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As intelligence probe of 'Havana syndrome' gains momentum, fear grows of escalating attacks

Michael Wilner, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

“We still don’t have the answers. There’s a lot of work to be done. But we are, I think, moving in the right direction,” Schiff said, “both in terms of how we take care of our people but also in getting answers as to who and how — who’s responsible for these attacks, and how they’re being conducted.”

American diplomats stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Havana were among the first to report the series of strange symptoms in 2017, including dizziness, tinnitus, visual problems, vertigo and cognitive difficulties. Since then, cases have been identified around the world and in the Washington area.

Recent guidance from government agencies offer hints of a theory on how the suspected attacks are executed.

In a letter addressed to all service members and civilian staff at the Pentagon, Austin advised personnel who believed they were experiencing symptoms to “immediately remove yourself, co-workers, and/or family members from the area.”

Marine Corps Lt. Col. Anton Semelroth, a Defense Department spokesman, said the letter was sent to employees last week because “given the size and scope of our workforce, it was important our internal reporting processes were standardized and synchronized with the government-wide approach before communicating to our military, civil service, contractor, and dependent communities.”


“The secretary will continue to track the AHI issue and the department’s support efforts closely, and he is committed to keeping the workforce aware of the issue, informed on how to report potential incidents and, most importantly, helping our employees remain healthy and safe,” Semelroth said, referring to anomalous health incidents which is the government’s term for these events.

Last month, Harris’ travel from Singapore to Vietnam was delayed over three hours while her staff conducted a “security review” of the recent incidents there. After that episode, a government source said that senior officials remaining in the interior rooms of buildings or outside lines of sight from cars provides protection from a potential device that is unlikely to be equipped to cast a wide net.


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