US Stands Firm Despite Report Blaming Russia for ‘Havana Syndrome’

US not moved by report blaming Russia for ‘Havana Syndrome’

The United States is standing firm behind a year-old intelligence evaluation asserting that the health issues plaguing hundreds of American personnel globally, in some cases rendering them incapacitated, are not attributable to a weapon wielded by a U.S. adversary.

On Monday, the White House, the Pentagon, and the State Department reiterated their support for a March 2023 report by the National Intelligence Council, which concluded that it is “very unlikely” that the adverse symptoms collectively known as Havana Syndrome were instigated by hostile operatives, despite recent investigations suggesting the involvement of a notorious Russian intelligence unit.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre emphasized that the intelligence community has not reached such a conclusion, defending the assessments made in 2023. Nevertheless, she affirmed that the White House remains committed to addressing the issue, which has led to the premature retirement of some U.S. personnel.

“We’ve taken this very seriously,” Jean-Pierre stated. “We are going to do everything that we can … We’re going to continue to do a comprehensive examination of the effects here that we’re seeing and the potential causes.”

US Stands Firm Despite Report Blaming Russia for 'Havana Syndrome'
US Stands Firm Despite Report Blaming Russia for ‘Havana Syndrome’ (Credits: PBS)

A joint investigation unveiled by CBS’ “60 Minutes,” Germany’s Der Spiegel, and The Insider on Sunday highlighted substantial evidence suggesting that the U.S. intelligence assessment may have erred. Drawing upon travel documents, mobile phone records, eyewitness accounts, and interviews with numerous U.S. officials and victims, these media outlets indicated a strong possibility of Russian involvement.

Specifically, the investigation linked multiple instances of Havana Syndrome to the presence of members belonging to Unit 29155 of Russia’s military intelligence service, renowned for its involvement in sabotage and assassinations. Moreover, it noted that many symptoms align with the effects of sound or radio-frequency-based directed energy weapons, with members of GRU Unit 29155 reportedly receiving commendations and promotions for their work in this domain.

At the White House, Jean-Pierre referred further inquiries about Havana Syndrome to the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). However, both ODNI and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) declined to comment on the matter when approached by VOA, directing attention to the recent Worldwide Threat Assessment issued by U.S. intelligence agencies.

US Stands Firm Despite Report Blaming Russia for 'Havana Syndrome'
US Stands Firm Despite Report Blaming Russia for ‘Havana Syndrome’ (Credits: Reuters)

This assessment highlighted that while most intelligence agencies deem it “very unlikely” that a foreign adversary is responsible for the reported anomalous health incidents (AHIs), confidence levels vary due to gaps in intelligence collection on such matters. U.S. officials have documented approximately 1,500 cases of Havana Syndrome since its initial emergence at the U.S. embassy in Havana in 2016, with victims reporting symptoms in various locations worldwide.

Initially, investigations pointed towards the possibility of a weapon being responsible, a hypothesis supported by a 2022 report by a panel of experts. However, U.S. intelligence officials began retreating from this hypothesis the same year, with the CIA suggesting that most cases could be “reasonably explained” by medical conditions or environmental factors.

Russia has vehemently rejected the conclusions drawn by the recent investigation, dismissing them as baseless accusations. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the claims, emphasizing that they lack convincing evidence.

Nevertheless, new cases continue to emerge. The Pentagon confirmed a recent incident involving a U.S. defense official experiencing symptoms similar to those of anomalous health incidents during a NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, last July. Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh assured reporters that the individual affected was not part of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s delegation, reaffirming Austin’s confidence in the intelligence community.

In response to concerns about the potential deployment of directed-energy weapons by Russian agents or other adversaries, State Department officials emphasized ongoing efforts to provide medical care and compensation to those affected by Havana Syndrome through the HAVANA ACT, enacted in 2021.

“The safety and security of our personnel remain the top priority,” stated State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller, emphasizing the commitment to assisting those impacted.

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