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U.S. intelligence agencies convene new panel to investigate Havana Syndrome

The unexplained health incidents have now occurred among at least 130 people in Cuba, Austria, the U.K. and China

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A panel of experts convened to identify the cause and potential mechanisms of the mysterious illnesses known as the “Havana Syndrome,” will be led by senior intelligence officers to examine the unexplained health incidents among American personnel.

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The panel led by senior officers from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the CIA “will work collectively to increase understanding of the possible mechanisms that are causing these anomalous health incidents.” Also on the panel are private-sector scientific experts already cleared to access classified material, the Miami Herald reports.

The strange sensory phenomenon started in 2016, when U.S. diplomats in Cuba reported experiencing mysterious ailments. To date, the ailments of more than 130 U.S. diplomats, CIA officers and National Security Council officials stationed overseas — including in Britain, China and Austria — and in the U.S. have baffled health experts.

They have described experiencing sudden sound pressure or heat, vertigo, nausea, and head or neck pain that government physicians have been unable to diagnose.

Since taking office, President Joe Biden has stepped up the investigation begun by then-President Trump, by setting up two panels. The second will focus on creating protective measures for other U.S. personnel. Neither panel has been given a deadline.

The CIA’s new director, Bill Burns, is “personally engaged with personnel affected by anomalous health incidents and is highly committed to their care and to determining the cause of these incidents,” a CIA spokesperson told the McClatchy media group.

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National Security Council personnel have this year focused on centralizing reporting and standardizing treatment for those affected across agencies and departments, in an effort to help identify any patterns.

“The National Security Council is co-ordinating a full review of intelligence reporting to ascertain whether there may be previously unreported incidents that fit a broader pattern,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Monday.

The new panels have been given broader access to classified information than were last year’s National Academy of Sciences experts who studied the matter for the Trump administration, which should allow them to complete a more thorough examination.

The phenomenon gained public attention after a cluster of American diplomats at the U.S. Embassy in Havana experienced symptoms in commonm but a handful of reported cases may have occurred prior to their incidents.

Officials suspect a foreign power is behind the attacks that may be using some form of directed energy.

The issue was discussed when Biden met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva last month, but no details have been provided.

“At this time, we still don’t know the cause of these incidents or whether they constitute an attack of some kind by a foreign actor,” Psaki said. “These are areas of active inquiry, something our intelligence community is working on — and very focused on.”

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