January 24, 2019

United States says 'viral attack' among the theories in Cuba illnesses

12 January 2018, 09:31 | Devin Moran

Rubio disputes Flake's account that diplomats weren't attacked in Havana

Rubio calls Cuba sonic attacks a “documented fact” after GOP colleague questions evidence | The Sacramento Bee

Only one thing is clear.

The issue has poisoned any attempt to move forward with the fragile detente achieved between the former Cold War foes, who re-opened their embassies and exchanged ambassadors in 2015 for the first time since 1961.

An FBI investigation has not determined what caused the illnesses.

The United States is to review how the State Department has responded to alleged attacks on the health of 24 diplomats and family members in Havana, officials said Tuesday.

U.S. officials tell CNN they are still mystified by the incidents that led the USA to withdraw most of its personnel from the embassy in Havana and issue a travel warning for people thinking of visiting the communist-run island.

Rubio and State Department officials also addressed an Associated Press report that a new non-public Federal Bureau of Investigation report produced no evidence to back the initial USA government theory that a sonic device caused the symptoms.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, however, rejects that idea, as long as the those behind the "health attacks" have not been identified and dealt with. Two more bouts were reported in August, but none since then.

"As soon as we identified a pattern connecting these unusual events with certain health symptoms, USA officials approached the Cuban government in mid-February to demand it meet its obligations under the Vienna Convention to protect our personnel", he explained.

"We're not considering restoring staff", he added. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, shot back to Flake on Twitter.

Some experts have argued that an acoustic attack seems implausible, given that it likely would have caused an extremely loud noise in the area, which was not the case.

But Rubio said the Cuban government, which maintains a vast surveillance network, knows.

"Whatever happened to these officials is the result of some sophisticated technology that quite frankly is so sophisticated that we don't understand it", Rubio said.

Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, criticized the State Department's initial response to the reports of illnesses as "bureaucratic, inadequate and troubling".

Cuba has repeatedly and adamantly denied involvement or knowledge of any attacks.

The Cuban government has denied any role in the health assaults, instead claiming USA diplomats mistook the sounds of insects for an acoustic attack. The hearing was originally scheduled for last November, but it was postponed without a reason given. Injuries and symptoms included concussions, hearing loss and dizziness.

"They associated the onset of these symptoms with unusual sounds or auditory sensations", Rosenfarb said.

Descriptions of the precipitating event ranged from "a high pitched beam of sound" to an "incapacitating sound", to a "baffling sensation" akin to driving with the windows partially open in a auto, to just an intense pressure in one ear.

"The FBI is saying that there's no evidence of a sonic attack".

A diplomatic security official, Todd Brown, says initially that's what US officials thought this was before coming to the conclusion that these were attacks. State Department officials refused to comment on the report at the hearing, suggesting it would be discussed at a later, classified hearing. Vidal, who was Cuba's chief negotiator during the Obama administration's rapprochement with Cuba, said the "irresponsible statements" by Palmieri were "unacceptable".

"In whatever case, they are responsible for the safety and security of United States diplomats stationed in Havana ... and they have failed to live up to that responsibility", he said.

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