US Diplomats and family members have been stricken by unknown illnesses in Cuba and China. Havana denies involvement in these attacks.
Another incident had previously been reported in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, but was subsequently discounted by the U.S. State Department.
Relations between the US and Cuba have been strained for decades. In 1959, after the Cuban revolution, US President Dwight D. Eisenhower officially recognized the new Cuban government. However, this was followed by a steady deterioration of ties between the two countries.
In 2015, Obama announced that beginning of formal diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States. Embassies were opened in Havana and Washington respectively. President Obama and Raul Castro, who replaced his brother in 2008, took extraordinary steps to formalize bilateral relations.
The current US President, Donald Trump has been critical of Cuba and of the policies that were enforced by his predecessor. In October 2017, he said that “Cuba is responsible” for these attacks.
Allan Frey, an American scientist, discovered in 1960 that the brain can perceive microwaves as sound. The discovery opened a new field of weapons research in the US and the Soviet Union. The Russians called the envisioned weapons “psychophysical” or “psychotronic”, and that the US Defence Intelligence Agency warned in 1976 that Soviet research showed potential for “disrupting the behaviour patterns of military or diplomatic personnel”.
Doctors and scientists increasingly suspect attacks with microwave weapons are the cause of the mysterious ailments.
The victims reported hearing intense high-pitched sounds in their hotel rooms or homes, followed by symptoms that included nausea, severe headaches, fatigue, dizziness, sleep problems and hearing loss.
In a study published in March in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a medical team that examined 21 of those affected in Cuba did not mention microwave weapons. But the lead author, Douglas Smith, director of the Centre for Brain Injury and Repair at the University of Pennsylvania, told the Times that microwave weapons are now considered a main suspect and the team is increasingly sure the diplomats suffered brain injuries.
Cuba has denied any role in or knowledge of the incidents. However, in September 2017, the US recalled more than half of its staff from the embassy and expelled 15 Cuban diplomats from Washington. In June 2018, the state department announced that it had sent home US personnel from China after they reported similar incidents.
In early 2018, accusations similar to those reported by diplomats in Cuba began to be made by US diplomats in China.
The first incident reported by an American diplomat in China was in April 2018 at Consulate General of the United States, Guangzhou, the largest US consulate in China. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that the attacks were consistent with those reported in Cuba.
The State Department assembled a task force to investigate the reports and expanded their health warning to all of mainland China amidst reports that some U.S. diplomats outside of Guangzhou had experienced the same symptoms resembling a brain injury.
However, despite the recent developments, neither the state department nor the FBI has publicly pointed to microwave weapons.
It is not known if the US deploys such weapons. However, many analysts attribute the “sonic attacks” illnesses are a result of the ‘microwave auditory effect’ in which people hear clicks and sounds because of modulated radio waves.
Many analysts have attributed the whole incident to be caused by a mass hysteria. Cuban scientists have concluded that the sounds may be originating from crickets. The Jamaican field cricket, native to Cuba, makes a noise very similar to what some of the diplomats reported.
It is highly probable the diplomats working in the US embassy and consulates in Havana and Guangzhou are suffering from what psychologists call “Sick-Building Syndrome” (SBS). SBS is a medical condition where people in a building suffer from symptoms of illness or feel unwell for no apparent reason. The symptoms tend to increase in severity with the time people spend in the building, and improve over time or even disappear when people are away from the building.
The main identifying observation is an increased incidence of complaints of symptoms such as a headache, eye, nose, and throat irritation, fatigue, and dizziness and nausea, all of which were reported by US diplomats in Guangzhou and Cuba.
Our assessment is that it is highly improbable for a country like Cuba or even China to use such “sonic” weapons on US diplomats. As US embassies are located in populated neighbours in Havana and Guangzhou, no other resident in those areas has reported any of the symptoms. We feel that this is a ploy from the US to reduce diplomatic presence in these two countries without causing an international uproar.