Pentagon still probing what caused ‘Havana Syndrome,’ even after spy agencies found no smoking gun

The Pentagon’s analysis arm, together with the Military and Air Power analysis laboratories, are testing weapon techniques to attempt to decide what may trigger the signs, in keeping with two former intelligence officers with information of the efforts. The individuals, like others interviewed for this story, have been granted anonymity to debate a delicate topic.

In the meantime, a “cross-functional group” within the Pentagon mandated by Congress “stays targeted” on addressing the incidents, DoD spokesperson Lt. Col. Devin Robinson mentioned in an announcement. This consists of “the causation, attribution, mitigation, identification and remedy for such incidents,” Robinson mentioned.

The DoD group primarily offers with serving to these affected by the incidents and “will not be targeted on creating weapons,” Robinson mentioned.


However the Pentagon is engaged on creating “defenses” in opposition to the syndrome and is investigating to see whether it is doable {that a} weapon may very well be accountable, an intelligence official advised reporters in a briefing on the findings final week.

An electronic mail from a Pentagon official despatched out after the Workplace of the Director of Nationwide Intelligence-led report launched on Wednesday reassured victims that the DoD group is “conserving the course.” The official urged victims to proceed to “report any incidents you could have skilled and encourage these round you to do the identical.”

A State Division job power can also be persevering with to gather experiences of doable incidents, and coordinating take care of these affected, in keeping with a senior State Division official, who mentioned the division helps the intelligence group’s evaluation.

DoD treats authorities workers who’ve suffered mind accidents, together with some associated to the Havana Syndrome incidents, at Walter Reed Nationwide Medical Middle.

The information that the Pentagon is constant to check the problem comes after most intelligence agencies concluded in a complete investigation led by the ODNI launched Wednesday that it’s “not possible” a international adversary utilizing a weapon was chargeable for the incidents. However the seven agencies that participated had various ranges of confidence within the last dedication.

Two of the agencies, which intelligence officers wouldn’t title, had low confidence within the evaluation, as a result of they still consider “radiofrequency (RF) vitality is a believable trigger,” in keeping with an announcement from Director of Nationwide Intelligence Avril Haines.

A number of lawmakers have expressed frustration in current days over the official findings from the intelligence group.

“I’m involved that the Intelligence Group successfully concluded that U.S. personnel … have been merely experiencing signs caused by environmental elements, sickness, or preexisting situations,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said in a statement. “As I’ve mentioned earlier than, one thing occurred right here and simply since you don’t have all of the solutions, doesn’t imply that it didn’t occur.”

The search continues

The Pentagon’s predominant line of effort, the cross-functional group, was established by the 2022 Nationwide Protection Authorization Act to deal with the nationwide safety challenges posed by the incidents and to make sure the victims obtain sufficient care. Senior division leaders are targeted on the trouble: DoD coverage chief Colin Kahl is main the trouble, with Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Gregory Masiello because the army deputy, Robinson mentioned. Melissa Dalton, assistant secretary for Homeland Protection and Hemispheric Affairs, is the interagency coordination lead.

Griffin Decker, a profession civil servant, led DoD’s efforts associated to the incidents till lately. He left DoD in the previous few weeks to guide the trouble for the Home Everlasting Choose Intelligence Committee Republicans, in keeping with two individuals conversant in the transfer. Decker was certainly one of a number of DoD officers to temporary lawmakers in 2021 that U.S. troops have been more and more weak to the assaults, POLITICO reported on the time.

The Pentagon has lengthy studied the doable army functions of directed vitality, together with lasers and high-power microwaves, and immediately spends roughly $1.5 billion a year trying into this expertise. Numerous packages have emerged from this effort, together with the Navy’s Laser Weapons System, which was mounted on an amphibious transport ship within the Persian Gulf, Boeing’s “CHAMP,” a high-power microwave supply mounted in a missile, and “THOR,” which was developed by the Air Power Analysis Laboratory to counter drone swarms.

Directed vitality weapons convert vitality from an influence supply into radiated electromagnetic vitality and focus it on a goal, wrote Edl Schamiloglu, a professor on the College of New Mexico who has labored with DoD on excessive energy microwave sources, in a 2020 piece for Defense One. Whereas they’re typically designed to disable and harm digital gear, they will hurt individuals as properly.


A large physique of analysis signifies a tool that harnesses vitality may very well be chargeable for the Havana Syndrome incidents. A 2020 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report commissioned by the State Division to look into the preliminary cluster of incidents in Havana found that the signs have been per the results of “directed, pulsed radio frequency (RF) vitality.” A panel of outdoor consultants additionally found that this was “essentially the most believable mechanism” to elucidate the sickness.

However the medical group’s considering has “developed” since then, the intelligence official mentioned Wednesday when rolling out the brand new report’s findings. Whereas preliminary research concluded the incidents represented a constant sample of accidents just like traumatic mind harm, more moderen research haven’t proven a constant set of signs.

Another excuse the intelligence group’s evaluation decided it was unlikely a weapon caused the sickness was that such a weapon would create warmth and a racing pulse with victims, neither of which have been per what the victims skilled, the intelligence official mentioned. Additional, the intelligence group doesn’t have any proof that potential adversaries have such a weapon, the individual added.

However some scientists dispute each these factors. A steady, low-power electromagnetic wave, similar to in a typical microwave oven, would trigger the sufferer to really feel warmth. However a high-power, quickly pulsed supply may have a detrimental impact on the sufferer’s mind whereas imparting a lot much less vitality, and thus there could be no heating impact, defined James Giordano, a professor of neurology and biochemistry at Georgetown and the federally-funded assume tank the Institute for Biodefense Analysis.

For instance, “In case you take a match, and if you happen to put that match out in a short time in your finger after which take away the match, you wouldn’t really feel warmth,” he mentioned.

Giordano was one of many consultants introduced in to research the unique cluster of incidents, which occurred amongst U.S. and Canadian diplomats in Havana, Cuba, in 2016. The group didn’t discover a smoking gun, however dominated out environmental or ecological causes, similar to toxins or pesticides, in addition to drug publicity and psychogenic causes, he mentioned. The group concluded that the people probably have been uncovered to “some type of vitality” that led to the results, similar to an acoustic or ultrasonic gadget, or a quickly pulsed, scalable microwave.

China, Russia and the US have developed gadgets that harness focused vitality in these types, he mentioned.

“We’re not very proud of the report as a result of [it] categorically dismisses the present proof as regards these instances in Havana,” Giordano mentioned. “You will need to not categorically classify the entire subsequent experiences of which there was over 1,000 to these very prototypic instances in Havana. That basically is a query of throwing out the newborn with the bathwater.”

Intelligence officers mentioned they’d welcome further analysis on this matter.

“All agencies acknowledge the worth of further analysis on potential adversary capabilities within the RF area, partially as a result of there continues to be a scientific debate on whether or not this might lead to a weapon that might produce the signs seen in a number of the reported AHI instances,” the ODNI assertion says.

CORRECTION: A earlier model of this report mischaracterized which company led the evaluation of the anomalous well being incidents. It was the Workplace of the Director of Nationwide Intelligence.

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