Over the past months, 21 American diplomats were victims of “acoustic attacks” that caused a slew of bizarre health problems such as hearing loss and brain injury. Other symptoms include problems with concentration and memory, an inability to recall specific words, tinnitus, a loud ringing in the ears, nausea, problems with balance and nosebleeds.
The attacks occurred in several locations in Cuba, such as private homes and the top floor of the recently renovated Hotel Capri in Havana. Officials claim they are baffled by the laser-like precision of the “acoustic attacks”, which have been reported to be confined to specific rooms or event parts of rooms.
In one case an American diplomat staying at a hotel in Havana claimed he was jolted awake by a “blaring, grinding” noise.
When he got out of bed and moved a few feet away, there was silence. When he climbed back into bed the agonizing sound hit him again.
Soon he suffered hearing loss and speech problems — symptoms that are both similar and quite different from those experienced by many other Americans in Cuba.
– ABC News, US diplomats in Cuba hit with mysterious ‘acoustic’ attacks, causing hearing loss and brain injury
Officials at State Department believe that employees at the US embassy in Havana are targeted by a “covert sonic device” that causes various symptoms and even brain injury.
In several episodes recounted by U.S. officials, victims knew it was happening in real time, and there were strong indications of a sonic attack.
Some felt vibrations, and heard sounds — loud ringing or a high-pitch chirping similar to crickets or cicadas. Others heard the grinding noise. Some victims awoke with ringing in their ears and fumbled for their alarm clocks, only to discover the ringing stopped when they moved away from their beds.
The attacks seemed to come at night. Several victims reported they came in minute-long bursts.
Yet others heard nothing, felt nothing. Later, their symptoms came.
While some victims recovered from the attacks, others suffered permanent hearing loss and even traumatic brain injury (i.e. a concussion).
Various experts weighed into the issue and many believe that these symptoms cannot be caused by acoustics alone. Some say that targeted localized beams of sound are possible, but the laws of acoustics suggest that such a device would be too big to conceal. Others claim that no single sonic gadget could explain the array of symptoms.
“Brain damage and concussions, it’s not possible,” said Joseph Pompei, a former MIT researcher and psychoacoustics expert. “Somebody would have to submerge their head into a pool lined with very powerful ultrasound transducers.”
AP, Cuba mystery grows: New details on what befell US diplomats
While a fog of mystery surrounds the identity of the weapon used to carry out these “acoustic attacks”, another mystery is also unresolved:
Who is Behind This?
Although several theories are floating around regarding the culprits of the attacks, no clear answer has surfaced. The Cuban government has vehemently denied ordering this covert operation. An official statement from the Cuban government stated:
“Cuba has never, nor would it ever, allow that the Cuban territory be used for any action against accredited diplomatic agents or their families, without exception.”
The US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has called on Cuba to find the culprits.
“We do hold the Cuban authorities [responsible] for the safety and security of all of our people,” he said last month. “So we hold the Cuban authorities responsible for finding out who it is carrying out these health attacks.”
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Thursday:
“The investigation into all of this is still under way. It is an aggressive investigation. We will continue doing this until we find out who or what is responsible for this.”
Some believe that a third party country could be behind the attacks – namely Russia – in order to test top-secret sonic weapons or to harass US officials.
These events are reminiscent of the infamous Moscow signal attacks from the 1970’s which involved the KGB “zapping” the US embassy building with microwaves. Not unlike the current case in Cuba, the Amercian government appeared unwilling to reveal the true cause and purpose of these invisible attacks.
According to this 1988 article about the Moscow signal, a theory suggested that “the Soviets were trying to induce psychological, behavioral or physiological effects among American personnel”.