Havana syndrome is a “genuine and compelling” phenomenon that is probably caused by a “pulsed electromagnetic energy” device of unknown origin, according to a declassified report on Anomalous Health Incidents (AHIs), the official designation for what is colloquially known as Havana syndrome, prepared for the Director of National Intelligence.
Generated by an Experts Panel within the intelligence community, the report, titled Anomalous Health Incidents: Analysis of Potential Causal Mechanisms, appears to contradict a report released in March that was criticized for appearing to downplay the seriousness of the AHI phenomenon.
The document’s release is the result of a lawsuit launched by the James Madison Project, a non-profit organization that focuses on reducing government secrecy and promoting accountability, in an effort to obtain more information on the phenomenon of AHI.
“The U.S. government is covering up evidence as to what AHIs are,” asserts Mark Zaid, an attorney with the James Madison Project; Zaid also represents a number of AHI-affected individuals. “This report differs from the summary released earlier this month and previous statements from the intelligence community. It is becoming apparent that these events were perpetrated either by foreign actors, or it is an experiment gone horribly wrong.”
Issued in September 2022, the 147-page report lists six main conclusions in its executive summary:
1: The signs and symptoms of AHIs are genuine and compelling, a conclusion reached after investigators studied “incident reports, medical data from affected individuals and interviews with their physicians, and interviews with affected individuals themselves.” In some cases the incidents associated with the subjects’ injuries involved multiple individuals, and individuals that were examined shortly after the onset of their symptoms exhibited “biomarkers suggestive of cellular injury to the nervous system,” chemical evidence that their symptoms were due to a physical phenomenon and not just the result of imagined events.
2: A subset of AHIs have a unique combination of core characteristics that cannot be explained by known environmental or medical conditions and could be due to external stimuli; while some of the symptoms of Havana syndrome are commonly found amongst known medical conditions, “the combination of the four core characteristics is distinctly unusual, is unreported elsewhere in the medical literature, and so far has not been associated with a specific neurological abnormality,” according to the report.
These core characteristics are listed as:
- The acute onset of audio-vestibular sensory phenomena, sometimes including sound or pressure in only one ear or on one side of the head.
- Other nearly simultaneous signs and symptoms such as vertigo, loss of balance, and ear pain.
- A strong sense of locality or directionality.
- The absence of known environmental or medical conditions that could have caused the reported signs and symptoms.
3: Electromagnetic energy, particularly pulsed signals in the radiofrequency range, plausibly explains the core characteristics; although much of this section is redacted, it states that there are “several plausible pathways involving forms of electromagnetic energy” that could account for the effects seen in AHI victims; although each method has its own requirements and limitations, “sources exist that could generate the required stimuli, are concealable, and have moderate power requirements,” meaning portable devices could conceivably be designed for use in the field.
4: Ultrasound also plausibly explains the core characteristics, but only in close-access scenarios; although the initial assumption that Havana syndrome victims were attacked with a sonic device has been deemed implausible, the report doesn’t dismiss the possibility that such a method could be behind AHIs. For instance, the report points out that “ultrasound is used to open the blood-brain barrier in medical procedures” and could result in symptoms consistent with Havana syndrome; however, ultrasound would only be able to account for incidents where the affected subject was in close proximity to the attacker, as the sound waves involved propagate “poorly through air and building materials.”
5: Psychosocial factors alone cannot account for the core characteristics, although they may explain some other reported incidents or contribute to long-term signs and symptoms; basically, psychosocial factors, such as workplace stress or paranoia brought about by rumors, cannot account for the occurrence of the four core characteristics of AHIs, and the known cases “do not fit the majority of criteria used to discern mass sociogenic illness.” However, the report cautions that psychosocial factors could either trigger or exacerbate existing medical issues that could lead to AHI-like symptoms, producing “reactions [that] could lead to functional neurological disorders or worsen the effects of existing conditions.”
6: Ionizing radiation, chemical and biological agents, infrasound, audible sound, ultrasound propagated over large distances, and bulk heating from electromagnetic energy are all implausible explanations for the core characteristics in the absence of other synergistic stimuli; although each of these sources can produce detrimental effects on their own, these effects aren’t consistent with the core characteristics being reported by AHI victims. “Ionizing radiation, for example, produces known biological effects that are easily measured and inconsistent with the core characteristics, and chemical or biological agents alone would not explain the reported location-dependence or directionality,” according to the report.
The report offers eight recommendations to improve the US Government’s response to the AHI phenomenon; however this section is also heavily redacted. Of these recommendations, three remain unredacted, including investigating the use of biomarkers specific to AHI to reduce the reliance on traumatic brain injury biomarkers for diagnosing the condition; the development of “a coordinated communications strategy to inform and educate the US Government workforce” on the phenomenon; and the development of expedited “methods for taking objective clinical measurements of vestibular, inner ear, and cognitive function and make them practical for use in the field.”
In their closing notes, the report’s authors are unambiguous in stating their support for the victims of AHI, encouraging the intelligence community “to sustain efforts against AHIs with a sense of urgency, to preserve analytic objectivity and quality, and to collaborate and share information across agencies.”
“The reported signs and symptoms of AHIs are diverse and may be caused by multiple mechanisms, but no case should be discounted,” the report states in an earlier section. “Prompt medical evaluation and care are particularly important; most individuals who were treated soon after an event have improved.”
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