In the wake of fresh instances in Austria, the US intelligence community has formed a new group to investigate the causes of ‘Havana syndrome.’
An intelligence official told ABC News that the US intelligence community has formed a new panel of specialists that includes senior officers as well as independent medical and scientific experts to study the “anomalous health occurrences” that have affected scores of US employees throughout the world.
After the initial cluster of instances was reported at the US embassy in Cuba, the US government has yet to come to a conclusion about the cause of the occurrences, which are frequently referred to as “Havana syndrome.”
According to the State Department, further reported instances are now being examined at the embassy in Vienna, Austria’s capital. A spokesman said Monday that the embassy is “vigorously examining allegations of possibly unexplained health events” among US workers there.
Austria is the most recent country to have had occurrences. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that the National Security Council is supervising a government-wide investigation “to see whether there may be previously unreported instances that fit a wider pattern” and “whether they represent an assault of some type by a foreign actor.”
Beyond that, a new panel of experts was formed earlier this month by the intelligence community, which included senior officers from the CIA, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and outside scientific and medical experts, to investigate the various hypotheses about what is causing the “health incidents,” according to an intelligence official.
It’s the most recent federal government investigation into a problem that has perplexed authorities since the first cases were reported in Cuba in 2016, emphasising how little the US government still knows about it.
According to the official, the new panel will build on the findings of a report released last December by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, which concluded that “directed, pulsed radio frequency energy appears to be the most plausible mechanism in explaining these cases, especially in individuals with the distinct early symptoms.”
After reporting strange experiences like high-pitched sounds or feelings of pressure or vibration, or debilitating symptoms like headaches, nausea, cognitive deficits, and trouble seeing, hearing, or balancing, dozens of US officials have been diagnosed with injuries, including traumatic brain injuries.
Prior to Austria, the US government has recognized known cases in Cuba, China, Uzbekistan, Russia, and the United States, either in public or in declassified papers, while the White House has stated that “the great majority” of incidents had been recorded elsewhere.
In May, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat and Republican warned that the “pattern of assaulting our fellow countrymen serving our government looks to be escalating.”
“We are aggressively examining allegations of possibly unexplained health issues among the U.S. embassy community there in Vienna in conjunction with our interagency partners,” State Department spokeswoman Ned Price said Monday.
More information, including the number of employees affected, has been withheld by the agency. However, according to The New Yorker magazine, which originally reported on the Vienna cluster, it currently numbers approximately two dozen US diplomats, intelligence personnel, and other government employees, making it second only to Havana in terms of size.
Director Bill Burns “is directly involved with employees affected by anomalous health occurrences and is strongly dedicated to their treatment and to identifying the source of these incidents,” a CIA spokeswoman told ABC News, but declined to offer any specifics.
Internal task groups at the CIA and the State Department have been raised to investigate reported occurrences among its staff, and the State Department has its own team of medical specialists that reacts to reported instances across the world.