| 27 May 2024, Monday |

CIA removes Vienna station chief over handling of Havana syndrome cases: Report

Amid criticism that Vienna, Austria’s station chief did not take seriously a surge in mysterious “Havana syndrome” cases, CIA removed him, the Washington Post reported Thursday.

Dozens of cases affecting embassy staff and Central Intelligence Agency officers and family members have been reported in Vienna recently, but the unnamed station chief expressed skepticism and showed insensitivity, the Post said, citing intelligence sources.

A CIA spokesperson rejected to affirm or deny the report, but said the agency takes seriously scores of possible incidents of the mysterious ailment in US diplomatic missions around the world.

The cause and source remains enigmatic, CIA Deputy Director David Cohen said last week.

“Have we gotten closer? I think the answer is yes — but not close enough to make the analytic judgment that people are waiting for,” he said.

The US government, including the CIA and Pentagon, has ramped up staff to investigate and provide treatment for the cases.

Dubbed “Havana syndrome” because reports of the condition first showed up in the Cuban capital, the ailment is marked by bloody noses, headaches, vision problems and other symptoms that resemble concussions.

Some people experiencing it have reported hearing focused, high-pitched or sharp sounds that left them nauseated.

The incidents are little understood and have sparked theories that they were caused by a weapon that used focused microwaves, ultrasound, poison or are even a reaction to crickets.

But for several years, senior government officials dismissed the complaints, judging them to be the symptoms of people under stress or reacting with hysteria to unknown stimuli.

The administration of Joe Biden has geared up the investigation into what have been renamed anomalous health incidents, or AHI.

  • AFP