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Reports: Havana Syndrome almost certainly a byproduct of directed-energy weapon attacks

A yearlong investigation conducted by the Insider along with journalists from the German publication Der Spiegel and CBS’s 60 Minutes culminated in a series of explosive reports on Sunday night. These outlets simultaneously revealed extensive evidence in support of the claim that the debilitating malady known as “Havana Syndrome” is almost certainly a byproduct of directed-energy weapon attacks, and Moscow is more likely than not to be responsible for those attacks.

The earliest cases of what American health officials have euphemized as “anomalous health incidents” (AHIs) that dominated the headlines in late 2016 and early 2017 were suspiciously local to the new U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana. But those weren’t the first such incidents, according to the new reports, which said that U.S. officials experienced symptoms now associated with AHIs as early as 2014 in both Germany and Ukraine. Indeed, in Tbilisi, Guangzhou, Hanoi, and Tashkent, AHIs dogged American intelligence agents associated with the U.S. station in Ukraine. “The cluster of Havana Syndrome cases that emerged from veterans of the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv was so worrisome to one of its number that he opted to resign from the CIA altogether rather than risk becoming a fourth victim,” the Insider’s report read.

The dispatches set out in excruciating detail the development of directed-energy weapons by Russian military intelligence’s Unit 29155. It identifies by name the Russian agents likely associated with this unit of the GRU, and it places some of them in proximity to the targets of possible attacks. But the U.S. government has been coy about the attacks’ origins. As late as spring 2023, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence insisted it was “very unlikely” that Havana Syndrome was the result of enemy action. Some U.S. diplomatic and intelligence officials regarded this as a “betrayal,” motivating them to speak out publicly — some on the record — about their experiences and suspicions.

The Insider concludes with some informed speculation. Why has the U.S. not gone public with its view that Moscow is the architect of this campaign? Perhaps because “releasing the full intelligence around Russian involvement might be so shocking as to convince the American people and their representatives that Moscow has committed an act of war against the United States.” That’s not hard to believe. When the Obama administration embarked on the effort to bring Cuba in from the cold, its officials knew full well that Russia would try to disrupt the initiative. “The Russians would have every interest in f***ing with us in Cuba,” said Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national-security adviser, at the time. A New Yorker dispatch details the degree to which Russian assets harassed Obama officials, seemingly with that outcome in mind.

The Trump administration adopted a firmer line toward Cuba but not toward Russia. On September 1, 2017, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert announced that 19 American diplomatic personnel had been debilitated by “sonic harassment attacks” (it was later learned that CIA personnel, too, were affected). Over the coming weeks, the Trump administration’s diplomatic staff, along with their Canadian counterparts, withdrew their representatives to their respective Cuban missions. Trump expelled Cuban Foreign Service officers from the U.S. and publicly accused the Cuban government of complicity in these attacks. Still, few Havana hands believed Cuba alone could be responsible for the sophisticated attacks.

The consistency across the Obama, Trump, and now Biden administrations in deflecting blame away from Moscow supports the Insider’s suspicion that pointing the finger at Russia would raise discomfiting questions about how the West should respond to these crippling attacks on American government officials. These are serious questions for serious policy-makers. But while we are awash in the former, we are unfortunately bereft of the latter.

To all this relatively comprehensive reporting, Senator J. D. Vance could summon only abrasive sarcasm. “Feels like a lot of journalists have lost their minds,” he wrote in response to one of the authors of the Insider report.

“Have you guys heard that Putler, working with Drumpf and the saucer people, has started attacking with invisible lasers?" Vance also said.

Puerile sneering may be the coin of the realm on social media, but this hardly constitutes a rebuttal to the facts in evidence. It’s a particularly odd posture for a self-described proponent of an “America first” foreign policy to adopt — at least, if you accept the phrase’s value proposition at face value. Critics of the premise promulgated by Vance and his allies maintain that “America first” contains the logic for humiliating retrenchment and servility in the face of attacks on Americans and U.S. national interests. It is the language of retreat coded in superficially patriotic language.

If Vance’s first instinct upon contact with serious allegations that a hostile foreign power is targeting U.S. government personnel with violence is to bury the charge under a mountain of snark, he has confirmed his critics’ suspicions.

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