Report: ‘Radio-Frequency Energy’ Caused Brain Damage to U.S. Diplomats in Cuba

The first US-to-Cuba cruise ship to arrive in the island nation in decades glides into the port of Havana, on May 2, 2016. The first US cruise ship bound for Cuba in half a century, the Adonia -- a vessel from the Carnival cruise's Fathom line -- set sail from …
ANA RODRIGUEZ/AFP via Getty Images

A National Academies of Sciences report published this weekend, which the U.S. State Department commissioned, concluded that radio-frequency energy was the likely culprit in a series of mysterious injuries at the U.S. Embassy in Havana between 2016-2017.

Diplomats and others working at the embassy in Cuba at the time, up to two dozen people by the time Washington reduced its presence there in response to the incidents, began to complain of headaches and what some described as “concussion-like” symptoms like vomiting, dizziness, cognitive difficulties, and memory loss. Workers at the Canadian embassy in Cuba also notified their government that they had experienced something similar, and many reported hearing strange static or buzzing noises in their homes before the symptoms developed.

At least one other similar incident has been documented in Shanghai, China. China and Cuba are allied communist states.

“You vomit. You get sick. You feel so sick,” Laura Hughes, mother of Shanghai victim Catherine Werner, told NBC News in 2018. “Your head is splitting. You’re dizzy. It’s a horrible feeling. It’s indescribable.”

“There does not exist evidence of the occurrence of the alleged incidents, or the causes and origin of the health symptoms American diplomats and families notified us of,” Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez said at the time, dubbing the allegations “science fiction.”

While the Cuban Communist Party initially concluded that what was initially reported as a potential “sonic attack” was actually the sounds of crickets and other tropical insects that the American diplomats were too ignorant to identify, the National Academies of Sciences report concluded that “directed, pulsed radio-frequency energy appears to be the most plausible” explanation for what happened to the individuals identified as victims.

Radio-frequency energy is described as electromagnetic radiation, not nuclear, and common in “aeronautical radio, navigation, broadcasting, and personal wireless communication services,” CBS News, citing Berkeley Lab, noted. While stating that the likeliest source of the brain damage those affected incurred was “directed,” meaning coming from one source, the researchers at the National Academies of Sciences did not speculate as to where it may have come from or if someone had deliberately directed the energy at the patients in question. The report did note that the experimental use of radio-frequency energy did occur in the past in the Soviet Union.

The report also stated definitively that, as of June 2020, those affected by what State Department officials have referred to as “health attacks” continue to suffer physical symptoms from what they experienced, including “significant suffering and debility.” The report refuted the conclusion reached by “investigators” at Cuban state television that the symptoms were psychosomatic and the result of American paranoia about communism, not the product of a physical phenomenon.

The Castro regime in Cuba has long maintained close ties to the Soviet Union and its successor state in Moscow. In 2017, Luis Zúñiga, a Cuban-American former political prisoner on the island, told Breitbart News that he experienced the use of high-pitched sounds as a form of torture while he was in prison in 1977. At the time, the Associated Press had recently published an audio file of the sounds that the diplomats in Havana said they heard before feeling ill, which Zúñiga said resembled the sounds that prison guards would blast at high volumes from large speakers into the cells holding political dissidents.

The study published this weekend echoes early research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) regarding the sonic attacks in 2018. At the time, the researchers leading the study, who received direct access to the patients, insisted that an unknown “novel mechanism” had injured them and that they presented clear signs of physical changes, meaning they were not merely experiencing symptoms out of stress.

“Everybody was relatively skeptical at first and everyone now agrees there’s something there,” Douglas H. Smith, the lead author of the JAMA study, told the New York Times in 2018. The Times noted that experts at the time already suspected microwaves as having caused the damage.

A year later, the same team concluded that those affected by the incidents in Cuba suffered significant brain deformation compared to a control group of unaffected people. The differences reportedly manifested in “whole brain white matter volume, regional gray and white matter volume, cerebellar tissue microstructural integrity, and functional connectivity in the auditory and visuospatial subnetworks.”

CBS noted that, in 2014, the National Security Agency had identified the possible weaponization of radio-frequency energy in a statement suggesting the existence of a “high-powered microwave system weapon that may have the ability to weaken, intimidate, or kill an enemy over time without leaving evidence.”

The incidents in Havana occurred after President Barack Obama reached an agreement with the Castro regime to partially restore diplomatic relations in 2014, resulting in skyrocketing rates of arbitrary arrests and other human rights violations against dissidents on the island. Partially in response to the injuries suffered by Americans working at the embassy following the diplomatic “thaw,” President Donald Trump withdrew most non-essential personnel from the American embassy. He has also realigned America’s diplomatic attitude towards the Castro regime to benefit pro-democracy dissidents, rather than seeking friendliness with the regime.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, expected to take over the presidency in January, has vowed to return to Obama-era policies regarding the communist regime in Cuba.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.


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