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Mysterious attacks on U.S. diplomats in Cuba have left them with brain damage

by Josh Marcus
Dec 6 2017, 10:10am

New medical reports from the strange health “attacks” on U.S. and Canadian embassy personnel in Havana last year have only deepened the mystery.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson remains convinced the incidents, where more than 20 personnel reported feeling sick after hearing strange metallic screeching noises, suggest foul play. Speaking to reporters in Brussels on Wednesday, he insisted they were “targeted attacks,” but new details from doctors investigating the case suggest “sonic attacks” aren’t to blame, as many initially thought.

Doctors treating the 24 embassy staff and their spouses who’ve been affected found abnormalities in the white matter of their patients’ brains, the parts that help transmit information between cells, the AP reports, but they don’t know what caused them.

At the time of the attacks, patients reported hearing metallic screeches and low humming sounds, as well as vibrations like the bursts of air that come through an open car window.

Most of the victims have recovered from their initial symptoms — hearing, vision, balance, and memory issues — but about a quarter experienced them over a longer term or still haven’t healed.

It’s the clearest picture yet of how the diplomats were physically affected, yet it complicates the question of what affected them, since white-matter damage isn’t a known side effect of sonic waves, according to medical experts.

Associated Press obtained this recording, which led investigators initially to suspect a sonic weapon. AP reported it’s not believed to be dangerous to those who listen for short duration at regular volume.

The FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies have been investigating the case for months, and the incident has plunged American and Cuban officials into a diplomatic tit-for-tat. Tillerson has remained steadfast in blaming Cuba for not stopping the attacks, and the U.S. pulled non-essential personnel from its embassy in Havana in September.

Cuba, meanwhile, has vigorously denied any wrongdoing or negligence, calling Americans liars for suggesting there were attacks and launching its own investigation into what happened.