CubaBrief: Update on kidnapped Cuban dissidents. The Havana Syndrome hits home. Cuban backed terrorist groups escalate violence in Colombia

Cuban dissident held incommunicado for 10 days and counting.

Cuban dissident held incommunicado for 10 days and counting.

Ten days ago on Sunday morning (May 2, 2021) at 5:00am Castro regime officials raided Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara’s home in Havana, and have held him incommunicado since then, save heavily edited videos produced by the dictatorship. Independent journalists, friends and activists who tried to visit Luis Manuel were prevented from reaching him, and ten were arbitrarily detained on April 30th and have not been released. CNN’s reporter Patrick Oppmann based in Havana, Cuba has gotten it wrong on events in the island before, and his reporting on Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara gives too much of a benefit of the doubt to regime officials, but even he is raising questions on the government’s version of events:

“One of Cuba’s most rebellious dissidents has spent more than ten days in a closely guarded hospital in Havana but it’s not clear what, if anything, he is being treated for. Artist and activist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara was on day eight of a hunger strike protesting what he said was a campaign of Cuban government harassment against him when, before dawn, health officials transported him to a government hospital. His fellow dissidents say Otero Alcántara was taken for treatment against his will and that they have not heard from him, other than through videos released by Cuba’s state-run media. Cuban health officials said when he was admitted, Otero Alcántara did not seem to have been deprived of food or water and on Tuesday said he is eating and drinking, raising the question of why he remains hospitalized and incommunicado.”

This is not an isolated case; another activist, a member of the Christian Liberation Movement, has been arbitrarily detained for seven months. On October 6th, 2020 around 15:00 reports the International Society for Human Rights, “Yandier García Labrada was detained while standing in line to obtain food and basic supplies for himself and his mother outside a food supply site in Manatí. While in line, a security guard of the supermarket pushed him, and he publicly complained about the disorganization and irregularities in the supply of goods.” He has been held at the  El Tipico prison for the past seven months.

This arbitrary behavior that runs afoul of international standards has gone on for decades in Cuba, but as the international community has come to tolerate and accept it the dictatorship’s actions become worse. Cuban dissidents and political prisoners have denounced “sonic attacks” both in the past and the present with little attention paid to their plight. The Castro regime also has a history, stretching back decades, of harassing American diplomats such as: killing their pets, trying to run them down or crash into their vehicle and switching out mouthwash with urine.  It was tolerated, and things got worse when relations “improved.”

US Embassy in Havana, Cuba

US Embassy in Havana, Cuba

Beginning in November 2016, U.S. diplomats stationed in Havana began suffering brain injuries associated with sounds. Over 40 would be impacted, and the syndrome also impacted Canadian diplomats. This phenomenon then extended to personnel in China, and Russia, and Politico now reports that they have taken place in the United States.

“U.S. officials are investigating a suspected directed-energy attack on federal government personnel in Miami last year, as well as at least two other incidents involving U.S. officials on American soil, according to people familiar with the investigation. In Miami, several people reported symptoms similar to those exhibited by American spies and diplomats in Cuba starting in 2016 that became known as “Havana syndrome,” three people said. It was unclear which agency the people in the Miami incident belonged to. Officials are also investigating two similar incidents — one last year involving a senior National Security Council official walking to his car from the south lawn of the White House known as the Ellipse, and another in 2019 involving a separate NSC official walking a dog in Alexandria, Va., the people said. In testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee this month, Haines did reference “anomalous health incidents that have affected a number of our personnel.”

Néstor T. Carbonell in his May 11, 2021 article published in National Review, “The Havana Syndrome: Unraveling the Mystery” outlined the events that unfolded and the injuries done to U.S. and Canadian diplomats. Mr. Carbonell concludes that “in the case of Cuba — a police state with surveillance on every block — it’s unlikely that the multiple attacks on the island could have been carried out without the complicity of Castro and his politburo. If the CIA confirms the involvement of the Cuban regime, that nation should not be given a pass with another one-sided détente. Experience tells us that condoning evil only invites more evil.”

Castroism's legacy in Colombia

Castroism’s legacy in Colombia

So does ignorance of evil. Too many have forgotten the role played by Cuba in forming and training terrorist groups throughout Latin America and the Middle East beginning in the 1960s, and their continued support of them over the past sixty years. The fruits can be seen in Venezuela, Nicaragua, Colombia, and the Middle East today. Terror groups such as the FARC, ELN, Hamas and Hezbollah owe much to the dictatorship in Havana.

A human rights centered policy that holds the regime in Cuba responsible for its actions at home and abroad is the path to authentically improved relations, despite the protestations of the Castro dictatorship.

CNN, May 12, 2021

Why is one of Cuba’s most rebellious artists still isolated in a government hospital?

By Patrick Oppmann, CNN

Updated 1:57 PM ET, Wed May 12, 2021

Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara in Havana on May 2, 2018.

Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara in Havana on May 2, 2018.

Havana, Cuba (CNN)

One of Cuba’s most rebellious dissidents has spent more than ten days in a closely guarded hospital in Havana but it’s not clear what, if anything, he is being treated for.

Artist and activist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara was on day eight of a hunger strike protesting what he said was a campaign of Cuban government harassment against him when, before dawn, health officials transported him to a government hospital.

His fellow dissidents say Otero Alcántara was taken for treatment against his will and that they have not heard from him, other than through videos released by Cuba’s state-run media.

Cuban health officials said when he was admitted, Otero Alcántara did not seem to have been deprived of food or water and on Tuesday said he is eating and drinking, raising the question of why he remains hospitalized and incommunicado.

In one of the videos that was released, Otero Alcántara appears in good health, joking with a hospital administrator while affirming “I am going to keep demanding my rights as an artist.”

Cuban health officials say Otero Alcántara is still undergoing testing and is being treated voluntarily.

While the Cuban government grapples with the economic impacts of the coronavirus and tougher US sanctions, Otero Alcántara and his small group of tech-savvy “artivists” are increasingly a source of frustration for officials on the communist-run island.

In tweets and videos uploaded to social media, Otero Alcántara and other members of his San Isidro Movement have documented their campaign in real time against official censorship and the Cuban police and security officials that often shadow their every move.

“We are connected,” is a frequent refrain and hashtag in his messages, a reference to the recent arrival of mobile internet to the country, which has allowed many Cubans to circumvent state-run media and communicate directly with the rest of the world and their fellow Cubans.

Some Cuban officials claim that the self-taught Otero Alcántara isn’t really an artist, which speaks to his assertion that government bureaucrats shouldn’t decide what qualifies as art on the island.

At times Otero Alcántara has threatened to drive a wedge between the government and Cuban artists, who in recent years have enjoyed a special status that allowed them to criticize the government, albeit indirectly, and legally earn hard currency by selling their work to tourists and consumers abroad.

In November, police arrested Otero Alcántara and supporters during a hunger strike, alleging they had violated health restrictions put in place to stop the spread of the pandemic.

Within hours, several hundred Cuban artists and students staged a rare sit-in protest outside the Cuban Ministry of Culture and some of the island’s best known cultural figures voiced their support for Otero Alcántara and greater freedom of expression.

Cuban officials quickly released Otero Alcántara and claimed he was part of a US “soft coup” against the island.

“The show is very similar to those staged on other occasions by other mercenary groups and puppets in the service of the U.S. government,” an article stated in the Cuban communist party newspaper Granma about Otero Alcántara days after the protest. “The new show, orchestrated from Washington and Miami, is part of plans for subversion against Cuba.”

But Otero Alcántara, an Afro-Cuban millennial who lives in a downtrodden area of Old Havana that tourists rarely venture into, does not fit the traditional image of an anti-Castro militant fighting to return the island to the days before the revolution. And he is particularly adept at leveraging the obstacles Cuban officials throw at him as a form of performance art that generates more attention for his movement.

While his activism, so far, does not appear to be an existential threat to the Cuban government, it has nonetheless proved unnerving to officials.

Otero Alcántara appeared in a music video for the song “Patria y Vida” or “Fatherland and Life,” a play on the revolutionary slogan “Fatherland or Death,” which is how Fidel Castro ended his speeches. The video for the song, which has become an anthem for anti-government resistance, has received five million views on YouTube.

In April, when police surrounded his home, he put on an exhibition where he sat restrained with a garotte around his neck.

After he accused State Security agents of seizing his art, Otero Alcántara demanded $500,000 in compensation and said he was, again, going on a hunger strike.

“I will fight to the last breath for my artistic freedom,” he wrote in a widely seen message. “If my body dies, I hope it will be a spark for the freedom of Cuba.”

When Otero Alcántara was taken to the hospital in May, doctors released a statement saying the activist “showed no signs of malnutrition,” trying to cast doubt on his hunger strike, but said he would remain “under observation.”

Cuban state-run media have published regular updates on Otero Alcántara, a rare acknowledgement of anti-government dissent. But save one video where he briefly speaks, he has not been heard from and his supporters say they have been blocked by police from seeing him in person.

As Cuban officials try to adapt to Otero Alcántara’s new brand of activism, the government runs the risk of endangering potentially improved relations with the Biden administration, which so far is moving slowly on engaging with the island.

“Like all Cubans, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara deserves to be treated with dignity and respect,” the US Embassy in Havana posted on Twitter. “We have seen reports that he is in hospital and that his state is stable. We urge the authorities to protect his well-being in this difficult moment.”

Some Cuban artists argue that if greater freedom of expression were allowed, the tension with the state and artists would ease.

“These little scandals will end the day they legalize protests,” famed singer Silvio Rodriguez, a long-time supporter of the Cuban revolution, wrote on his blog. “Authorized protests. Democratic socialism. And the police protecting those who exercise their rights,” he continued.

But top Cuban officials warn that a harsher crackdown could be on the horizon.

“To the mercenary lumpen who make money off of everyone’s destiny, to those who ask for an invasion, to those who continuously offend with words and deeds,” Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel said in a televised speech in April while accepting the powerful post of head of the Cuban communist party, “know that the patience of the people has limits.”

https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/12/americas/cuban-dissident-artist-hospitalized-intl-latam/index.html

International Society for Human Rights, May 12, 2021

García Labrada is a human rights activist and member of the Movimiento Cristiano Liberación (MCL – Christian Liberation Movement) since 2015. As part of the MCL, he leads a group of activists in Manatí, Las Tunas, his hometown. He has been permanently harassed and threatened by official forces ever since he joined MCL and has been detained multiple times before.

García Labrada is a human rights activist and member of the Movimiento Cristiano Liberación (MCL – Christian Liberation Movement) since 2015. As part of the MCL, he leads a group of activists in Manatí, Las Tunas, his hometown. He has been permanently harassed and threatened by official forces ever since he joined MCL and has been detained multiple times before.

The ISHR stands in solidarity with Yandier García Labrada, his family and the Christian Liberation Movement. From the ISHR, we condemn the arbitrariness committed against García Labrada and demand that the Cuban state ensure his fundamental rights and order his immediate release.

About Yandier García Labrada

Prior to his detention, he worked taking care of the American crocodiles that live in the Ecological Reserve “Bahía de Nuevas Grandes”. He is a family man and as such, took care of his mom whenever she got sick. García Labrada was standing in line to obtain food and basic supplies for himself and his mother when he was violently detained by police officers.

Background

Yandier has been detained multiple times before. In February 2017, he was detained while on his way to work for several hours and was threatened to be incarcerated in the prison of El Tipico (where he has been illegally detained for the last seven months) if he continued his activism.

This threat became reality on October 6th, 2020 around 15:00 when García Labrada was detained while standing in line to obtain food and basic supplies for himself and his mother outside a food supply site in Manatí. While in line, a security guard of the supermarket pushed him, and he publicly complained about the disorganization and irregularities in the supply of goods. More people joined him in the protest and local officials called the police. García Labrada was detained “in a rough manner between five police officers who threw him headfirst into the patrol car to arrest him”.

All the information that Yandier’s family has about the judicial proceedings against him were obtained on October 27th, when his brother Irán Almaguer Lambrada (also a member of MCL) went to Las Tunas Police Unit to inquire about García Labrada’s whereabouts. An officer who refused to identify himself but assured to be in charge of the case told Irán that Yandier was detained in the prison of El Tipico on charges of “contempt and public disorder”.

On November 3rd, Irán was allowed to visit Yandier García in prison for a short time of twenty minutes, during which time he was able to corroborate that García Labrada had several bruises on his ribs, shoulders and arms. One day after, on November 4th, Irán was detained for five hours by a State Security officer who demanded him to “abandon his opposition” in exchange for the release of García Labrada.

Persecution and harassment

García Labrada has been hounded by the Cuban authorities for years and has been detained multiple times before based on his activism, which evidences that the current detention of Yandier is founded on the hostile and repressive attitude that the Cuban regime holds against its opposition. As it has happened to hundreds of others, García Labrada is illegally detained by the Cuban regime with the aim of obstructing and paralyzing his work in defense and promotion of human rights.

Legal proceedings

The Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (autonomous organ of the Organization of American States and part of the Inter-American system for the protection of human rights) has granted García Labrada precautionary measures in January, 2021 in sight of the imminent risk he is under and has requested the state of Cuba to guarantee that his detention conditions are in conformity with applicable international standards. Cuba has not responded.

The family members of Yandier have not been able to file complaints or request legal measures with the national authorities because of insufficient economic resources, neither has the state of Cuba provided free legal defense. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Supreme People’s Court has ordered through Instruction 248 the “immediate temporary suspension of proceedings in progress”, which has slowed down the processing of criminal cases without time limits, leaving people like Yandier García deprived of their liberty, defenseless.

There is no current investigation against García and the Prosecution has not presented an initial file of preparatory enquiring, violating the national criminal proceeding norms.

Mistreatment while in detention

Yandier was beaten and physically mistreated by the authorities of El Tipico prison. The severity of the beatings did not allow him to move his left arm, he never received medical assistance. Also, during the first month of his detention, Yandier was not allowed to receive visits nor make calls and was held incommunicado.

García Labrada is at risk while detained. Yandier is asthmatic and suffers frequent respiratory crises. Given that the communication between him and his family is prevented and controlled by the prison authorities, they have only been able to provide him with salbutamol spray for his bronchial asthma.

https://ishr.org/cuban-human-rights-activist-is-illegally-detained-for-more-than-six-months/

El American, May 10, 2021

Violence Escalates Between Civilians and Police in Colombian City of Cali

Police warn that members of criminal organizations such as ELN and FARC dissidents are infiltrating the demonstrations.

By Juan Felipe Vélez

05.10.21

Screen Shot 2021-05-12 at 5.03.07 PM.png

After twelve days of protests in Colombia, the situation is becoming increasingly tense in Santiago de Cali, a city located in the department of Valle del Cauca, and current focus of demonstrations.

While Cali is facing a severe shortage of fuel and essential goods of the basic food basket, such as sugar and meat, the confrontations between demonstrators and the police are intensifying and prolonging into the night.

Numerous people wearing hoods or covering their faces have begun to roam the streets of Cali, blocking the access roads to numerous neighborhoods and charging citizens money to allow them to reach their destinations.

In the Siloé neighborhood, there have been several confrontations with the police, where shots have been exchanged between the security forces and hooded individuals. The police have even seized long weapons from alleged demonstrators.

Police officers are not safe off duty either, as was the case with patrolman Angel Gabriel Padilla, who while in civilian clothes was recognized by people in the middle of the demonstrations and stabbed 27 times. The uniformed officer remained unconscious for 3 days after the attack.

More than 99 policemen have been attacked with sharp weapons in the middle of the country’s protests, several have been assaulted off duty, and one, Captain Jesús Alberto Solano, died in Soacha at the beginning of the demonstrations after being approached by vandals who recognized him and stabbed him five times.

On the side of the demonstrators there is also concern, as they denounce that the police have come to shoot firearms to dissipate peaceful protests, and allegedly wait in hospitals to take away people with gunshot wounds.

The Ombudsman’s Office called in a statement for an investigation into 19 violent deaths during the demonstrations in Cali. The police claim that there have been 10 deaths, of which four occurred in the context of the demonstrations.

Protests in Colombia have become the stage for armed confrontation

Police warn that members of criminal organizations such as the ELN and FARC dissidents are infiltrating the demonstrations, as well as criminal gangs taking advantage of the chaos to execute vendettas of their own in the city of Cali.

Some protesters also claim that white civilian vehicles have been patrolling areas of Cali and opening fire on protestors at night.

Tensions escalated further when protesters intercepted an unmarked police van. In the vehicle were members of the police in civilian clothes, who had to run away from the demonstrators, and according to the members of the strike, the officers allegedly opened fire, a version that the police have not confirmed.

In the middle of the demonstrations, members of the minga (the guard of the indigenous political groups) who have arrived in Cali in recent weeks captured two police officers dressed in civilian clothes and wearing jackets.

On Sunday a shootout broke out in the neighborhood of La Maria when members of the minga vandalized cars near a gas station and chased passersby with machetes.

In the midst of the fight, gunfire started flying everywhere, scattering Cali residents and minga members. Another video shows an armed person shooting at what appears to be a concentration of the minga while shouting “they mounted us“.

Another video shows a hooded man telling civilians that until today they will be able to trade and move around normally, because starting on Monday. an armed strike will begin.

While tensions escalate in Cali, President Ivan Duque insists on meeting in Bogotá with the representatives of the Strike Committee. In his last speech, he announced the mobilization of the public forces in Cali. Duque met with the police in the morning hours in the Valle del Cauca city and quickly returned to Bogotá.

The city’s mayor, Jorge Ivan Ospina, has been unable to de-escalate the situation, and was chased by a mob when he tried to address the protesters.

For its part, the governor’s office of Valle del Cauca has decided to restrict the entry of any vehicle other than supply vehicles into the department. Priority will be given to vehicles carrying fuel, health supplies, vaccines and food.

Last Friday the president met with the leaders of the coalition of the decent, led by the former mayor of Medellín and former governor of Antioquia, Sergio Fajardo, together with senator Jorge Enrique Robledo of the Polo Democrático, Iván Marulanda of the Partido Verde, Angela María Robledo, the former vice presidential formula of Gustavo Petro, and Humberto de la Calle, former chief negotiator of the Havana agreement with the FARC. All these negotiations took place at the Palacio de Nariño in Bogotá, Cali will have to wait for now.

https://elamerican.com/violence-civilians-police-colombia-cali-epicenter/

National Review, May 11, 2021

The Havana Syndrome: Unraveling the Mystery

By Néstor T. Carbonell

U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, October 5, 2017. (Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters)

U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, October 5, 2017. (Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters)

Why are U.S. diplomats abroad being attacked with directed-energy weapons?

The State Department, the CIA, and the Pentagon have stepped up efforts to investigate a series of health incidents, deemed “directed-energy attacks,” which have injured American officers in Cuba, China, Russia, and elsewhere. Now we have learned that the U.S. is also probing suspected attacks in Miami and Alexandria, Va., as well as near the White House.

This deeply troubling and unresolved mystery, with both human and national-security implications, spans more than four years. The first attacks occurred in November 2016 in Cuba. American diplomats and CIA officers there started suffering what was dubbed “Havana syndrome.” The debilitating symptoms — severe vertigo, fatigue, headaches, and loss of hearing, memory, and balance — led Washington to evacuate the victims for extended treatment and, in some cases, early retirement.

By the end of 2017, more than two dozen American-embassy personnel in Cuba had shown symptoms. The Trump administration recalled more than half of the embassy staff and their family members and issued a travel warning. In response to Cuba’s failure to protect American officials in accordance with the Vienna Convention, the State Department expelled 15 Cuban diplomats from the U.S.

In addition, from the spring of 2017 to at least 2019, more than 14 Canadian officials stationed in Cuba reportedly “got hit” and experienced similar symptoms. Some of them sued their government for downplaying and mishandling the mysterious illness. Through it all, Raúl Castro’s minister of foreign affairs denied any knowledge of the reported health incidents. He dismissed the symptoms as “science fiction” and called Washington’s move “eminently political.”

Initial theories of what caused the ailment ran the gamut: a stressful environment, a virus, toxic pesticides, and exposure to acoustic or sonic waves. After examining 21 of the affected U.S. officials from Cuba, a medical team from the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Brain Injury and Repair ascribed the symptoms in March 2018 to “an unknown energy source” that was highly directional. The center’s director, Dr. Douglas H. Smith, later said microwaves were considered a main cause of the affliction, adding that the team was increasingly sure the officials had suffered injuries to widespread brain networks.

According to the 1961–62 discoveries of American biologist Allan H. Frey, high-intensity microwave beams can produce a sensation of odd, loud noise and cause brain damage without any head trauma. As explained by intelligence experts, to launch an attack, a satellite dish mounted on a small van could possibly be used to direct microwave beams at a target — through walls and windows, and from as far away as a couple of miles.

Then, in mid 2018, some 11 American diplomats and security officers based in China, most assigned to the U.S. consulate in the city of Guangzhou, were evacuated after developing the same symptoms that had been reported in Havana.

The prime suspect behind these attacks, according to current and former intelligence officers, is Russia — a U.S. adversary, armed with radiofrequency-energy technology, that under Putin, has engaged in poisoning, injuring and incapacitating its foes.

During the Cold War, Washington feared that Moscow was turning microwave radiation into a covert weapon that could produce neural impact. The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency warned in 1976 that Soviet research on microwaves showed great promise for “disrupting the behavior patterns of military or diplomatic personnel.” Brain-damage symptoms experienced by CIA officers on intelligence missions in Russia, Poland, the former Soviet satellite of Georgia, Taiwan, and Australia from 2017 to 2019 only reinforced the suspicion of Russia’s involvement.

One of the affected officers, Marc Polymeropoulos, who was the CIA’s deputy chief of operations for the Europe and Eurasia Mission Center, shared his experience in an interview with GQ. Following a brief Moscow visit, he suffered round-the-clock migraine from a brain injury and was forced to retire at 50. He and several of his intelligence colleagues joined the Havana victims’ ranks.

A December 2020 report commissioned by the State Department and compiled by 19 experts in medicine and other fields added weight and clarity to the earlier findings. They found strong evidence that the mysterious ailment was caused by radiofrequency energy, a type of microwave radiation. They added that the attacks were the result of “directed” and “pulsed” energy, implying that the victims had been targeted.

The experts were not privy to classified intelligence, so they did not point to a possible perpetrator. However, they mentioned “significant research in Russia/U.S.S.R.” on pulsed radiofrequency technology, as well as the exposure to microwave radiation of U.S. intelligence and military personnel in Eurasian countries.

After more than four years of vile attacks against dozens of American officials, it behooves the Biden administration to conclude the investigations as soon as possible and hold the perpetrators accountable. If it’s not Russia, as the evidence seems to indicate, then who?

In the case of Cuba — a police state with surveillance on every block — it’s unlikely that the multiple attacks on the island could have been carried out without the complicity of Castro and his politburo. If the CIA confirms the involvement of the Cuban regime, that nation should not be given a pass with another one-sided détente. Experience tells us that condoning evil only invites more evil.

https://www.nationalreview.com/2021/05/the-havana-syndrome-unraveling-the-mystery/

Politico, April 29, 2021

Exclusive

U.S. probing suspected directed-energy attack on government personnel in Miami

The attacks, which have caused varying symptoms including brain damage, are difficult to track and attribute with confidence due to their nature.

By LARA SELIGMANANDREW DESIDERIO and ERIN BANCO

04/29/2021 09:36 PM EDT

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen urged Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines to be more transparent with lawmakers about the suspected attacks as well as the ongoing investigations. | Graeme Jennings/Pool via AP

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen urged Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines to be more transparent with lawmakers about the suspected attacks as well as the ongoing investigations. | Graeme Jennings/Pool via AP

U.S. officials are investigating a suspected directed-energy attack on federal government personnel in Miami last year, as well as at least two other incidents involving U.S. officials on American soil, according to people familiar with the investigation.

In Miami, several people reported symptoms similar to those exhibited by American spies and diplomats in Cuba starting in 2016 that became known as “Havana syndrome,” three people said. It was unclear which agency the people in the Miami incident belonged to.

Officials are also investigating two similar incidents — one last year involving a senior National Security Council official walking to his car from the south lawn of the White House known as the Ellipse, and another in 2019 involving a separate NSC official walking a dog in Alexandria, Va., the people said.

The effort is part of a broader investigation into suspected directed-energy attacks against Americans around the world, which became so alarming to U.S. officials that the Pentagon began a probe last year.

The attacks, which have caused varying symptoms including brain damage, are difficult to track and attribute with confidence due to their nature. The devices involved can be small and portable, and the symptoms can appear similar to other illnesses.

Representatives for the NSC, FBI and Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment.

Officials across the U.S. government have investigated these and other similar suspected directed-energy attacks, including possible targeting of U.S. service members at home and abroad, and have sounded the alarm about the issue to lawmakers, POLITICO first reported. The incidents involved officials working for both the Pentagon and the CIA. CNN on Thursday first reported the incident on the Ellipse. GQ reported on a similar incident in Arlington last year.

Two Pentagon officials briefed members of the House Armed Services Committee about the suspected attacks in a classified setting last week, POLITICO first reported. The briefers were Jennifer Walsh, the then-acting Pentagon policy chief; and Griffin Decker, the Pentagon’s director of the emerging threats cell. Officials have told lawmakers that they believe the threat of directed-energy attacks around the world is growing.

The briefers said suspected directed-energy attacks have occurred on U.S. soil, including the suspected Ellipse and Alexandria incidents, according to a person familiar with the discussions. They did not make a formal determination on whether the incidents amounted to directed-energy attacks. Briefers also did not say conclusively who was responsible for the suspected attacks, but identified both Russia and China as likely suspects.

In a separate recent briefing in Europe that included State and Pentagon officials, a defense official said there has been an increasing number of directed-energy attacks on U.S. troops reported worldwide, including in Europe and the U.S., a senior official with direct knowledge of the matter told POLITICO.

Lawmakers are already pressing top Biden administration officials to disclose more information to the public.

During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Thursday morning, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen pressed Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines on what the New Hampshire Democrat referred to as a “clamp-down” on information about the suspected directed-energy attacks, noting that “there has been a real effort to try and keep this information classified.” Shaheen urged Haines to be more transparent with lawmakers about the suspected attacks as well as the ongoing investigations.

“The horse is out of the barn on this. The information is already out there,” Shaheen said. “And I think it behooves us all to try and make sure the information that gets out is accurate, and that people understand what’s happening and that there is an effort to respond to that.”

Shaheen later told POLITICO that she followed up with Haines about the matter in a classified setting and still believes that more information about the suspected attacks should be declassified.

In testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee this month, Haines did reference “anomalous health incidents that have affected a number of our personnel.”

“The Intelligence Community is taking these incidents very seriously, and is committed to investigating the source of these incidents, preventing them from continuing, and caring for those affected,” Haines said. “We appreciate the support that many of you have shown for our personnel on this issue, as with everything else we work on around the globe.”

Betsy Woodruff Swan contributed to this report.

https://www.politico.com/news/2021/04/29/directed-energy-attack-probe-485086