April 3, 2024

What’s Behind Havana Syndrome?

The evidence is mounting that Russian agents are injuring American officials both here and abroad with powerful directed-energy weapons.

“And bam, inside my right ear, it was like a dentist drilling on steroids. That feeling when it gets too close to your eardrum? It’s like that, you know, times 10. It was like a high-pitched, metallic drilling noise, and it knocked me forward. … It didn’t knock me over, but it knocked me forward. I immediately felt pressure, and pressure and pain started coursing from inside my right ear, down my jaw, down my neck, and into my chest.”

So said an FBI counterintelligence agent known as “Carrie,” whose real name is being protected because she’s still working for the bureau. She experienced this event in 2021 at her home in Florida. She said it made the battery in her cellphone swell until it cracked the phone’s case. She also says she complained to her colleagues for months afterward that it felt like she had memory loss and confusion. “My baseline changed,” she says. “I was not the same person.”

Another American, this one anonymous, likened the sensation to poking a Q-tip or even a sharp pencil on your eardrum. He’s medically retired from an unnamed U.S. agency. He’s also blind in one eye and struggles with his balance.

Still another U.S. citizen, the 40-year-old wife of a DOJ official who was stationed at our embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia, formerly a part of the Soviet Union, described it this way: “As I’m reaching into the dryer, I am completely consumed by a piercing sound that I can only describe as when you listen to a movie and the main character is also consumed by the sound after a bomb goes off. … And it just pierced my ears, came in my left side, felt like it came through the window, into my left ear. I immediately felt fullness in my head, and just a piercing headache. And when I realized that I needed to get out of the laundry room, I left the room, and went into our bedroom next door, and projectile-vomited in our bathroom.”

As “60 Minutes” reports: “She was medically evacuated. And now doctors say she has holes in her inner ear canals — the vestibular system that creates the sense of balance. Two surgeries put metal plates in her skull. Another surgery is likely.” It’s a debilitating injury she describes as “devastating.”

These are just three accounts out of more than 100 of what’s now known as “Havana Syndrome,” an illness whose name is taken from the place where a grouping of these injuries was first reported — at our nation’s embassy in the Cuban capital in 2016.

We have our issues with the sort of sensationalism and left-wing muckraking that CBS News and its “60 Minutes” team have become known for over the decades, but this story, which aired last Sunday and is the latest of four stories they’ve done on the topic, seems different.

The “60 Minutes” investigation was joined by the German Der Spiegel and The Insider, and it linked the attacks to a special Russian unit called GRU 29155. As The Washington Free Beacon notes: “The investigation placed suspected Russian agents in the same locations as U.S. officials when they began experiencing symptoms. Journalist Christo Grozev of The Insider also uncovered a Russian document showing a Unit 29155 officer performed work focused on ‘potential capabilities of non-lethal acoustic weapons,’ a discovery Grozev called the ‘closest to a receipt you can have for this.’”

U.S. intelligence says, at least publicly, that there’s no credible evidence that one of our geopolitical foes is inflicting brain injuries on our national security officials. That’s according to an unclassified 2023 assessment. And yet there are more than 100 Americans who have symptoms that scientists say could’ve been inflicted by a directed beam or microwave weapon, also known as a non-lethal acoustic weapon.

However, as The Insider also reports, two of the agencies that ought to be in the best position to determine whether an adversary is involved — the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency — are highly skeptical of the above-mentioned assessment.

As Greg Edgreen, who ran the U.S. military’s investigation into these attacks, put it, “If my mother had seen what I saw, she’d say, ‘It’s the Russians, stupid.’”

But why, then, is our government unwilling to acknowledge what seems all too obvious? Because, he says, it would bring up some really uncomfortable questions: “Can we secure America? Are these massive counterintelligence failures? Can we protect American soil and our people on American soil? Are we being attacked? And if we’re being attacked, is that an act of war?”

These are questions that the feckless Biden administration might not want to answer but that a tougher, more credible future administration might be willing to address.

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