This is a subject that has strayed into the background and I’m thankful the Washington Free Beacon reported on it last night. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testified in front of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) asked him about the attacks:
“That’s a very good question,” Pompeo told Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.) during testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee. “I don’t know if they were the same events. It is the case that the medical condition, the single medical condition to date in China is, as the medical folks would say, consistent with what happened in Cuba.”
“We are now up to two-dozen plus in Cuba. We do not know the source of either of these,” he said. “We are continuing to investigate in both places.”
In May, the State Department issued a health alert for U.S. citizens after an employee in Guangzhou, China, suffered a brain injury after he “reported subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure.” Americans Doctors diagnosed the employee with “brain trauma” after he came home in June.
Between 2016 and 2017, 25 people suffered health attacks in Cuba, 17 of which are government employees. Some of those who received injuries “reported hearing odd sounds in particular rooms of their homes, leading some experts to speculate that some kind of sonic weapon or faulty surveillance device may have been at fault.”
Leahy wanted to know why the department decided to cut the staff at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, by 60% and expel 15 Cuban diplomats from the U.S., but chose to only issue a health alert and bring home no one from China.
The answer is actually quite simple:
Pompeo said the different policies were a response to the “magnitude, scope, consistency, and time period” differences between what happened in China and Cuba.
“But I am deeply aware that if we determine that we face a similar situation [in China], you can expect that a response our government would take would be commensurate with the risk our officers face,” he said.
He also noted that the Chinese government has responded—at least initially—in a more responsive way than the Cuban government did.
“But neither of those ha led to a satisfactory outcome we can determine how to keep foreign service officers and State Department officials and foreign commercial officers serving in embassies in those two places safe,” he said.
Pompeo started a task force in the State Department earlier this month in response to the attacks in China and Cuba. From CNN:
Pompeo said in a statement that the task force will serve as the “coordinating body for department and interagency activities, including identification and treatment of affected personnel and family members, investigation and risk mitigation, messaging, and diplomatic outreach.”
The unit, called the Health Incidents Response Task Force, will be led by Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan and include representatives from other US government agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice.
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