CIA’s ‘Havana Syndrome’ Briefing With Senators Reportedly Gets Heated

CIA's 'Havana Syndrome' Briefing With Senators Reportedly Gets Heated The White House, in Washington DC

CNN recently reported that federal agencies were investigating a possible incident near the White House where a National Security Council staffer developed symptoms similar to "Havana syndrome." (Dreamstine)

By Charlie McCarthy | Tuesday, 04 May 2021 07:57 AM

Senators and CIA officials last week reportedly engaged in a heated briefing about suspected energy attacks on U.S. intelligence officers.

Two sources told CNN the classified briefing was one of the most contentious in recent memory for the Senate Intelligence Committee, whose members demanded more information about the attacks and accountability for how CIA has handled them.

Senators were surprised they were learning about significant developments for the first time, and were frustrated they were not given more details.

Officials briefing the senators discussed previously unreported suspected cases in a European country this year, and indicated attacks on intelligence officials overseas were ongoing, sources said.

Agency officials believe attacks on U.S. personnel overseas could be the result of some type of weapon that aims pulsed radio frequency energy at its victims.

The attacks surfaced in 2016 and 2017, when diplomatic and intelligence personnel in Cuba first began reporting alarming symptoms that seemed to appear out of the blue. That is when the attacks became known as the "Havana syndrome."

Last week, CNN first reported that federal agencies were investigating a possible incident near the White House where a National Security Council staffer developed symptoms similar to "Havana syndrome," which often includes severe headaches, fatigue and loss of hearing.

Many current and former U.S. officials believe Russia is to blame.

New CIA director Bill Burns said he was committed to prioritizing an investigation into the attacks, but the contentious briefing revealed much work needs to be done on the issue, especially in terms of accountability for how the agency initially mishandled cases.

The agency failures include not properly providing medical care to affected officers official, and not coordinating the investigation with other government officials.

Members of the CIA task force looking into the attacks briefed the senators. No clear timeline of when certain information had been discovered was provided, nor was an explanation on why it was only being shared with the senators at the briefing.

Some intelligence committee members concluded the agency previously had been hiding that information from the lawmakers, the sources said.

The fierce briefing emphasized the frustration of Congressional members regarding the mysterious suspected energy attacks on U.S personnel internationally the past several years.

On Friday, the Senate Intelligence Committee issued a bipartisan saying the "pattern of attacking our fellow citizens serving our government appears to be increasing."

The statement also said that the committee was committed to "get to the bottom of this.”

"Our committee will continue to work with [Burns], and the rest of the Intelligence Community, to better understand the technology behind the weapon responsible for these attacks," said Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., the panel's top Republican.

"We will focus on ensuring we protect our personnel and provide the medical and financial support the victims deserve. Ultimately we will identify those responsible for these attacks on American personnel and will hold them accountable."

A committee spokeswoman declined comment to CNN on the briefing, pointing to the committee's statement.

Senators attending the briefing said CIA officials who mishandled the agency's response to the attacks from the start must be held accountable, according to one source.

Some criticism was aimed specifically toward CIA medical office officials, who initially doubted intelligence officials claiming they had been subjected to the mysterious attacks.

Burns, who said he has met with individuals affected by the alleged attacks, told the House intelligence committee last month he had appointed a senior officer to report directly to him on the matter.

"I've met with three different groups over several hours with my colleagues going back to Havana who have been affected by these incidents simply to make clear to them not only my personal priority,” Burns told the committee, “but that we take very seriously what they've experienced and have enormous respect for their sacrifice and their dedication and that we will get to the bottom of this.”