The mystery behind the ‘Havana Syndrome’

Havana syndrome links mystery illness to Russian intelligence unit

HAVANA, Jan. 27th The U.S. embassy in Cuba restarted full service earlier this month. It was closed for nearly six years following tensions with the administration of former President Trump. Several staffers who worked in the embassy reported illnesses and what the Central Intelligence Agency called “anomalous health incidents.”

Approximately two dozen American diplomats posted in Havana first heard piercing, metallic hissing in 2016. They began experiencing nausea, vertigo, headaches, and other cognitive ailments. But doctors haven’t figured out what could have made them sick.

Theories include the use of sonic weapons launched by foreign actors like Russia. But the CIA has dismissed that idea, saying most cases of “Havana Syndrome” actually stem from other pre-existing medical conditions. Still, the CIA says some cases are unexplainable.

The new investigative podcast “The Sound: Mystery of Havana Syndrome” explores what we know about this mysterious illness – and what questions remain.

Journalist Nicky Woolf walks listeners through the international story and theories of what happened.

The experience has left many diplomats and CIA officers who are experiencing these ailments disillusioned, though some recompense from the federal government is on the way.

“It’s incumbent on [the CIA] to provide the medical help we require, which does not include telling us that we’re all making it up,” former CIA officer Marc Polymeropoulos told GQ Magazine in 2020. “I want the Agency to treat this as a combat injury.”

We discuss it all with Woolf, Polymeropoulos, and Dr. James Giordano, professor of neurology, at Georgetown University and one of the medical investigators of “Havana Syndrome.”