problem is readiness for new and unknown threats that could endanger the health and safety of US diplomats working abroad,” the report concludes. “The next event may be even more distributed in time and place and even more difficult to identify quickly.”
The panel said its findings were hampered by the government’s slow and uneven response to the incidents, with patients being assessed by different methods and doctors at different points in their disease. Because the information provided about patients from China was “too sparse and fragmentary to allow any material conclusions to be drawn about these cases,” the report focuses on events surrounding the US embassy in Havana.
In August, the scientists sent the report to the State Department, where officials from the agency checked it. Lawmakers urged the department to make the results public, saying it had not made the information public, following a pattern of secrecy and inaction by the Trump administration. In interviews in October, Dr. Relman told the department for not acting faster in publishing the report.
Some victims said at the time that the Trump administration was trying to avoid its shortcomings in terms of the safety of U.S. government employees overseas, especially ahead of the November election. When asked about the diseases by a reporter in late October, Mr Pompeo made no mention of the report, simply saying that the government could not determine the cause.
Several lawmakers have urged the State Department to be more accountable and provide adequate health and labor compensation benefits to all victims and affected family members. New Hampshire Democrat Senator Jeanne Shaheen has included a provision on long-term benefits in the latest defense budget bill that Congress is expected to pass this month, despite Mr Trump’s involvement for reasons unrelated to the provision threatened to veto the measure.
“Your diseases and conditions are real and require a response from Congress,” Ms. Shaheen said. “While I am encouraged by the progress we are seeing, much more needs to be done to uncover the cause of these incidents and to ensure that no other officer suffers in this way.”
Julian E. Barnes Contribution to reporting.