CIA outlines plan to combat “Havana Syndrome”


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The CIA is stepping up efforts to address the cause and effect of mysterious sonic incidents believed to be attacks that injured US officials by increasing medical staff and assigning an agency veteran, the Osama bin Laden was chasing the agency’s director, William J. Burns, said in an interview on Thursday.

“I am convinced that what our officers and some family members and other US government officials have experienced is real and serious,” Burns told NPR in his first interview since taking over the CIA three months ago.

“We’re very focused on getting to the bottom of this,” he said.

In March, just before Mr. Burns, a professional diplomat, took office, the CIA set up a task force to expand efforts to find the cause of what is known as Havana Syndrome – unexplained episodes affecting their officers and injured other US government employees in Cuba, China, Russia and elsewhere.

The task force will work with the State Department and other intelligence agencies to gather new evidence about the incidents and re-examine material to draw conclusions about whether there were attacks and, if so, what caused the injuries and who was responsible is.

“We have tripled the number of full-time medical personnel at the CIA focusing on these issues,” Burns said of efforts to help the victims. “We have shortened the waiting time for our officers to arrive at Walter Reed from more than eight weeks to less than two weeks.”

He said another part of the team, led by an unnamed official who “led the successful hunt for bin Laden a decade ago,” focused on finding the culprits behind the attacks and identifying the technology they were using.

“We’re throwing the best we have on this matter,” added Mr. Burns, who said the team’s work was based on a 2020 National Academy of Sciences finding that an as-yet-unidentified foreign actor is a ” directed energy “launched” in American installations.

Mr Burns, who was ambassador to Russia from 2005 to 2008, was also asked about the precarious state of the Afghan military as western countries withdrew their troops.

He said he believed the Afghan government had the military capability to stop the Taliban, provided it had “the political will and unity of leadership” to “resist the Taliban.”

However, he was quick to admit that “the trendlines are certainly troubling”.

Equally ambiguous was Mr Burns when asked after the CIA’s investigation whether the coronavirus came from a laboratory in Wuhan, China.

“The honest answer today,” he said, “is that we cannot make a definitive statement as to whether this was due to a laboratory accident or whether it was due to natural transmission from infected animals to humans.”

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