US Consulate Personnel Mystery In Cuba Few Are Talking About
July 2015, Obama proudly strutted his stuff as he reopened relations with Cuba along with the US Consulate office. Many Cuban refugees here were upset as well as those who had lived through the Cuban Missile crisis and the worry about a close Russia/Cuban relationship on our southernmost vulnerable border.
Some sanctions were lifted and limited travel opened up to begin working with the Cuban regime to supposedly bring about a better economic and political outlook between the two nations. All appeared for a time to be the start of a new beginning. Then in August 2016 almost completely ignored by most media and US citizens something mysterious happened to people who had begun settling in there at the newly opened location.
ABC and a few other media posted a brief note that a “Mystery shrouds ‘incidents’ in Cuba involving US embassy personnel.” The issue was quietly reported and quickly faded away as more pressing “Anti-Trump” headlines took over once again. ABC did note in the article that the Canadian government indicated its diplomatic personnel had also been affected.
In the fall of 2016, a series of U.S. diplomats began suffering unexplained losses of hearing, according to officials with knowledge of the investigation into the case. Several of the diplomats were recent arrivals at the embassy, which reopened in 2015 as part of former President Barack Obama’s reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba.
Some of the diplomats’ symptoms were so severe that they were forced to cancel their tours early and return to the United States, officials said. Several reportedly sustained serious hearing loss issues from whatever occurred.
After months of investigation, U.S. officials concluded that the diplomats had been exposed to an advanced device that operated outside the range of audible sound and had been deployed either inside or outside their residences. It was not immediately clear if the device was a weapon used in a deliberate attack, or had some other purpose.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the U.S. retaliated by expelling two Cuban diplomats from their embassy in Washington on May 23. She did not say how many U.S. diplomats were affected or confirm they had suffered hearing loss, saying only that they had “a variety of physical symptoms.”
The seriousness of the 2016 incident was then dropped briefly until August 2017 when the New York Post carried an article in which CBS was quoted as saying “A doctor who evaluated American and Canadian diplomats complaining about hearing loss and nausea while working in Cuba said they are suffering from traumatic brain injuries and possible damage to their central nervous systems.
By the end of September 2017 tensions over the incident had escalated as worries mounted for the safety of the remaining nonemergency personnel. The State Department via a teleconference communicated with their senior State Department officials.
The Department ordered the departure of nonemergency personnel assigned to the U.S. embassy in Havana, as well as all family members. Over the past several months, at least 21 U.S. embassy employees have been targeted in specific attacks. The health, safety, and well-being of our embassy community are our greatest concerns. Investigations into the attacks are ongoing, as investigators have been unable to determine who or what is causing these attacks. The Department will issue a Travel Warning for U.S. citizens not to travel to Cuba, and informing them of our decision to draw down our diplomatic staff.
I want to stress that the decision to reduce our diplomatic presence in Havana was made to ensure the safety of our personnel. We maintain diplomatic relations with Cuba and our work in Cuba continues to be guided by the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States. We are continuing our investigation into the attacks and the Cuba – the Cuban Government has told us they will continue their efforts as well.
Q & A after the statement from a few reporters:
Q: I know you said that you do not know who is responsible. Have you ruled out that possibly a third country could be involved?
A: We have not ruled out the possibility of a third country as a part of the investigation, but that investigation continues and will continue irrespective of the ordered departure. We will continue to investigate this – these attacks and to get to the bottom of them.
Q: It doesn’t seem as if the ambassador or maybe like the very top people in the embassy were targeted. So why do you think that Americans are at risk, and what would you say to – obviously, you need to protect your personnel, but what would you say to those who are concerned that by warning Americans not to go there, this is more of a political – politicization of it?
A: With regard to the threat to American citizens, the – there’s no more important mission for the State Department or a U.S. embassy overseas than to protect and advise Americans on potential threats to their safety, health, and well-being. The fact that some of these attacks have occurred in hotels where American citizens could be at and that we have no way of advising American citizens on how they could mitigate such attacks, we felt we must warn them on not to travel to Cuba until we understand and know more about the source and means and ways to mitigate these attacks that are occurring.
Q: When you say that the Cuban Government is cooperating, can you give us any more information about whether or not their offer to have the FBI go has been responded to, whether the FBI is on the ground in Havana? Who is investigating this for the U.S. Government in Havana and how far along has the investigation come? What – how would you describe the status of the investigation?
A: I would describe the cooperation that the Cuban Government has given to our efforts to understand what is happening in this – these attacks to have been ongoing, and we expect it to continue. With respect to questions related to the investigation, I would refer you to the Department of Justice.
According to Secretary Tillerson’s October 3 press statement, something more from their investigations must have occurred to end closer Cuban consulate ties.
On October 3, the Department of State informed the Government of Cuba that it was ordering the departure of 15 of its officials from its embassy in Washington, D.C. The decision was made due to Cuba’s failure to take appropriate steps to protect our diplomats in accordance with its obligations under the Vienna Convention. This order will ensure equity in our respective diplomatic operations. We continue to maintain diplomatic relations with Cuba, and will continue to cooperate with Cuba as we pursue the investigation into these attacks.
Fox News, October 8, 2017: Since we issued the September 29 Travel Warning, we have received a handful of reports from U.S. citizens who report they experienced similar symptoms following stays in Cuba,” a State Department official told CBS News. “We have no way of verifying whether they were harmed by the same attacks targeting official U.S. employees.”
In some of the cases, U.S. operatives have suffered brain injury and hearing loss that has not healed. The American spies affected also reported hearing an unsettling sound inside and sometimes outside their Havana homes, described as similar to loud crickets. Then they fell ill with a range of physical symptoms.
This sounds more “007 cold war-ish” than reality. I don’t see how such a sophisticated health attack could have occurred from those in the Cuban community and government given the economy has basically been frozen in time since the crisis and has aged poorly under Castro. (So much for a socialist style of government.)
I could see another “player” in this game, especially one of the more advanced communist countries who have actively engaged scientific communities and far more sophisticated capabilities.