The FBI has acknowledged for the first time that some of its agents may have suffered from symptoms of the mysterious “Havana Syndrome.”
The bureau’s acknowledgment of possible agent cases was first reported by NBC News after the outlet obtained internal emails that showed an agent had reported possible brain injury symptoms after working in a country near Russia a decade ago.
About 200 American diplomats, officials and their family members are believed to have been struck by the bizarre ailment — described by the US government as “anomalous health incidents” – while overseas.
“This 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 bureau said in a statement, adding it would continue working with the intelligence community to “identify the causes of these incidents and determine how we can best protect our personnel.”
Havana Syndrome is so named because the first incidents of it were reported by US officials serving in Cuba in 2016. Symptoms include migraines, nausea, memory lapses and dizziness.
The exact cause of Havana Syndrome is unknown, but many officials believe it is rooted in radiation attacks carried out by Russia. The US government has never publicly held any nation responsible for the incidents and a number of alternative explanations have been put forward — including that crickets are to blame for the illness.
Victims and lawmakers have accused federal agencies of not taking the illness seriously, and current and former officials told Reuters the FBI had previously been skeptical of agents’ reports of experiencing Havana Syndrome symptoms.
“The FBI takes all US government personnel who report symptoms seriously,” the bureau said in its statement.
CIA Director William Burns recently put a career spy, who was involved in the search for Osama bin Laden, in charge of leading a probe into the mysterious ailments. The agency also recalled its Vienna chief of station in September due, in part, to his alleged mishandling of reported Havana Syndrome cases.
The station chief, whose identity is highly classified, expressed skepticism that the reports of illness were genuine, the Washington Post reported at the time.
With Post wires