The administration is pushing to identify the source of the “abnormal health incidents” experienced by US diplomats, Blinken said.
Biden administration vowed to ‘shed light’ on why many US diplomats suffer from mysterious health symptoms known as ‘Havana syndrome’, said Secretary of State Antony Blinken .
In a speech addressing the issue on Friday, Blinken pledged to “seriously” tackle “abnormal health incidents” affecting US officials. He announced the appointment of Margaret Uyehara as senior care coordinator for affected employees and Jonathan Moore as coordinator of the State Department’s Health Incident Response Task Force.
First reported in the Cuban capital Havana in 2016, symptoms include dizziness, headache and ringing in the ears. U.S. Foreign Service and intelligence personnel around the world have reported experiencing similar incidents. The source of the disease remains largely uncertain.
âThese incidents have caused profound harm to our colleagues,â said Blinken. âThey suffered serious physical consequences, including persistent headaches and hearing loss. They also suffered psychological damage including trauma, anxiety, depression. “
The secretary encouraged employees to report symptoms if they experience any, saying security and medical personnel at every U.S. diplomatic post have been instructed to take the reports seriously.
âWe are working tirelessly with partners across government to identify the root cause of these incidents and to find out who is responsible,â said Blinken.
“This is an urgent priority for President Biden, for me, for our entire government. And we will do absolutely everything we can, leaving no stone unturned to stop these events as quickly as possible.”
In August, possible cases of “Havana Syndrome” at the US Embassy in Hanoi delayed Vice President Kamala Harris‘ visit to Vietnam by three hours.
There have been theories that the symptoms could be caused by microwaves deliberately targeting US officials overseas.
Late last year, a report commissioned by the State Department by a committee of the National Academy of Sciences stated that “directed and pulsed radio frequency energy appears to be the most plausible explanation” for the symptoms. .
But a 2018 State Department report analyzing recordings of mysterious noises heard by U.S. diplomats in Cuba ruled out that microwaves could produce unwanted sounds and medical effects.
âWe believe that the recorded sounds are of mechanical or biological origin, rather than electronic. The most likely source is the Indian short-tailed cricket, âreports the report, first revealed by Buzzfeed last month, said.
Yet the report says noise alone does not explain the long-term medical symptoms experienced by diplomats.
Blinken said on Friday that US officials were “deeply” affected by the incidents.
The State Department later said in a statement that the issue was a top priority for the administration.
“This was a major concern for Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken even before he was sworn in, who requested and received a full briefing from the outgoing administration during the transition,” the department said. “Put simply, he and his team have no higher priority than protecting and caring for our people.”