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CIA Recalls Top Officer From Austria Following Failure to Respond to Incidents of 'Havana Syndrome'

© AP Photo / Carolyn KasterThis April 13, 2016 file photo shows the seal of the Central Intelligence Agency at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va. James Pars, a CIA intelligence officer, says his career was derailed after he complained that his boss at a base in a conflict zone repeatedly ordered personnel to travel through dangerous areas on non-essential trips to shop and buy food
This April 13, 2016 file photo shows the seal of the Central Intelligence Agency at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va. James Pars, a CIA intelligence officer, says his career was derailed after he complained that his boss at a base in a conflict zone repeatedly ordered personnel to travel through dangerous areas on non-essential trips to shop and buy food - Sputnik International, 1920, 24.09.2021
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From Australia and India to Africa and United States – cases of the mysterious "Havana Syndrome" involving US officials continue to grow. Investigations conducted since 2016, when the first known cases were reported in the Cuban capital (hence the name of the ailment), have provided no clear explanation of what causes the illness.
The Central Intelligence Agency has recalled its top officer in Vienna, Austria, after employees complained about a failure to respond to a growing number of enigmatic health incidents with symptoms related to the so-called "Havana Syndrome", The Washington Post has reported, citing current and former officials.
According to the newspaper, the removal should send a message to other intelligence officials as well as other government workers that they should take reports of the ailment seriously.

The development follows hot on the heels of a top official in the State Department tasked with overseeing cases of the "Havana Syndrome" resigning after six months on the job. The department said Pamela Spratlen was leaving because she had "reached the threshold of hours of labour" as a retiree. Yet, reports say her resignation could be linked to a recent teleconference with US personnel suffering from "Havana Syndrome" during which the victims asked questions about an FBI investigation that found the mysterious illness was of psychological origin and not physical.

Spratlen declined to comment on the veracity of the investigation, which prompted anger among the affected personnel.

New Hotbed

The first known cases of the unknown illness occurred in 2016 in the Cuban capital, but it wasn't until 2017 that the media reported about them. At the time, a group of US diplomats as well as their relatives suddenly fell ill. Symptoms ranged from severe headaches, constant fatigue, dizziness, loss of balance, memory, and hearing, and "cognitive fog". Similar symptoms were also reported by Canadian diplomats in Cuba.
A later examination of the affected US officials revealed that they had signs of concussions and other brain injuries. In the wake of the incident, the United States blamed Cuba for what Washington described as "sonic attacks", a claim Havana has categorically denied. Officials later claimed that Russia could be behind the incident.

A subsequent investigation failed to provide a clear explanation of what caused the bizarre illness. According to a report by a US National Academy of Sciences panel "directed, pulsed radio frequency energy appears to be the most plausible" rationale for the ailment. The report did not attribute any blame for the attacks.

Since 2016 cases of an unknown illness affecting American personnel overseas have been reported in all corners of the globe, including in Australia, China, Colombia, India, Russia, Taiwan, and even on US soil. According to NBC, around 200 people have been affected by the "Havana Syndrome". Last month, US Vice President Kamala Harris had to delay her trip to Vietnam after two American officials were struck down by an enigmatic illness with symptoms consistent with the "Havana Syndrome".

The Austrian capital Vienna has now become a new hotbed. According to The Washington Post, dozens of people, including the children of US employees, have been affected by the ailment, more so than in any other city except Havana. The illness later prompted the closure of the offices of the US mission in Austria, one American official told the newspaper.

US intelligence agencies are currently conducting their own investigation into the matter, with the results expected to be released this year. Deputy Director of the CIA David Cohen said the agency is trying to determine the source of the incidents.

"In terms of 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.

Earlier this month, a panel of experts affiliated with the Cuban Academy of Sciences issued a report, saying there was no scientific evidence of the purported "attacks" on US personnel in Havana.

"We conclude that the narrative of the 'mysterious syndrome' is not scientifically acceptable in any of its components", read the report.

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