The FBI has deflated the primary explanation offered by many Trump administration officials for why dozens of American diplomats suffered strange physical and mental injuries while stationed in Cuba last year.
After months of investigating and four trips to Havana, the bureau’s Operational Technology Division authored a report that undermines the preferred theory that the diplomats were victims of “sonic attacks.” The interim report, dated Jan. 4, concludes there is no evidence that sounds waves could have caused the type of injuries the U.S. personnel have suffered, the Associated Press reported Monday.
That conclusion adds another layer of mystery to a situation that has stumped U.S. investigators and poisoned relations between Washington and Havana over the last several months. It also calls into question the rationale for the current status of the U.S. embassy in Cuba, which was evacuated of all but “essential personnel” in September.
Reports of mysterious injuries to U.S. government personnel stationed in Havana first surfaced summer 2017, after the Department of State said it had expelled two Cuban diplomats in response to “incidents” at the American embassy. The department later confirmed that 24 government workers were injured, with the latest “medically confirmed” case of an American being harmed occurring on Aug. 21.
The diplomatic personnel were said to be exhibiting a variety of disturbing physical and cognitive symptoms, including headaches, blurred vision, long-term hearing damage, and memory loss. Administration officials speculated that the injuries were caused by targeted “sonic attacks,” possibly through clandestine devices placed in or near the residences of U.S. government employees.
The unexplained phenomenon prompted a series of escalating responses from the Trump administration, which recalled non-essential personnel from the embassy in Havana, expelled 15 Cuban diplomats from Washington, D.C., and placed new restrictions on Americans traveling and doing business in Cuba.
Though it has not directly accused the Cuban government of causing the injuries, the Trump administration has said the Castro regime could have done more to protect American diplomats in Havana. The Cuban government has denied any involvement in the attacks and accused Trump of exploiting them to justify a rollback of friendlier Cuba policies initiated by the Obama administration.
In an interview with the AP, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he isn’t convinced that what he calls the “deliberate attacks” against U.S. personnel in Havana are finished. He also said he has no plans to allow evacuated diplomats to return to Havana until the Cuban government can guarantee their safety.
“I’d be intentionally putting them back in harm’s way,” Tillerson told the AP on Friday. “Why in the world would I do that when I have no means whatsoever to protect them? I will push back on anybody who wants to force me to do that.”
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