At least 130 Americans have been hit by suspected sonic attacks over the last five years, according to current and former officials who spoke with the New York Times on Wednesday. Those Americans include diplomats, federal officers, military service members, and even a 2-year-old child.
The first of these mysterious and illness-inducing incidents targeted diplomats at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba in 2016 and have continued for nearly five years in the U.S. and abroad. Victims reported hearing a grating sound and feeling pressure or heat, followed by the onset of nausea, dizziness, and head or neck pain. The symptoms of these sonic attacks have since come to be known as “Havana Syndrome.”
The number of Americans affected by these suspected sonic attacks was previously estimated to be about 60 publicly confirmed cases, according to the New York Times. Those numbers came primarily from the Cuba incident and another early 2017 incident in China. The latest analysis, derived from the accounts of more than 20 current and former officials, more than doubles the estimated number of attacks.
The new numbers come from cases in Europe and elsewhere in Asia amid President Joe Biden’s administration’s new thorough review effort following other incidents reported in recent months.
Since December, at least three CIA officers have reportedly exhibited these “Havana Syndrome” symptoms during their overseas travels. One incident reportedly occurred within the last two weeks, and all three incidents have required the officers to undergo outpatient treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and other facilities.
One previously unreported 2019 incident reportedly involved an attack on a military officer stationed overseas who was driving in a car with his two-year-old child. According to four New York Times sources who described the incident, the officer pulled into an intersection and began feeling nausea and headaches while his son began to cry. Once he pulled away from the intersection, his headaches cleared and his son’s tears stopped.
Both the father and the son received medical attention, but it is unclear if they have suffered any long-term health effects. The incident angered officials in both President Donald Trump’s administration as well as the Biden administration.
Other attacks have been suspected within the U.S. including an incident involving a White House staffer traveling in Virginia and another against secret service agents stationed near the White House Ellipse in Washington D.C. in November.
Investigators are still trying to determine who may be behind the attacks. Russia has reportedly been considered the primary suspect, though China has also been suspected.
This week, Politico reported Russia’s military intelligence unit, known as the GRU, has become a primary suspect, according to U.S. officials.
One U.S. official told Politico that Israel and China also may possess the technology to launch illness-inducing directed radiofrequency energy attacks, but neither country has the same presence in all of the suspected attack locations, nor have they shown the desire to attack Americans in this fashion. Russia’s GRU is believed to have not only the means to carry out the attacks but also the existing presence in the various attack locations that have been reported.
Still, the investigation remains open and no consensus has been reached.
“As of now, we have no definitive information about the cause of these incidents, and it is premature and irresponsible to speculate,” Amanda J. Schoch, the spokeswoman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, told the New York Times.
Moscow has also repeatedly denied it is behind the various suspected attacks.