WASHINGTON — Another U.S. diplomat has been confirmed to be suffering from the same ill health effects as embassy personnel sickened by mysterious attacks in Cuba and China.
The State Department first heard about the incidents in late 2016 and news broke last summer that they believed a sonic device outside the range of audible sound was targeted at the residences of U.S. diplomats, operating either inside or outside their homes. Officials have been investigating whether a third country looking for “payback” against the U.S. was involved, possibly with the assistance of Cuban security services. Those affected suffered “cognitive, vestibular, and oculomotor dysfunction, along with auditory symptoms, sleep abnormalities, and headache,” and were left with conditions including mild traumatic brain injury and permanent hearing loss.
Press secretary Heather Nauert said last August that the U.S. personnel were being treated and “the incidents are no longer occurring.”
The first medically confirmed case since August, learned by the State Department late this morning, brings the total of affected members of the diplomatic community in Havana up to 25.
On June 21, Nauert told reporters at today’s State Department briefing, “following a comprehensive medical evaluation, one U.S. diplomat working at the U.S. Embassy Havana was medically confirmed to have experienced health effects similar to those that were reported by members of the U.S. Havana diplomatic community.”
The Cuban government was notified of the “occurrence,” she said, on May 29 and “assured us that they will continue to take this seriously and are continuing their investigation.”
“We strongly remind the Cuban government of its responsibility under the Vienna Convention to protect our diplomats.”
One other potentially affected employee who was also medically evacuated to the United States is still being evaluated at this time.
Nauert confirmed that a “number of individuals have returned to the United States from China” for medical testing of their symptoms and “some of them still do remain under evaluation at this point.”
“From China, we have one medically confirmed case at this point — one medically confirmed case. It does not mean that that number won’t change, but that is where it stands at this time,” she said.
On Cuba’s pledge to investigate the attacks, Nauert said, “I’m not going to characterize it in any way. I just want to state where things stand right now. All of this is still an ongoing investigation, as you all well know. We take this situation very seriously.” She did acknowledge “it’s a small island and they certainly — they would be aware of things going on.”
“We still don’t know to this date what is causing it and who is responsible. I want to make that very, very clear. With regard to China, there’s an investigation also underway and that is something that we will take very seriously,” she said. “And when we have more information, when we have better information on what is causing this, who is responsible for it, then we will certainly let you know, but I don’t have anything more for you on that.”
The U.S. has sharply downsized staff in Cuba in order to protect diplomats and their families. Cuba’s Foreign Ministry said mid-month that they urged the U.S. to “desist from the continued political manipulation of the alleged health cases.”
Scientists studying the ailments have not been able to pinpoint a cause. Two months ago, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told the Miami Herald that the FBI “has been able to rule out several theories in terms of the technology that was used, and I think there will come a time when we will know a little more.”