German police announced they are investigating an “alleged sonic weapon attack” on employees stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, the latest in a long-running series of attacks that U.S. officials are still at a loss to explain.
In August, The Wall Street Journal reported that at least two U.S. officials in Germany came down with symptoms aligned with other cases of “Havana Syndrome” that continue to plague U.S. diplomats, spies and service members around the globe.
Berlin police confirmed that their investigation into the attacks began in the same month the U.S. officials reported their symptoms but provided no further information, according to Reuters. The police issued their statement Friday in response to a report by Der Spiegel.
Due to privacy and security concerns, the State Department would not discuss the specific reports, but a spokesperson said the department takes “each report we receive extremely seriously,” and said it is “working to ensure that affected employees get the care they need.”
The reported incidents in Germany are part of a wave of suspected attacks in recent months.
Early reports of the syndrome began surfacing in 2016 by U.S. officials stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba. Several officials there began experiencing debilitating symptoms, including vertigo and headaches which can last years in some cases.
Since the initial diagnoses in 2016, the number of U.S. officials around the globe reporting symptoms, including on U.S. soil, has continued to swell.
In May, reports revealed information about two U.S. officials struck by Havana syndrome near the White House.
In August, a “possible anomalous health incident” — which some believed to be a Havana syndrome case — was reported by the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi and briefly delayed Vice President Kamala Harris’ trip to Vietnam.
Earlier this month, a CIA officer reported symptoms while traveling in India, at the same time CIA Director Bill Burns was in the country.
Some estimate that more than 200 officials have been targeted in the attacks, which have affected officials from the State Department, the Defense Department, and the CIA.
“As part of the National Security Council-led interagency response effort and in coordination with our partners across the U.S. Government, we are vigorously investigating reports of [anomalous health incidents] wherever they are reported,” a State Department spokesperson said. “The interagency is actively working to identify the cause of these incidents and whether they may be attributed to a foreign actor, and is focused on providing care for those affected.”
Many have suspected “Havana syndrome” to be caused by microwave or directed-energy attacks. A December National Academy of Sciences report concluded that the symptoms “are consistent with the effects of directed, pulsed radiofrequency (RF) energy,” but the U.S. government has yet to identify the specific cause.
“I feel, still, a strong degree of humility about being able to give you a best guess, because it could be completely wrong,” House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff, California Democrat, recently told reporters.
Mr. Schiff says there are still questions to be answered. He said there could be a variety of causes behind the symptoms, and some, though not all, officials remain wary of referring to the incidents as attacks.
On Friday, President Biden signed into law the HAVANA Act, which Congress passed last month to provide financial and medical assistance to victims.
“Addressing these incidents has been a top priority for my administration,” Mr. Biden said. “We are bringing to bear the full resources of the U.S. Government to make available first-class medical care to those affected and to get to the bottom of these incidents, including to determine the cause and who is responsible,”
“Protecting Americans and all those who serve our country is our first duty, and we will do everything we can to care for our personnel and their families,” he said.
In his statement, Mr. Biden did not explicitly call the incidents attacks, to the disappointment of some members of Congress.
“I’m incredibly disappointed President Biden is still refusing to call them attacks, instead referring to them as ‘anomalous health incidents,’” said Rep. Michael T. McCaul of Texas, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “That dismissive and incomplete language does not send a ‘clear message that we take care of our own.’ These are direct attacks on American personnel.”
• Joseph Clark can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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