What is the Havana Syndrome?

by mcardinal

Matt Bush, FISM News


Havana Syndrome is the common name given to a mysterious illness that has struck as many as 200 American diplomats and spies since 2016. Even after five years and 200 cases, the causes and symptoms of Havana Syndrome are still so widely misunderstood that there is no consensus amongst experts on how the phenomenon started or how to cure it.

The first known cases of Havana Syndrome happened to CIA officers stationed in Cuba in 2016. Because the first cases occurred within the CIA, information was slow to be released. According to the BBC, 26 personnel and family members stationed in Cuba around that time eventually reported a wide variety of symptoms. At the time at least some colleagues believed these symptoms to be “all in the mind.”

As more cases with similar symptoms began popping up around the world, it became increasingly clear that something was happening to Americans operating for the government around the world. 

Despite years of investigations since 2017, the U.S. government has not pinpointed a cause or motive of the alleged attacks. The only thing that is clear is that brain injuries are the common thread between the attacks, and many who have gone through it have suffered life-altering headaches and other brain injuries.

According to NBC News, “The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine argued that directed microwave energy is the most plausible explanation and noted that Russia has studied the technology more closely than any other nation.” Even with this information, the government has not officially described the cause of Havana Syndrome as having to do with directed microwaves.

Even today, almost six years after the first case, there is a lot of disagreement about what is really happening. Some still believe that the root cause is psychological, though that would be difficult if numerous people were reporting the same “psychological issue.” Others believe that Havana Syndrome is the result of secret surveillance or targeted weapons by American enemies.

Those who have suffered are now speaking out about it. One witness described the affliction to NBC News: “The way the doctor boiled it down for me … he said, ‘Well, it’s like you aged, you know, 20, 25 years all at once.’” The witness, was diagnosed with “acquired brain injury related to a directional phenomenon exposure.” 

Havana Syndrome is back in the news as a result of the Biden administration’s defense-spending bill. That bill contained a $30 million provision for victims of Havana Syndrome. According to Business Insider, the actual text of the bill “shows a $30 million increase in funding for care for ‘anomalous health incidents,’ a term that U.S. government uses to describe the syndrome.

During the Trump administration, many top officials remained skeptical of the Havana Syndrome and did not put much, if any, emphasis on the issue. The Biden administration has taken a different approach. Biden signed legislation in October that guaranteed sufferers access to medical care, and the administration has gone all-in on the legitimacy and seriousness of the Havana Syndrome.