Senate holds hearing on Cuba 'sonic attacks'

The health incidents that sickened US diplomats in Cuba and further set back US-Cuban relations will be the subject o...

Posted: Jan 9, 2018 10:18 AM
Updated: Jan 9, 2018 10:18 AM

The health incidents that sickened US diplomats in Cuba and further set back US-Cuban relations will be the subject of a Senate hearing on Tuesday. However, it's not expected to resolve the mystery of what some have alleged were "sonic attacks" amid a public disagreement between two Republican members of the committee holding the hearing over whether the diplomats were victims of "attacks."

"There are some people with symptoms happening that are unexplained," Sen. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, told CNN on Friday during a trip to the island. "The Cubans bristle at the word 'attack.' I think they are justified at doing so. The FBI has said there is no evidence of an attack. We shouldn't be using that word."

US officials tell CNN they are still mystified by the incidents

In late 2016, US government workers began having strange symptoms

Flake, a backer of improved US-Cuban relations and a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, which is holding the hearing, said he had received classified briefings that backed up Cuba's denials of involvement in the incidents.

Critics of the Cuban government said they must know more than they are letting on about what happened.

"It is impossible to conduct 24 separate & sophisticated attacks on U.S. Govt personnel in #Havana without the #CastroRegime knowing about it," Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, shot back to Flake on Twitter. "Any U.S. official briefed on matter knows full well that while method of attack still in question, that attacks & injuries occurred isn't."

US officials tell CNN they are still mystified by the incidents that led the US 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, a Cuban-American and dogged critic of the Cuban government, will lead the Senate Foreign Relations committee hearing, which will look into the unexplained illnesses that befell US diplomats and their family members and the State Department's response.

Starting in November 2016, US government employees began to experience strange symptoms, often late at night and sometimes accompanied by sounds similar to insects chirping or metal grinding, US officials told CNN.

The diplomats found that if they left the rooms they were in, the symptoms and sounds immediately stopped, suggesting to them that they were being targeted by an incredibly precise device, possibly a sonic weapon.

Diplomats have been treated for concussion-like symptoms, including hearing loss, dizziness, balance problems, visual complaints, headaches, fatigue, cognitive issues and difficulty sleeping, US officials said.

Canadian diplomats and family members reported similar ailments.

While Cuban officials have vigorously denied any involvement in the incidents, President Donald Trump said in 2017 that the Cubans were "responsible" for the diplomats falling ill.

FBI agents have traveled to Havana to investigate the incidents but so far have not determined what caused the mystery illnesses.

On Monday, a State Department spokesperson told CNN that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has decided whether to form an Accountability Review Board to look into the security incidents and would announce that decision shortly, pending congressional notification.

The Accountability Review Board is an internal State Department mechanism to review security incidents involving diplomatic personnel. The most well-known recent review board followed the deadly attack on a diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012.

The Miami Herald was first to reveal the Cuba development, also reporting Monday that the State Department had delayed the publication of a medical article on the diplomats' affliction, citing national security concerns.

"As Secretary Tillerson has stated, we will not share information that violates individuals' privacy or reveals their medical conditions," the State Department told CNN. "He also emphasized that we will not release information that helps the perpetrator determine the effectiveness of any attacks."

Tillerson had told reporters at a news conference last month that the US is "convinced these were targeted attacks."

While Tillerson has not accused the Cuban government of being behind the incidents, he said he holds the government responsible for allowing them to continue.

"What we've said to the Cubans is [it's] a small island, you got a sophisticated security apparatus, you probably know who's doing it, you can stop it," Tillerson said in December. "It's as simple as that."

As the investigation into the incidents continues, the US Embassy in Havana is no longer issuing visas to Cubans and has reduced the services it provides to Americans visiting the island.

When news of the incidents first emerged, the US expelled two Cuban diplomats from their embassy in Washington. That action was followed by the expulsion of 15 Cuban diplomats in October.

"We understand the Cubans don't like the actions we've taken," Tillerson said at the news conference last month. "We don't like our diplomats being targeted."

"This is an important year in Cuba. There is a transition going on in terms of leadership," Flake told CNN. "We ought to be here in full force, but go to the US Embassy and there's just a skeletal staff."

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 207558

Reported Deaths: 2760
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah40446614
Washington26850249
Marion23497324
Clackamas18981235
Lane13944166
Jackson11581146
Deschutes1005582
Umatilla862787
Linn565381
Yamhill479479
Klamath478278
Polk402056
Douglas391683
Josephine363872
Malheur362063
Benton327522
Jefferson237839
Coos217737
Columbia193029
Union150224
Wasco145630
Lincoln144021
Crook129523
Hood River121933
Morrow115816
Clatsop10639
Baker103115
Curry73211
Tillamook6614
Grant5527
Lake4698
Harney4369
Wallowa1945
Gilliam811
Sherman701
Wheeler351
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3812825

Reported Deaths: 63501
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles124841524472
Riverside3017994627
San Bernardino2994254886
San Diego2820523778
Orange2731705116
Santa Clara1202332199
Kern1108471405
Sacramento1080131738
Fresno1030201724
Alameda898911286
Ventura817271032
San Joaquin748081440
Contra Costa70882813
Stanislaus635861071
Tulare49823850
Monterey43858456
San Mateo42756581
San Francisco37304559
Santa Barbara34631455
Solano33797267
Merced32325481
Sonoma31026317
Imperial28908741
Placer23656300
Kings23214247
San Luis Obispo21448261
Madera16660245
Santa Cruz16262209
Marin14212230
Yolo14161212
Butte12666198
Shasta12615235
El Dorado10423117
Napa1003280
Sutter9676113
Yuba652151
San Benito611163
Lassen580825
Tehama574263
Nevada493675
Humboldt452849
Mendocino435750
Tuolumne422271
Amador374347
Lake356653
Glenn243727
Siskiyou239938
Colusa228818
Calaveras221056
Del Norte14688
Inyo143438
Mono12984
Plumas7426
Modoc5645
Mariposa4667
Trinity4246
Sierra1180
Alpine890
Unassigned330
Medford
Partly Cloudy
65° wxIcon
Hi: 98° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 65°
Brookings
Partly Cloudy
53° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 53°
Crater Lake
Partly Cloudy
65° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 65°
Grants Pass
Partly Cloudy
65° wxIcon
Hi: 101° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 65°
Klamath Falls
Partly Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 54°
Dangerously hot weekend ahead
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events