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New State Dept. report doesn’t release timeline of Cuba ‘sonic attacks’ as expected

The Harry S Truman Building in Washington DC. Headquarters of the US Department of State. (Loren/Wikimedia Commons)
August 31, 2018

The Accountability Review Board recently delivered a report to Congress regarding the sonic attacks against U.S. personnel in Cuba, but left out long-awaited details.

In the report, the ARB released the findings of their investigation, which officially cleared the State Department of any wrongdoing that would’ve caused or contributed to the response of unexplained sonic attacks in Cuba, but failed to provide a timeline of the attacks as expected, The Washington Free Beacon reported Thursday.

At least 25 U.S. personnel were affected by the unexplained sonic attacks while serving in Cuba, which government agencies call “unexplained health incidents.” The ARB conducted a four-month-long investigation of the incident, which intended to determine the facts of the situation to produce a report that would help prevent a similar incident in the future.

The highly anticipated report did not include a timeline of the sonic attacks, even though it was requested by five Cuban-American members of the House of Representatives. The State Department previously said the sonic attacks began at the end of the Obama Administration, and continued during the Trump Administration.

More than 116 individuals were interviewed, and 30 recommendations established in the fact-sheet.

“The ARB found the department’s security systems and procedures were overall adequate and properly implemented, though there were significant vacancies in security staffing and some challenges with information sharing and communication,” the report said.

“The ARB did not find any U.S. government employee engaged in misconduct or performed unsatisfactorily in a way that contributed to these incidents,” it added.

The ARB reportedly asked the General Accountability Office to provide a timeline and answer the remaining questions regarding whether or not the State Department failed to respond adequately to the incidents. The ARB set out to investigate that response, “including the adequacy of security and other related procedures.”

The State Department was criticized for failing to protect the residencies of U.S. diplomats working in Cuba – something they had provided for the past 50 years.

U.S. diplomats filed complaints about poor communication or warnings of dangers posed by working in Cuba, even after the sonic attacks began and health assessments were conducted.

The report also noted issues with security staffing vacancies, as well as challenges in communication. The report recommended the State Department appoint a “single, designated senior-level department official” tasked with response to health incidents.

The State Department said at least half of the ARB’s recommendations have already been implemented, and it is “actively working” to implement the remaining recommendations.

In June, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo established an inter-agency Health Incidents Response Task Force to deliver a collaborative response from multiple agencies in the event of health incidents such as the sonic attacks.

The State Department is also reportedly “identifying and reviewing applicable legal authorities and resources for long-term medical follow-up and treatment for U.S. government personnel and families impacted by the incidents in Cuba and will seek legislative remedies where necessary.”

The ARB recommended additional training programs for personnel to ensure they have adequate information on health incidents before responding.