What is the “Havana Syndrome” affecting American diplomats?

The United States has said it ignores the origin of what has been called “Havana syndrome”, mysterious ailments that have affected American diplomats in several countries.

The chief of the American intelligence Avril Haines declared this Monday, August 9 that the United States did not know what caused the ” Havana syndrome “, mysterious evils having affected American diplomats in several countries. The director also added that she held a meeting on Friday August 6 with senior government officials and experts to discuss the issue. The phenomenon has given rise to allegations, as yet unproven, accusing Russia or other countries of using high-intensity electronic devices to physically harm American diplomats in Cuba, China and elsewhere.

But five years after the first Havana case, medical experts, intelligence services and US officials are still unsure exactly what is causing these “abnormal health problems” that have plagued US diplomats and their families: “to identify the cause of the abnormal health problems, providing the best care to those who have been affected and preventing such incidents from continuing is a top priority, ”the meeting agreed, according to the official.

Ministers of Defense, Foreign Affairs, Treasury, Energy, Homeland Security and Justice attended Friday’s meeting. Affected diplomats have accused the government in recent years of not doing enough to identify the cause or source of their symptoms. Similar complaints from US officials have since been reported in China, Russia and the United States itself.

The New Yorker claimed in July that since Joe Biden took office this year, around 20 US intelligence officers, diplomats and other officials in Vienna had reported problems similar to ” Havana Syndrome.

Is it a microwave weapon? Is it a laser beam controlled by enemies afar? Is mind-control by cicadas? Whatever ‘Havana Syndrome’ is, the United States government has taken it seriously enough to pass a bill protecting its officials from it. The mystery illness is said only to affect American diplomats, and the eye of suspicion has now been cast on India.

Three days ago, a U.S. Intelligence officer visiting New Delhi experienced symptoms linked to the enigmatic syndrome. These include loss of balance, headaches, dizziness, and more. While speculations about “attacks” abound, the internet has been having a field day for a while, unpacking what it all means because nobody seems to be sure. “Yeah, I have Havana Syndrome. I’m Havana bad time,” as the memes go.

Scientifically, the consensus on what causes an illness exclusive to U.S. diplomats alone is divided. The details get strange: affected officials have described the feeling as subject to an “invisible beam of energy.” It all began in 2017 in, you guessed it, Havana, Cuba. Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.) officials started to experience disruptive symptoms that the government shut down its agency in Havana and brought the diplomats back to home turf.

Since then, scientists have found the syndrome in Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Colombia, Uzbekistan, China, and now, India. What has remained common is that only American diplomats and spies seem to be the casualties once again. Both Trump and Biden administrations have since suspected that a deliberate attack could be behind the mysterious phenomenon.

But what makes the Havana Syndrome a point of serious discussion and legislation, and not a wild conspiracy theory, is the serious consideration heavyweights in scientific and academic communities have given it.

A 2018 study from the University of Pennsylvania found injuries in the brains of people who experienced the syndrome but without any evidence of head trauma. Researchers published the results of this study in 2019 in JAMA, where they concluded that those who experienced the different and heterogeneous symptoms had diminished white and grey matter in their brains. It was like a “concussion without a concussion,” a specialist told The New Yorker.

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