Some diplomats are concerned that US officials want to downplay the incidents and investigators are still uncertain of the cause.
Last year, after several American diplomats developed odd neurological problems that were theorized to be caused by sonic attacks, President Donald Trump ordered all non-essential personnel out of Cuba, then sent 15 Cuban diplomats packing.
Then, this May, American diplomats in China developed health conditions similar to those reported by the staff who were serving in Cuba. Now NBC News has published a detailed review of the investigation of these “health attacks.”
Physicians enlisted by the State Department have identified what they call a “Brain Network Disorder” acquired by U.S. personnel serving abroad, say U.S. officials, that includes structural changes to the brain not found in any previously known disorder.
Yet some diplomats and their doctors now tell NBC News they have growing concerns that the U.S. is trying to downplay whatever happened — at least in China.
Equally unsettling to the diplomatic evacuees: suspected incidents of harassment and break-ins they say have occurred since returning to the States. Four U.S. officials tell NBC that the FBI has investigated.
The NBC report describes the experiences of Catherine Werner, one of the diplomats brought home from China after falling ill. She said that she heard strange buzzing noises that seemed directional in the middle of the night, after which she experienced loss of coordination, memory loss, and bouts of unexplainable vomiting. Werner became so ill that her mother flew to China to care for her daughter. Even Werner’s dogs became sick.
Meanwhile, the State Department indicates the incidents in Cuba and China are unrelated.
Fourteen of 15 U.S. diplomats pulled from China for medical testing this year have been found not to have the same set of injuries as personnel evacuated earlier from Cuba, the State Department said Wednesday.
The department said 14 of the 15 brought to the U.S. for medical testing earlier this year did not present the “constellation” of symptoms suffered by more than two dozen diplomats in Cuba that it blames on mysterious health attacks. Results for the 15th were inconclusive, it said.
The diagnosis of an initial patient from China found to have Cuba-like injuries stands. But the new findings may ease fears that whatever affected the diplomats in Havana has spread.
While the doctors have been testing the stricken, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is investigating the alleged, continuing harassment of evacuated personnel from Cuba and China after returning to the US.
Four U.S. officials told NBC that the FBI has investigated instances of harassment and break-ins reported by at least six Americans who were evacuated from China and Cuba following mysterious health attacks.
Some of the diplomatic personnel said they suspect their homes have been broken into after they found items that had been moved or tampered with, NBC reported. Others said they felt they had been followed or noted questionable activity on their cellphones.
At least one suspect gave the FBI a laptop they suspect had been tampered with.
This past September, the theory favored by the investigators is that the diplomats were hit with a microwave weapon. But the levels needed to achieve the effects observed would have vaporized the victims’ heads.
Experts are evaluating a wide array of other potential, high-tech weapons.
“There is no smoking gun. At this point it’s best to stay very open-minded,” said James Giordano, a professor of neurology at Georgetown University and an expert in neurological weapons. He was asked by the State Department to come up with an explanation of what would have been capable of causing the inner ear problems that doctors and researchers at the University of Miami School of Medicine and the University of Pittsburgh say the affected diplomats share.
…“The general feeling is that this is not microwaves and I agree,” said Giordano.
At this point in the investigation, he said, some sort of directed energy device is the most likely with electromagnetic pulse stimulation as the leading candidate.
“Could it be a vermin-killing device improperly installed? No one’s saying it’s not,” he said to emphasize that there are a wide range of possibilities still open. Such devices are plugged into a home’s wiring to produce electromagnetic pulses.
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