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CDC joins investigation into 'sonic attacks' in China, Cuba against U.S. personnel

Published: July 12, 2018
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Source: Boing Boing

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will join a government investigation into 'sonic attacks' that have left more than 25 U.S. personnel with mysterious ailments.

The bizarre incidents have baffled scientists and government investigators since they were made public last year. The U.S. has described the bizarre sound incidents as "attacks," and “has not specifically accused Cuba, but holds them responsible for not keeping U.S. diplomats safe.”

Cuba denies responsibility, and accused the United States of slander.

In June, Trump Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said a task force led by deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan would step up the inquiry, after a new incident this spring in which a China consulate worker was sickened.

From today's McClatchy report:

 

The move to add the CDC to the probe comes as frustrated congressional leaders, including House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., and Democratic counterpart Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., have called on the State Department to enlist the health organization's aid and send it to Havana to help the investigation.

“Why has the CDC not yet been deployed to Cuba?” Engel said Wednesday. “It certainly seems to me we should if we want to get to the bottom of this. I don’t understand why that hasn’t happened.”

Royce said he and Engel will meet Wednesday with Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, who leads the task force, to discuss the issue further.

Last month, Pompeo told the committee that Sullivan's task force would investigate the incidents after a new case this spring involving a consulate worker in China that increased diplomatic concern and intrigue.

A year-long FBI investigation has failed to find any cause of incidents. Merten, who referred to the incidents as "attacks," said the United States still does not know the source of the incidents nor who is responsible.

Earlier this month, the Trump administration kicked nearly two-thirds of Cuba’s embassy personnel out of the United States after pulling many American diplomats from the US embassy in Havana.

The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Merten is a member of the task force investigating the incidents. He would not discuss specifics about CDC’s role, but said they’re part of a weekly inter-agency meetings with the task force.

 

Related:

The bizarre “sonic attacks” against diplomats began in Cuba, but have now spread to other countries with over 200 illnesses reported. It all started in the fall of 2016 when diplomats at the United States Embassy in Cuba reported some hearing loss and mild brain damage after hearing unusual and puzzling sounds.

The State Department revealed that another diplomat working at the U.S. Embassy in Cuba has fallen victim to a mysterious attack. The diplomat, who is now the Havana-based embassy’s 25th individual to be affected, was evacuated to the U.S. to be medically evaluated.

Several US citizens have been evacuated from the US consulate in Guangzhou, China, after falling ill with various neurological symptoms from mysterious “sonic attacks” similar to incidents reported in Havana Cuba which left 20 State Department employees with serious injuries. On Wednesday night, consulate worker Mark Lenzi and his family were evacuated after hearing strange noises over the course of several months, which Lenzi described as “marbles bouncing and hitting a floor then rolling on an incline with a static sound,” according to the Washington Post.  

Over the last two years, academic researchers have identified various methods that they can transmit hidden commands that are undetectable by the human ear to Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google’s Assistant.

The Canadian embassy has said it will evacuate all family members of its personnel stationed in Havana, according to the BBC. The government of Canada is believed to have made the decision to evacuate its citizens after it confirmed that at least 10 members of diplomatic families living on the island had been found to suffer from “unexplained brain symptoms”, according to Canadian government officials. These include regular spells of dizziness and nausea, as well as difficulty in concentrating on tasks.

In the most specific finding to date about physical damage, AP reports that doctors treating the U.S. Embassy victims of mysterious, invisible attacks in Cuba have discovered brain abnormalities as they search for clues to explain the hearing, vision, balance and memory damage.

The White House does not believe the Cuban government is behind the mysterious sonic attacks against U.S. personnel but plans to pull American staff out of Havana as the number of cases climbs, according to multiple U.S. sources familiar with the investigation.

Late last year, reports began surfacing that US diplomatic personnel in Cuba were beginning to experience strange and inexplicable symptoms including dizziness, nausea, memory lapses, difficulty hearing and loss of balance. Initial reports attributed the symptoms to a “acoustic attack,” but neglected to provide any salient details about the specific nature of the attacks, or – more importantly – who might have carried them out. The Cuban government quickly denied any knowledge of the attacks.

American officials have revealed more information about a mysterious sonic device that is believed to have caused numerous diplomats to suffer hearing loss and other serious ailments. Last month, the Associated Press reported that the first hearing-loss symptoms were reported by personnel at the US embassy in Havana in the fall of 2016. The news agency said that at least five embassy personnel reported suffering from sudden and unexplained loss of hearing. The symptoms were so serious that caused some American diplomats “to cancel their tours early and return to the United States”, according to the Associated Press.

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