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Study Offers Simple Explanation For ‘Sonic Attacks’ That Injured 24 American Diplomats In Cuba

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Andrew Kerr Investigative Reporter
  • There is a simple explanation for what may have caused the “sonic attacks” in Cuba
  • American diplomats reported they and their spouses were subjected to agonizing sounds in Havana 
  • The sounds could have been the result of audio interference between a pair of ultrasonic eavesdropping devices 

A new report offers a simple and compelling explanation for what may have caused the “sonic attacks” in Havana, Cuba, that left 24 U.S. embassy workers and their families with neurological damage.

American diplomats reported in September 2017 that they and their spouses were subjected to agonizing sounds while staying in a Havana hotel. The victims were left with “brain abnormalities,” including “hearing, vision balance and memory damage,” according to The Associated Press.

The initial reaction was that Cuba was responsible for the mysterious sounds. U.S. officials believed Cuba utilized a “covert sonic weapon” against the American diplomats, The Washington Post reported.

President Donald Trump minced no words in assigning blame to Cuba.

“I do believe Cuba’s responsible, I do believe that,” Trump said in October.

report released Thursday by the University of Michigan argues the sounds were not the product of a deliberate attack. Rather, the sounds could have been the result of audio interference between a pair of ultrasonic eavesdropping devices that got too close to each other.

The key finding of the report is that the sounds could have been produced without malicious intent.

“It’s an alternative hypothesis to the sonic-weapon theory, of someone trying to cause harm,” Kevin Fu, a co-author of the report, told The Daily Beast. “It’s a theory that seems a little more practical in that it could be bad engineering.”

“It seems like a reasonable hypothesis,” Fu added.

Because the diplomats reported being subjected to the sounds in the narrow confines of a room, Fu and his team approached their study under the assumption that the sounds came from some type of ultrasound device.

The only problem is that ultrasound devices emit frequencies that are inaudible to humans. If it’s true that the diplomats were subjected to an inaudible ultrasonic frequency, why did they report hearing sounds akin to a “mass of crickets”?

The researchers got their answer when they placed two ultrasonic eavesdropping devices close to one another. The result: a distorted audio frequency that matched the frequency recorded on the scene of the incident in Havana.

The audio distortion caused by the two ultrasonic devices can also produce very low frequencies that are known to produce headaches, dizziness and disorientation, all of which were reported symptoms of the victims, according to Fu.

“It doesn’t prove that this is what happened in Cuba,” Fu said. “But it does show that there’s a reasonable probability that it’s an accident rather than someone causing harm [intentionally].”

Fu and his team of researchers sent their report to the Department of State in February, but they haven’t heard back yet.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson convened an Accountability Review Board in January to investigate the incident.

The Cuban government has maintained its innocence throughout the whole ordeal. It claims it had nothing to do with the strange sounds that injured the American diplomats and is currently conducting its own investigation into the incident. Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla accused the Trump administration of politicizing the incident to “harm bilateral relations.”

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