Newly Declassified Report Contradicts Officials, Suggests Havana Syndrome Might Be Caused by Directed Energy

Photo:  Drew Angerer (Getty Images)
Photo: Drew Angerer (Getty Images)

Several weeks after the intelligence community came out to disavow claims that “Havana Syndrome”—the bizarre rash of neurological disorders plaguing U.S. foreign service officers—was the result of a directed energy weapon, a newly declassified report alleges that may very well be what it is.

The group behind the report, the Intelligence Community Experts Panel on Anomalous Health Incidents (AHIs), was established by the government to figure out just what the heck had happened to the 1,000-ish American officials who claim to have suffered from “Havana”’s bizarre symptoms. Those symptoms, which first cropped up at a U.S. embassy in Cuba in 2016 and soon spread to other parts of the globe, include a rash of inexplicable ailments—things like hearing and memory loss, severe headaches, light sensitivity, nausea, and a host of other debilitating issues.

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If you’re somehow just joining this story, you should know that one of the most prevalent and controversial theories about the syndrome’s origins is that it’s caused by a “sonic weapon”—some sort of heretofore unknown mechanism that can direct electromagnetic energy at targets, thus spurring the kinds of mental and physical anguish that “Havana” victims seem to suffer from. It’s a wild explanation (albeit one that scientists seem to agree is technically possible) and its also been a recurrent one amidst a truck load of other posited theories (this interminable list has included everything from pesticides exposure to mass delusions to crickets for some reason).

Well, after a substantial research effort to get to the bottom of Havana Syndrome’s seemingly impenetrable mystery, the IC panel ultimately released their findings to the government, but the contents of the report have remained classified—until now, that is.

In an exclusive, Salon has published the full 153-page report put together by the panel. The document (which is heavily redacted) was recently declassified as the result of a lawsuit filed by the James Madison Project, a non-profit that lobbies against government secrecy. It had previously been reported that the panel’s findings supported the notion that electromagnetic energy may have been the culprit, but the full findings of the report have not been made public until now.

According to the report, a plausible explanation for the disorders may be “pulsed electromagnetic energy.” It reads:

Electromagnetic energy, particularly pulsed signals in the radio frequency range, plausibly explains the core characteristics, although information gaps exist. There are several plausible pathways involving forms of electromagnetic energy, each with its own requirements, limitations, and unknowns. For all the pathways, sources exist that could generate the required stimuli, are concealable, and have moderate power requirements.

Furthermore, the report speculates that such energy could be “propagated with low loss through air for tens to hundreds of meters, and with some loss, through most building materials.” This could potentially be done using “commercial off-the-shelf technology” and devices exist that “are easily portable and concealable, and can be powered by standard electricity or batteries,” it states.

The report is really interesting but it’s also sorta funny because it appears to say the exact opposite of what the government just came out and told everybody less than a month ago. On March 1st, Haines told journalists that most cases of Havana Syndrome could likely be attributed to “environmental factors” or “conventional illnesses.” The notion that the symptoms would’ve been caused by a “directed energy weapon” was considered “highly unlikely” in most instances, Haines told the public. While she and other officials left the door open for alternative explanations, the press conference seemed like a clear attempt to shut down further speculation about the bizarre episodes.

But far from waving off victims’ symptoms as the result of “environmental factors” or some sort of mass delusion, the recently declassified report refers to Havana Syndrome as a “unique neurosensory syndrome” that is “distinctly unusual,” and is “unreported elsewhere in the medical literature.” Aside from the “electromagnetic energy” explanation, it also seems to dismiss most of the other theories that have been posited to explain the syndrome’s genesis.

For example, one frequently proposed explanation for the bizarre disorders has been mass delusion—a sort of weirdly global psychological affliction impacting U.S. officials all over the world. But the report states that psychosocial factors alone “cannot account for the core characteristics [of Havana Syndrome]” and that “incidents exhibiting these characteristics do not fit the majority of criteria” for a “mass sociogenic illness.”

The other, often proposed explanation—that the symptoms are the result of run-of-the-mill environmental factors or common illnesses—is also dispensed with; the report states that based on “literature reviews and discussions with a group of experts gathered from government and academia...the Panel determined that the core characteristics cannot be explained by benign natural or environmental factors.”

The other potential causes of the syndrome that the panel looked into—like ionizing radiation and chemical and biological agents—are given some consideration but the panel ultimately concludes that they are “implausible explanations for the core characteristics in the absence of other synergistic stimuli,” the report states.

Mark Zaid, an attorney with the James Madison Project (and a representative for some of the Havana Syndrome victims), told Salon that he thought the report showed that the government was clearly hiding something. “The U.S. government is covering up evidence as to what AHIs are,” Zaid told the outlet. “It is becoming apparent that these events were perpetrated either by foreign actors, or it is an experiment gone horribly wrong.”

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