Report Criticizes C.I.A.’s Initial Handling of Havana Syndrome Cases
WASHINGTON — The CIA submitted an inspector general report critical of the agency’s handling of initial reports of alleged Havana syndrome injuries to Congress this week, according to current and former officials.
The report said people briefed the findings, criticizing the way top Central Intelligence Agency doctors in the Office of Health Services responded to unexplained incidents in the government. Trump administration, when some CIA officials suspected illnesses related to Havana syndrome. As a result, many people with symptoms find it difficult to get prompt medical care.
Diplomats and CIA employees began reporting illnesses arising from strange incidents starting in 2016 in Havana. Since then, government employees and family members in China, Austria, Serbia and other locations around the world have also reported symptoms.
The report comes as the agency has begun paying some victims of what the government calls unusual health incidents. Those victims were frustrated with intelligence conclusion that the injuries were not the result of a worldwide campaign by a hostile nationsuch as Russia.
CIA officials declined to discuss the details of the report, but a spokeswoman said the review covered the years 2016 to 2020 and acknowledged finding weaknesses in the agency’s response. .
The Mystery of Havana Syndrome
What is Havana Syndrome? The mysterious diseasewhich has affected military officers, CIA employees and diplomats around the world, manifesting in a range of ailments such as chronic headaches, dizziness and nausea.
“The assessment demonstrates the challenge of simultaneously understanding and responding effectively to the myriad challenges associated with unusual health incidents that complicate the response,” said Susan Miller, a spokeswoman for the CIA. agency response during this period.
The report, sent to lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, was largely classified. The victims called on the government on Friday to declassify the report, or at least its conclusions.
Marc E. Polymeropoulos, a former CIA officer with symptoms of Havana syndrome, said: “The report is required to be made public because the victim deserves to know what really happened. on a trip to Moscow in 2017. “The health care delays that put so many people through their recovery have been complicated.”
The Office of Health Services has long been criticized by CIA officers seeking to treat symptoms associated with Havana syndrome.
During the Trump administration, many officials were extremely skeptical of incidents of Havana syndrome, influenced by an FBI document that concluded many of them could be psychotic reactions. A follow-up study by outside experts overseen by the National Security Council and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence found that in many cases, physical injuries to the brain cannot be explained by stress or other mental illness.
Soon after becoming CIA director, William J. Burns dismissed as head of Health Services, replacing him with a physician focused on patient care.
Burns also made it easier for CIA officers to meet brain injury specialists at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. In the statement, Miller emphasized that the CIA has taken steps to improve health care for officers who have reported Havana syndrome symptoms.
“As we learn from the past and look to the future, we have expanded our access to resources and care significantly over the past year and a half,” she said.
Many experts who have studied brain scans of victims believe that at least some of the incidents are caused by directed energy or radio waves.
But calls from the CIA, State Department and Pentagon at the outset of the Biden administration asking government officials to report possible incidents yielded hundreds of reports, most of which were interpreted as environmental causes or undiagnosed medical conditions.
The CIA has been investigating the cases with a new group of officers since Mr. Burns took over. While some victims believe the incidents were caused by a foreign power, CIA investigators have yet to find any evidence to support that conclusion.
Some individual incidents may be the result of hostile action or a listening device being turned into a weapon, but no single enemy can be held responsible for various incidents around the world, according to government officials.