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Thread: US Embassy Employees In Cuba Possibly Subject To 'Acoustic Attack'

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    Default US Embassy Employees In Cuba Possibly Subject To 'Acoustic Attack'


    US Embassy Employees In Cuba Possibly Subject To 'Acoustic Attack'

    August 9, 2017

    The US believes several State Department employees at the US embassy in Havana were subjected to an "acoustic attack" using sonic devices that left at least two with such serious health problems they needed to be brought back to the US for treatment, several senior State Department officials told CNN.

    One official said the employees could have suffered permanent hearing loss as a result.

    The employees affected were not at the same place at the same time, but suffered a variety of physical symptoms since late 2016 which resembled concussions.

    The State Department raised the incidents with the Cuban government over the course of several months and sent medical personnel to Havana, but have not been able to determine exactly what happened.

    "It can be quite serious," one official told CNN. "We have worked with the Cubans to try and find out what is going on. They insist they don't know, but it has been very worrying and troublesome."

    The FBI is now looking into the matter, the officials said.

    "It's very strange," one official said.

    State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert on Wednesday said that "some US government personnel" working at the US embassy in Havana, Cuba on official duty reported some incidents that were causing "physical symptoms." But she could not elaborate on the nature or cause of the incidents.

    "Because there are a variety of symptoms, there could be a variety of sources," one US official said. "That is why we are being very careful here with what we say. There is a lot we still don't know."

    For years US diplomats in Havana complained that they suffered harassment from Cuban officials and frequently had their homes and cars broken into. But diplomats said that after the US and Cuba restored full diplomatic ties in 2015, the campaign of harassment stopped.

    Some of those affected chose to return to the US, said Nauert, prompting the administration to expel two Cuban diplomats from the embassy in Washington in May.

    "The Cuban government has a responsibility and an obligation under the Geneva convention to protect our diplomats," Nauert told reporters, "so that is part of the reason why this is such a major concern of ours."

    "We felt like we needed to respond to the Cubans and remind them of their responsibility under the Vienna convention," one of the officials said. The officials were not declared "persona non-grata" and may be allowed to return back to the United States if the matter is resolved.

    Those affected were State Department employees, Nauert said, and no American civilians were affected. The State Department is taking these incidents "very seriously," she added, and is working to determine the cause and impact of the incidents.

    A statement from the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday categorically denied any Cuban involvement in the mistreatment of US diplomats in Cuba, and said the decision to expel Cuban diplomats was "unjustified and unfounded."

    "The Ministry emphatically emphasizes that Cuba has never allowed ... Cuban territory to be used for any action against accredited diplomatic officials or their families, without exception," the statement said in Spanish.

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    Default Re: US Embassy Employees In Cuba Possibly Subject To 'Acoustic Attack'


    Doctors Find Brain Abnormalities In Victims Of Cuba Mystery

    December 5, 2017

    Doctors treating the U.S. embassy victims of suspected attacks in Cuba have discovered brain abnormalities as they search for clues to explain hearing, vision, balance and memory damage, The Associated Press has learned.

    It’s the most specific finding to date about physical damage, showing that whatever it was that harmed the Americans, it led to perceptible changes in their brains. The finding is also one of several factors fueling growing skepticism that some kind of sonic weapon was involved.

    Medical testing has revealed the embassy workers developed changes to the white matter tracts that let different parts of the brain communicate, several U.S. officials said, describing a growing consensus held by university and government physicians researching the attacks. White matter acts like information highways between brain cells.

    Loud, mysterious sounds followed by hearing loss and ear-ringing had led investigators to suspect “sonic attacks.” But officials are now carefully avoiding that term. The sounds may have been the byproduct of something else that caused damage, said three U.S. officials briefed on the investigation. They weren’t authorized to discuss it publicly and demanded anonymity.

    Physicians, FBI investigators and U.S. intelligence agencies have spent months trying to piece together the puzzle in Havana , where the U.S. says 24 U.S. government officials and spouses fell ill starting last year in homes and later in some hotels. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday he’s “convinced these were targeted attacks ,” but the U.S. doesn’t know who’s behind them. A few Canadian Embassy staffers also got sick.

    Doctors still don’t know how victims ended up with the white matter changes, nor how exactly those changes might relate to their symptoms. U.S. officials wouldn’t say whether the changes were found in all 24 patients.

    But acoustic waves have never been shown to alter the brain’s white matter tracts, said Elisa Konofagou, a biomedical engineering professor at Columbia University who is not involved in the government’s investigation.

    “I would be very surprised,” Konofagou said, adding that ultrasound in the brain is used frequently in modern medicine. “We never see white matter tract problems.”

    Cuba has adamantly denied involvement, and calls the Trump administration’s claims that U.S. workers were attacked “deliberate lies .” The new medical details may help the U.S. counter Havana’s complaint that Washington hasn’t presented any evidence.

    Tillerson said the U.S. had shared some information with Havana, but wouldn’t disclose details that would violate privacy or help a perpetrator learn how effective the attacks were.

    “What we’ve said to the Cubans is: Small island. You’ve got a sophisticated intelligence apparatus. You probably know who’s doing it. You can stop it,” Tillerson said. “It’s as simple as that.”

    The case has plunged the U.S. medical community into uncharted territory. Physicians are treating the symptoms like a new, never-seen-before illness. After extensive testing and trial therapies, they’re developing the first protocols to screen cases and identify the best treatments — even as the FBI investigation struggles to identify a culprit, method and motive.

    Doctors treating the victims wouldn’t speak to the AP, yet their findings are expected to be discussed in an article being submitted to the Journal of the American Medical Association, U.S. officials said. Physicians at the University of Miami and the University of Pennsylvania who have treated the Cuba victims are writing it, with input from the State Department’s medical unit and other government doctors.

    But the article won’t speculate about what technology might have harmed the workers or who would have wanted to target Americans in Cuba. If investigators are any closer to solving those questions, their findings won’t be made public.

    The AP first reported in August that U.S. workers reported sounds audible in parts of rooms but inaudible just a few feet away — unlike normal sound, which disperses in all directions. Doctors have now come up with a term for such incidents: “directional acoustic phenomena.”

    Most patients have fully recovered, some after rehabilitation and other treatment, officials said. Many are back at work. About one-quarter had symptoms that persisted for long periods or remain to this day.

    Earlier this year, the U.S. said doctors found patients had suffered concussions, known as mild traumatic brain injury, but were uncertain beyond that what had happened in their brains. Concussions are often diagnosed based solely on symptoms.

    Studies have found both concussions and white matter damage in Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans who survived explosions yet had no other physical damage. But those injuries were attributed mostly to shock waves from explosions. No Havana patients reported explosions or blows to the head.

    Outside medical experts said that when the sample of patients is so small, it’s difficult to establish cause and effect.

    “The thing you have to wonder anytime you see something on a scan: Is it due to the episode in question, or was it something pre-existing and unrelated to what happened?” said Dr. Gerard Gianoli, an ear and brain specialist in Louisiana.

    As Cuba works to limit damage to its reputation and economy, its government has produced TV specials and an online summit about its own investigation. Cuba’s experts have concluded that the Americans’ allegations are scientifically impossible.

    The Cubans have urged the U.S. to release information about what it’s found. FBI investigators have spent months comparing cases to pinpoint what factors overlap.

    U.S. officials told the AP that investigators have now determined:

    — The most frequently reported sound patients heard was a high-pitched chirp or grating metal. Fewer recalled a low-pitched noise, like a hum.

    — Some were asleep and awakened by the sound, even as others sleeping in the same bed or room heard nothing.

    — Vibrations sometimes accompanied the sound. Victims told investigators these felt similar to the rapid flutter of air when windows of a car are partially rolled down.

    — Those worst off knew right away something was affecting their bodies. Some developed visual symptoms within 24 hours, including trouble focusing on a computer screen.

    The U.S. has not identified any specific precautions it believes can mitigate the risk for diplomats in Havana, three officials said, although an attack hasn’t been reported since late August. Since the Americans started falling ill last year, the State Department has adopted a new protocol for workers before they go to Cuba that includes bloodwork and other “baseline” tests. If they later show symptoms, doctors can retest and compare.

    Doctors still don’t know the long-term medical consequences and expect that epidemiologists, who track disease patterns in populations, will monitor the 24 Americans for life. Consultations with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are underway.

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    Default Re: US Embassy Employees In Cuba Possibly Subject To 'Acoustic Attack'


    State Department Denies American In Uzbekistan Experienced Acoustic Attack

    November 28, 2017

    The State Department is denying reports that a worker at the U.S. Embassy in Uzbekistan experienced an acoustic attack similar to those affecting American diplomatic staff in Cuba.

    “We can confirm that there was no incident in Uzbekistan," a State Department official told The Hill on Tuesday.

    "The Department prioritizes the safety and welfare of its personnel and works vigilantly to ensure that members of its staff are protected worldwide," the official added.

    "We can confirm that no personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Uzbekistan have been diagnosed with the conditions that have been observed in Cuba.”

    The statement comes after CBS News reported Tuesday that a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) officer and his wife reported what may have been a similar acoustic attack in September in Uzbekistan.

    Such attacks have hit American personnel in Cuba. Victims from the Cuba attacks have described incidents in which they were targeted by sudden, glaring noise that officials believe led the diplomats to suffer sudden brain injuries including hearing loss and speech problems.

    CBS News cited sources familiar with the Uzbekistan incident, who claimed the couple flew out of Tashkent to be evaluated.

    USAID is a government agency that works closely with the State Department and provides foreign assistance in various countries.

    CBS News said officials declined a request to detail the incident.

    The State Department declined CBS News's request to describe the incident in detail.

    "We aren't going to discuss ‎every case individually," a State Department spokesperson reportedly told the news outlet.

    ‎"We take seriously the health concerns of USG personnel anywhere in the world," the spokesperson added. "We ensure our personnel are examined and receive appropriate treatment."

    But State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert later took to Twitter to dispute the CBS report.

    We can confirm that there was no incident in Uzbekistan and that no personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Uzbekistan have been diagnosed with the conditions that have been observed in Cuba.

    — Heather Nauert (@statedeptspox) November 28, 2017

    The U.S. government first acknowledged the Havana attacks in August, nine months after the injuries were first reported. The State Department immediately moved to expel two Cuban diplomats from the U.S. over safety concerns of American officials experiencing such symptoms.

    Russia has denied any allegations of wrongdoing.

    Uzbekistan, once a part of the Soviet Union, has kept a strong alliance with Russia even after it declared its independence in 1991 during the collapse of the USSR.

    Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova in August denied the "absurd" allegations of Russian involvement in the attacks and said the Kremlin is willing to participate in any investigations into the matter.

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