Russia’s military intelligence unit, known as the GRU, is suspected to be the culprit behind a string of mysterious, illness-inducing sonic attacks targeting Americans both overseas and inside the U.S.
Although the U.S. intelligence community has not yet reached a consensus on a definitive link to the GRU, three current and former officials told Politico on Monday that the GRU is a likely suspect. A congressional official briefed on the matter told Politico the 18 U.S. federal intelligence agencies have begun to focus on the GRU’s potential involvement in the sonic attacks.
“It looks, smells and feels like the GRU,” one former national security official involved in the investigation told Politico. “When you are looking at the landscape, there are very few people who are willing, capable and have the technology. It’s pretty simple forensics.”
The GRU, which in Russian stands for the Main Intelligence Division, is the intelligence arm of the Russian military. Politico reported the Russian military intelligence unit is known for past high-profile operations around the world, including during Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and efforts to interfere in the 2016 and 2018 U.S. elections. The GRU reportedly has a known footprint in each of the countries where sonic attacks have been suspected, including in the U.S.
Sonic attacks have reportedly targeted American diplomats in Cuba, China and Russia, U.S. troops in Syria, and a White House staffer and secret service agents in and around Washington D.C. On Friday, President Joe Biden’s White House announced they have been reviewing the intelligence surrounding the mysterious attacks.
A current U.S. official briefed on the investigation said GRU agents “are the only ones [we] know have the capability to attack our people like that on our soil.”
The first attack was reported in late 2016 at the U.S. Embassy in Havana Cuba. Victims of the suspected attacks reported hearing grating noises and experiencing sensations of heat and pressure, followed by the onset of nausea and even memory loss. The strange illness has come to be known as “Havana Syndrome.” Past investigatory efforts have assessed the symptoms are consistent with a directed radiofrequency energy system.
Another 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.
Two Politico sources said Biden’s CIA Director William Burns is deepening his involvement in the investigation and has been receiving daily briefings on the status of the effort.
A spokesperson for Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said the intelligence community (IC) has “no definitive information about the cause of these incidents” and has not concluded whether a foreign actor is definitively responsible.
While no specific weapon has been identified as the one responsible for the illness-inducing incidents, the former national security advisor and the Congressional official said such a device could be transported by vehicle or even by an individual carrying it in a large backpack. The weapon may even be used to target individuals standing between 500 and 1,000 yards away.