The CIA just said Havana syndrome is not a Russian spy plot even though it looks a lot like one

January 20, 2022, 7:54 PM UTC

The Central Intelligence Agency has found that a mysterious and severe illness that has affected hundreds of U.S. diplomats, intelligence officers, and other personnel, known as Havana Syndrome, is unlikely to have been caused by ​​Russia or another foreign adversary. People who say they are victims of the syndrome expressed anger at the findings. 

Most of the 1,000 cases of Havana Syndrome that have been reported to the U.S. government, the CIA reported Thursday, can be explained by stress, underlying disease, or other environmental factors. It is unlikely that medical ailments were caused by a secret campaign by a global power to make agents sick, the agency  said. 

The preliminary report comes as the CIA works on a much larger investigation into what has caused an onslaught of unexplained symptoms like headaches, nausea, anxiety, dizziness, and cognitive impairment amongst U.S. foreign officials. The symptoms were first described by operatives in Cuba in 2016 and later in China, Taiwan, Austria, Poland, Georgia and Russia. 

The CIA will continue looking into two dozen cases that remain unexplained to see if there was a foreign actor involved, the agency said. 

“We are pursuing this complex issue with analytic rigor, sound tradecraft, and compassion and have dedicated intensive resources to this challenge,” CIA Director William Burns said in a written statement on Thursday. “While we have reached some significant interim findings, we are not done. We will continue the mission to investigate these incidents and provide access to world-class care for those who need it.”

In late 2020, a panel created by the State Department with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine said that “directed, pulsed radio frequency (RF) energy” were the most likely cause of the symptoms, but no evidence has been produced to back up these theories. 

People who believe they are suffering from Havana Syndrome, meanwhile, expressed outrage at the preliminary results. In a collective statement to The New York Times, they called the CIA’s interim findings a breach of faith and said that they “cannot and must not be the final word on the matter.”

“The CIA’s newly issued report may be labeled ‘interim’ and it may leave open the door for some alternative explanation in some cases, but to scores of dedicated public servants, their families and their colleagues, it has a ring of finality and repudiation,” the statement said.Secretary of State Antony Blinken said from Berlin on Thursday that investigations into the syndrome would continue. “We have been working overtime to try to understand what happened and who might be responsible,” Blinken told reporters. “There is no doubt in my mind that they have had real experiences, real symptoms and real suffering,” he said.

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