Microwave radiation likely made U.S. diplomats sick in Cuba, China: report

Click to play video: 'Canadian embassy staff warned to stay silent on ‘Havana Syndrome’'
Canadian embassy staff warned to stay silent on ‘Havana Syndrome’
WATCH ABOVE: Canadian embassy staff warned to stay silent on 'Havana Syndrome' – Oct 25, 2020

WASHINGTON — A new report by a National Academy of Sciences committee has found that “directed” microwave radiation is the likely cause of illnesses among American diplomats in Cuba and China.

The study commissioned by the State Department and released Saturday is the latest attempt to find a cause for the mysterious illnesses that started to emerge in late 2016 among U.S. personnel in Havana.

Read more: Canadian officials warned staff bound for Cuba to stay silent on ‘Havana syndrome’

The study found that “directed, pulsed radio frequency energy appears to be the most plausible” explanation for symptoms that included intense head pressure, dizziness and cognitive difficulties. It found this explanation was more likely than other previously considered causes such as tropical disease or psychological issues. The study did not name a source for the energy and did not say it came as the result of an attack, though it did note that previous research on this type of injury was done in the former Soviet Union.

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In its report, the 19-member committee noted that it faced significant challenges in trying to get to the bottom of the medical mystery. Among them, not everyone reported the same symptoms and the National Academy of Sciences research did not have access to all the previous studies on the illnesses, some of which are classified.

Click to play video: 'Cuba says ‘no proof’ of attack on U.S. embassy workers'
Cuba says ‘no proof’ of attack on U.S. embassy workers

“The committee found these cases quite concerning, in part because of the plausible role of directed, pulsed radiofrequency energy as a mechanism, but also because of the significant suffering and debility that has occurred in some of these individuals,” said committee chairman David Relman, a professor of medicine at Stanford University. “We as a nation need to address these specific cases as well as the possibility of future cases with a concerted, co-ordinated, and comprehensive approach.”

The health effects were experienced by about two dozen Americans affiliated with the U.S. Embassy in Cuba as well as Canadian diplomats and personnel at the U.S. consulate in Guanghzhou, China, in early 2017.

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Earlier reporting by Global News found that after four years, Canadian officials still had no official answers on the cause of the illnesses experienced by the diplomats and their families, and that the federal government was telling them to stay silent on the issue.

At least 15 Canadian diplomats and their dependents have since filed a $28-million lawsuit against the Canadian government, alleging that the situation was “badly mishandled.”

Read more: Canadian officials wondered if Cuba staff imagined symptoms from mysterious attacks

In September, the federal government would release almost 700 pages of heavily redacted documents on the incident, which seem to verify the plaintiff’s accounts. The federal government continues to fight the impacted Canadians in court, arguing that they were making “exaggerated” claims.

Some of the Americans have been critical of the U.S. government’s response to their health complaints as well, with at least one filing a suit against the State Department.

Click to play video: 'Canada has no clue what made Cuba diplomats sick'
Canada has no clue what made Cuba diplomats sick

Between late 2016 and May 2018, several U.S. and Canadian diplomats in Havana complained of health problems from an unknown cause. One U.S. government count put the number of American personnel affected at 26.

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Some reported hearing high-pitched sounds similar to crickets while at home or staying in hotels, leading to an early theory of a sonic attack.

— With files from Global News

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