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Post The "Havana Syndrome": a Mysterious Ailment
Created by John Eipper on 11/23/18 4:40 AM

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The "Havana Syndrome": a Mysterious Ailment (Patrick Mears, Germany, 11/23/18 4:40 am)

There is a long, informative and excellent article in the November 19th issue of The New Yorker entitled "The Havana Syndrome: A mysterious ailment affected dozens of American diplomats and spies? What happened?"

The article addresses the neurological injuries suffered by staffers of the US Embassy in Havana and CIA agents, which injuries were caused by as-yet unknown agents. The suspects mentioned in the article (and in the many news stories about these incidents) are the Cuban government itself or a rogue element within it, the Russians and the Chinese.

According to the authors, two staffers of The New Yorker, the cause or causes of these serious injuries have not yet been identified, although the US Government has expended a substantial amount of time, effort and money in attempting to find the culprits. I highly recommend this piece to all WAISers and would be interested in the experts on Cuba in our midst, e.g., Timothy Ashby, to comment on the article and the facts that underlie it.

JE comments:  Click below.  One of the authors, Jon Lee Anderson, is probably the leading journalist on Cuba affairs. 

We'll be returning to Cuba in a few weeks--December 13th.  I won't be in a position to unearth much insight on the Havana Syndrome, but I'll ask around.  Any dizziness I may experience will probably be due to the mojitos, but one can never be too cautious...


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  • "Havana Syndrome" (from Gary Moore) (John Eipper, USA 11/24/18 3:49 AM)

    Gary Moore writes:

    Patrick Mears (November 23) has pointed out important news in the Havana Syndrome,
    the mysterious spread of distressing symptoms in US embassy personnel in Havana,
    suggestive of some kind of wave weapon (as the New Yorker article he linked reminds,
    there is absolutely no proof that any sort of weapon was involved--and yet this possibility
    remains strangely more likely than the other two alternatives: 1) that it might have been
    an imaginative outbreak of behavioral contagion or conversion disorder (mass "hysteria"),
    or 2) that bizarre malfunction in some sort of everyday device could have selectively
    targeted only diplomatic personnel, in a variety of settings.)

    The article seems to suggest that similar reports in Havana from Canadian embassy
    personnel were less conclusive. Apparently this is far from being the case:


    JE, ready with your tinfoil hat?

    JE comments:  Can you get through customs wearing a tinfoil hat?  The Canada Corollary to the Havana Syndrome is especially puzzling.  If the Cubans are zapping rays at their enemies, why would they also target the gentle folks from Ottawa?

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  • Acoustic Weapons (Timothy Brown, USA 11/24/18 6:27 AM)
    The Fall 2017 edition of The Intelligencer: Journal of Intelligence Studies begins with three articles on this:

    "Acoustic Weapons--Infrasonic, Ultrasonic, Microwave, or ???"

    "The Weaponization of Sound," and

    "Psychoacoustic Effects of Infrasonic, Sonic, and Ultrasonic Frequencies"

    JE comments:  Weaponizing sound--I've been accused of this when I play the piano.

    Seriously now, I cannot find The Intelligencer on-line.  Tim, can you help us?

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    • Acoustic Weapons or Mass Hysteria? From Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 11/26/18 2:02 PM)

      Gary Moore writes:

      Timothy Brown's intriguing bibliography on acoustic weapons (November 24)
      certainly helps move the discussion on the bewildering "Havana Syndrome"
      that Patrick Mears first brought up.

      However, it might be noted that the
      (baffled) examinations of the phenomenon seem to have discarded sound
      as a possible agent causing the symptoms, and speculation seems to be
      more focused on microwaves or radio waves. One such speculator says
      that microwave overload on the inner ear can cause the illusion of
      sound, which is offered to explain why some sufferers hear sounds with
      the episodes, but others only feel an elusive pressure or dizziness. There
      are also some (generally uninformed) voices clinging to the easy explanation
      of mass conversion disorder.

      Of course, the whole mix says that anything is
      possible, but few of the well-defined characteristics of "mass hysteria" or
      mass psychogenic illness seem to be present in the Havana "Thing."

      We will perhaps know much more if our own intrepid tinfoil-hat Holmes
      feels drawn (mysteriously, ineffably?) to personally investigate the now-eerie
      halls of the Hotel Nacional or Hotel Capri. ¿Ondas de los Baskervilles?
      Double-billed deerstalker as non-recyclable Alcoa?

      "Watson, whatever you do, don't say: 'Hola, Chico, ¿qué onda?'"

      JE comments:  The Sound of the Baskervilles?  After reading Ed Jajko's post from this morning, I believe I should refrain from snooping around while in Cuba.  We'll be there from December 13th through the 20th.  Gary, does 50 SPF sunscreen protect you from mind-altering microwaves, or should I up the ante to 75 or 100?

      (A teaching moment for non-Hispanophones:  ¿Qué onda?  is a chatty way to ask "What's new?"  Literally, though, it translates to "Which wave?"  Hence the humor.)

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  • "Havana Syndrome" Update (Patrick Mears, Germany 11/29/18 4:28 AM)

    Concerning the recent WAIS posts about the mysterious goings-on in Havana with respect to unexplained illnesses being experienced by American and Canadian diplomats, the Toronto-based Globe and Mail newspaper reports today that yet another Canadian has been taken ill in the Cuban capital.

    The article, which is brief, states that the Canadian government will hold a teleconference today to discuss this topic.


    We should know more soon.

    Gary Moore's suggestion that John wear a tinfoil hat while going through Cuban customs is sounding better and better every day, in every way.

    JE comments:  From the Cuban perspective, it's understandable that they would attack American diplomats, but why risk alienating their good friends and biggest source of tourists, the Canadians?  The mystery continues.

    Pat, tinfoil will heat up too much in the sun.  I'll take my old motorcycle helmet.

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  • Is China Responsible for the "Havana Syndrome"? (Timothy Ashby, Spain 11/30/18 3:13 AM)
    I've followed our WAIS "Havana Syndrome" discussion with great interest and have had numerous conversations about this since news of the "Sonic attacks" became public.  I've spoken with members of the intelligence/counter-intelligence and diplomatic services of the countries involved (including Cuba).

    Essentially, the symptoms experienced by US and Canadian "diplomatic" staff (I use the term loosely because many--if not most--of the victims and family members were connected to their countries' intelligence services) were described as similar to concussions but with no history of head injuries among the victims.

    The attacks were most likely caused by a portable Pulsed RF/MW (Radio Frequency/Microwave) radiation device, mounted on a vehicle, which would explain why the attacks occurred in different locations around Havana such as Vedado and Miramar where the embassy staff lived (the Chinese embassy is in Vedado).

    While there is no doubt that an "attack" of some sort took place (i.e. it was not hysteria or some sort of virus), I am convinced that the Cuban government had nothing to do with this, and it is implausible that a "rogue unit" within the Interior Ministry perpetrated the "attack."  The Cuban security and intelligence services--especially those with access to surveillance equipment--are very tightly controlled. The FBI, which was quickly allowed access to Havana by the Cuban government, concurred with the Cubans' protestations of innocence.

    The Cubans (and the FBI) believe that the Chinese are responsible for the attacks.  They have the technology, and similar attacks occurred in China. If this is true, the rationale is harder to explain, although one theory I have heard is that it's retribution for US use of more sophisticated Pulsed RF/MW devices against Chinese personnel.

    JE comments:  This is a huge revelation, in no small part because the Cubans allowed the FBI to investigate.  Tim, is it possible the Chinese are trying to shoo the North Americans away from the island so they can turn it into an economic (neo-)colony?  This would explain the attacks on the benign Canadians.  Or am I being too conspiratorial?

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    • China and the "Havana Syndrome" (from Gary Moore) (John Eipper, USA 12/01/18 3:59 AM)

      Gary Moore writes:

      Timothy Ashby's important update (November 30) on the "Havana Syndrome"
      does seem to agree with a growing consensus that RF/MW (radio frequency/
      microwave) pulses were used as a weapon, with the Cuban government not being
      the major suspect, but suspicions instead turning toward China.

      The most publicized
      China incident in the series seems to have been at the Gwangzhou (Canton)
      consulate in June, where one person was evacuated. But this leaves the two big
      questions: Why would China do this?  (And the suspicions are far from proven.)
      And if so, why in Cuba? There is JE's interesting speculation that China might want
      to alienate the US in order to create a commercial beachhead in Cuba. But if so, why then
      show their hand by making the one June attack over in Gwangzhou? Are these incidents,
      dating back to 2016, a test? The surgical targeting of intelligence personnel
      seems to preclude some sort of accident. So then are they some kind of message:
      We can do this, so watch out? Or the theory Timothy heard, that this was
      retaliation for a supposed publicly unknown former US attack using similar means?
      There is comment that such a device might be small enough to hold in the hand,
      and at the high end might be able to reach several miles.

      Attention has also turned to Dr. Beatrice Golomb of the University of
      California at San Diego, who has written about the physiology and how such attacks
      might work on the brain:



      JE comments:  I should read the literature above, but a quick techie question:  how do you direct these microwaves without addling your own brain in the process?  Tinfoil again?  I wonder if the Sharper Image is paying attention.  The Cranium Cooker®--imagine the possibilities at the workplace!

      (The big news overnight:  former President George H. W. Bush died at the age of 94.  He was the last patrician of the age of civilized politics, even if it didn't seem that way at the time.  I look forward to posting reflections and memories from the WAISitudes.)

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