Top Homeland Security officials from former President Donald Trump’s administration told 60 Minutes this week that they suffered symptoms of vertigo, confusion and memory loss while at the White House and elsewhere in Washington, D.C. The symptoms are similar to those of the mysterious “Havana Syndrome,” which has been reported by U.S. government personnel since 2016.
According to CBS News on Thursday, former National Security Adviser John Bolton corroborated the officials’ stories and said he fears the highest levels of the United States government are at risk.
“If we were at war and an adversary could disable the president and his top advisers, or commanders in the field, it could render us extraordinarily vulnerable,” Bolton told correspondent Scott Pelley. “We don’t know that that’s the threat we’re facing. But I would much rather focus on finding out the answer now, rather than finding out later when it may be too late.”
State Department security officer Mark Lenzi, who worked at the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, China, described the long-term symptoms he dealt with during an interview in 2019.
“The symptoms were progressively getting worse with me,” Lenzi said at the time. “My headaches were getting worse. The most concerning symptom for me was memory loss, especially short-term memory loss.”
The FBI and State Department, as well as the intelligence community, are investigating the mysterious illness. CIA Director William Burns, a leader of the investigation, told 60 Minutes that they are struggling to find answers because the issue is “charged…emotionally” and is “very complicated.”
“It’s a very complicated issue, you know, dealing with a whole range of incidents which have… different kinds of explanations for them as well,” Burns said. “It’s a very charged issue emotionally as well. I understand that very clearly. And that’s what… makes me even more determined not only to ensure people get the care that they deserve but also that we get to the bottom of this.”
The first cases of the mysterious illness affected U.S. diplomatic personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba in late 2016, leading to the illness being referred to as “Havana Syndrome.” Government investigators have reportedly reviewed more than 1,000 cases of what they’ve termed “anomalous health incidents.”
Since the first incident in Havana, cases have been reported by U.S. personnel in the U.S. and overseas.
Last month, the Central Intelligence Agency revealed it is doubtful that any particular foreign country is somehow causing the mystery illness that has come to be known as “Havana Syndrome.”
“We assess it is unlikely that a foreign actor, including Russia, is conducting a sustained, worldwide campaign harming U.S. personnel with a weapon or mechanism,” a senior CIA official told The Washington Post, on the condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the agency.