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Havana syndrome

Havana Syndrome not caused by foreign adversaries, energy weapons, or aliens, U.S. intelligence assesses

The U.S. intelligence community has determined that it's very unlikely the mysterious health incidents reported by hundreds of U.S. diplomats and spies since 2016 were caused by foreign adversaries, or that other countries even have a weapon capable of inflicting such ailments, according to an assessment by seven agencies released Wednesday. The constellation of disorienting and sometimes debilitating maladies, first reported by diplomats in Cuba, is known as Havana Syndrome, and the intelligence agencies examined more than 1,000 cases in 92 countries. 

The two-year investigation began with the assumption that a foreign country was targeting U.S. personnel with a radio frequency device or some other kind of energy weapon, but these "critical assumptions" were "were not borne out by subsequent medical and technical analysis," Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said in statement. "In light of this and the evidence that points away from a foreign adversary, causal mechanism, or unique syndrome" that connects the hundreds of "anomalous health incidents," the agencies assessed that the symptoms were probably caused by things like "preexisting conditions, conventional illnesses, and environmental factors."

This assessment affirms a preliminary CIA report released last year but contradicts other studies, including the finding by a panel of government and outside experts that "the most plausible mechanism" to explain the symptoms was "directed, pulsed radio frequency energy." Advocacy groups for Havana Syndrome victims called the intelligence community's new assessment opaque and deficient.

Haines and CIA Director William Burns were careful to stress that the report does not cast doubt on the very real health issues experienced by the diplomats and intelligence officers. And the White House said affected personnel will continue getting care and compensation through legislation President Biden signed in 2021.

Intelligence officials said a dedicated team of seasoned analysts devoted extraordinary resources and left "no stone unturned" in trying to uncover the source of Havana Syndrome. This included examining cases, visiting sites where people experienced syndromes, asking other countries if their diplomats had reported similar incidents, and aggressively collecting intelligence from key adversaries who seemed genuinely confused by and suspicious of Havana Syndrome. "Many see a U.S. plot," one official told reporters.

"Intelligence officials even examined the possibility of extraterrestrial involvement, questioning whether the symptoms could be caused by a device in the sky," the Miami Herald reports. "It's not that there weren't leads. There were leads," a second official told reporters. "But every time we followed them up, they dissipated."