US intelligence on Wednesday, March 1, said it was "highly unlikely" that a foreign power or weapon was the cause of the mysterious Havana Syndrome, the unexplained disorder that has affected dozens of American diplomats or embassy employees.
“Based on a collective effort involving the intelligence agencies (…), I can share with you that most of them have now concluded that it is highly unlikely that any foreign entity is responsible” for these unrest, the National Intelligence Director said in a statement. Avril Haines clarified that the agencies had varying levels of "confidence" in their assessment.
U.S. intelligence still believes that the symptoms observed by these employees were "probably due to factors not involving a foreign entity such as pre-existing conditions, conventional illnesses, or environmental factors," according to the statement.
Ms. Haines, along with CIA Director William Burns and other U.S. officials were quick to say that these findings do not question or downplay "in any way" the actual unrest reported by those affected.
These health problems (migraines, dizziness, nausea, blurred vision, etc.) first struck American and Canadian diplomats stationed in Cuba in 2016, hence its name "Havana syndrome".
These "abnormal health incidents", to use the terminology used in the United States, were then reported elsewhere in the world (China, Germany, Australia, Russia, Austria) and even in Washington.
The hypothesis of electromagnetic waves questioned
Havana syndrome remains to this day unexplained by scientists who have multiplied the hypotheses.
However, seven intelligence agencies have reviewed approximately 1,000 cases of "abnormal health incidents" over the past few years and five of them concluded that it was "very unlikely" that the disturbances were caused by a deliberate attack.
One of the agencies deems this hypothesis as "improbable" only, while another refrains from concluding, according to the report.
This conclusion seems to run counter to an expert report published a year ago that electromagnetic waves could have been in some cases the cause of the mysterious syndrome, thus supporting the thesis of deliberate attacks.
But in its latest assessment, US intelligence concluded that "there is no credible evidence that a foreign adversary has a weapon or mechanism that has caused this unrest."
The CIA had already last year judged it "unlikely" that a foreign entity could have launched a systematic campaign targeting employees in American embassies around the world but did not rule it out in about 20 cases.
" Lack of transparency "
For lawyer Mark Zaid, who says he represents more than 20 suffering people, "this latest assessment by American intelligence lacks transparency and we continue to question the accuracy of these conclusions".
“It is inconceivable that in view of the many unanswered questions that this report today is the last word,” he said.
In August 2021, US Vice President Kamala Harris' visit to Hanoi was delayed three hours after such an alert in the Vietnamese capital.
In September 2017, former President Donald Trump ordered the departure of almost all employees of the United States Embassy in Havana, because of this supposed "syndrome".
The American embassy resumed in early January the issuance of visas for Cubans wishing to settle in the United States.