The FBI has announced dealing with a widely reported “anomalous health” issue among its staff is a top priority; in a first formal acknowledgment that some of its current or former employees could have symptoms consistent with Havana Syndrome.
Havana Syndrome, which is an ailment with symptoms including migraines, nausea, memory lapses and dizziness, is reported by around 200 US diplomats, spies, officials and family members overseas.
The syndrome got its name after a group of diplomats and CIA officers reported symptoms in 2016 at the US Embassy in Cuba’s capital Havana.
Washington claims that the syndrome is a kind of neurological attack which has targeted the country’s spies and diplomats stationed in overseas locations.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation said in a statement on Wednesday it will continue to investigate the cause of such incidents and how to protect staff.
“The issue of anomalous health incidents is a top priority for the FBI, as the protection, health and well-being of our employees and colleagues across the federal government is paramount,” the FBI said.
It added that it would keep working with the intelligence community to “identify the cause of these incidents and determine how we can best protect our personnel.”
US agencies have come under scrutiny for remaining skeptical about the existence of the syndrome.
“The FBI takes all US government personnel who report symptoms seriously,” the statement said, adding it had messaged its staff on how to respond and how to report if they experience an incident, and where they can receive medical treatment.
Lawyer Mark Zaid, who represents Havana Syndrome victims, however, said the FBI had “been less than helpful, particularly by claiming victims are suffering psychosomatic symptoms even though they never interviewed the individuals.”
A government source told Reuters that US agencies do not currently have a solid view of the syndrome’s cause but that investigating its origins and spread has been a high priority for the CIA.
CIA director William Burns recently chose a career undercover spy to lead an agency task force on Havana Syndrome.
He had even delivered a secret threat to Russian intelligence services that they will face “consequences” if they are responsible for the mysterious disease. First reported by the Washington Post, Burns raised the issue during a visit to Moscow this month.
Back in 2018, NBC news reported that US intelligence consider Moscow as a suspect in what they alleged to have been deliberate attacks on American diplomats and CIA officers overseas.
Russia has consistently denied any culpability.
Experts argue that how it is possible that a secret Russian program that supposedly harm US spies and diplomats, could go completely undetected by the $80 billion US spying apparatus.