What Is Havana Syndrome? CIA Officer Reports Symptoms On Recent India Trip

by Bhaswati Guha Majumder - Sep 21, 2021 05:45 PM +05:30 IST
What Is Havana Syndrome? CIA Officer Reports Symptoms On Recent India TripCIA officer reports Havana Syndrome (Representative Image)
  • Recently, a CIA official on a trip to India with agency director William Burns reported symptoms compatible with Havana syndrome.

    Here's what we know so far about the syndrome.

This month, an official from America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on a trip to India with agency director William Burns reported symptoms compatible with Havana syndrome and had to receive medical attention, revealed the latest reports.

This report came almost a month later when the United States Vice President Kamala Harris’s arrival in Hanoi was delayed following a report by the American embassy in the capital of Vietnam stating that someone had reported a health incident consistent with Havana syndrome.

In July this year, Burns said that he had appointed a senior officer who once led the hunt for Osama bin Laden to lead an investigation into the syndrome. However, according to Reuters, a CIA spokesperson said that the agency does not comment on specific incidents or officers while adding that “we have protocols in place for when individuals report possible anomalous health incidents that include receiving appropriate medical treatment".

The Mysterious Syndrome

Doctors, scientists, government officials, and intelligence agents have all been trying to figure out what causes Havana syndrome, which is a mystery cluster of symptoms that includes migraines, nausea, memory lapses, hearing loss, depression, impaired balance and dizziness. It was initially reported in 2016 by officials at the embassy of the United States in Cuba, and the first cases included CIA officers.

The most credible theory, according to a panel of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States, is that the illness is caused by "directed, pulsed radiofrequency energy".

As reported, the latest incident's circumstances are still under investigation, and investigators have yet to ascertain if the CIA officer was targeted because he was travelling with Burns or for other reasons. According to Burns, there is a "very strong possibility" that the illness was deliberately generated and that Russia is to blame. Former officials indicated that hitting Burns' delegation would be an outrageous escalation if it was an attack and an adversarial force was responsible.

The discomfort usually began with a sound that people couldn't describe clearly. The closest they could come up with was buzzing, grinding metal and piercing squeals.

For example, a faint hum and severe pressure were experienced by an individual, while another felt a pulse of pain. Heat or pressure was felt by those who did not hear a sound. On the other hand, covering one's ears made no effect on those who heard the sound. For months, several of the persons who had the illness suffered from dizziness and exhaustion.

Five years later, reports number in the hundreds and span every continent, posing a serious threat to America's capacity to operate internationally. Uncovering the truth has suddenly risen to the top of the United States national security priority list, with one official describing it as the most challenging intelligence challenge he or she has ever faced.

While the Biden administration has made it clear that it is serious about the issue, officials from the CIA and the State Department are given advice on how to respond to such situations.

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