Whatever is harming US diplomats in Havana, it has eluded the doctors, scientists, and intelligence analysts scouring for answers. Investigators have chased many theories, including a sonic attack, electromagnetic weapon, or flawed spying device.
Each explanation seems to fit parts of what’s happened, conflicting with others.
The United States doesn’t even know what to call it. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson used the phrase “health attacks.” The State Department prefers “incidents.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Photo from US Embassy Consulate in Korea.
Either way, suspicion has fallen on Cuba. But investigators also are examining whether a rogue faction of its security services, another country such as Russia, or some combination is to blame, more than a dozen US officials familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press.
Those officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to publicly discuss the investigation. The AP also talked to scientists, physicians, acoustics and weapons experts, and others about the theories being pursued.
Perhaps the biggest mystery is why the symptoms, sounds, and sensations vary so dramatically from person to person.
Of the 21 medically confirmed US victims, some have permanent hearing loss or concussions, while others suffered nausea, headaches, and ear-ringing. Some are struggling with concentration or common word recall, the AP has reported. Some felt vibrations or heard loud sounds mysteriously audible in only parts of rooms, and others heard nothing.
Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, Chargé d’Affaires at US Embassy Havana. Photo from US State Department.
“These are very nonspecific symptoms. That’s why it’s difficult to tell what’s going on,” said Dr. H. Jeffrey Kim, a specialist on ear disorders at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, who isn’t involved with the investigation.
To solve the puzzle, investigators are sorting symptoms into categories, such as auditory and neurological, according to individuals briefed on the probe.
There can be a lag before victims discover or report symptoms, some of which are hard to diagnose. So investigators are charting the timeline of reported incidents to identify “clusters” to help solve the when, where, and how of the Havana whodunit.
While Cuba has been surprisingly cooperative, even inviting the FBI to fly down to Havana, it’s not the same as an investigation with the US government in full control.
“You’re on foreign soil,” said David Rubincam, a former FBI agent who served in Moscow. “The quality of the information and evidence you collect is limited to what the host government will allow you to see and hear and touch and do.”
Especially when you don’t even know what you’re looking for.
The first signs pointed to a sonic attack. But what kind?
Some victims heard things — signs that the sounds were in the audible spectrum. Loud noise can harm hearing, especially high-decibel sounds that can trigger ear-ringing tinnitus, ruptured ear drums, even permanent hearing loss.
But others heard nothing, and still became ill. So investigators considered inaudible sound: infrasound, too low for humans to hear, and ultrasound, too high.
Infrasound often is experienced as vibration, like standing near a subwoofer. Some victims reported feeling vibrations.
And it’s not impossible that infrasound could explain some of what diplomats thought they heard.
Though infrasound is usually inaudible, some people can detect it if the waves are powerful enough. For example, individuals living near infrasound-generating wind turbines have described pulsating hums that have left them dizzy, nauseous, or with interrupted sleep. Such effects have prompted fierce scientific debate.
The balance problems reported in Havana? Possibly explained by infrasound, which may stimulate cells in the ear’s vestibular system that controls balance, scientists say.
But there’s little evidence infrasound can cause lasting damage once the sound stops.
And the pinpointed focus of the sound, reported by some? Infrasound waves travel everywhere, making them difficult to aim with precision.
“There’s no efficient way to focus infrasound to make it into a usable weapon,” said Mario Svirsky, an expert on ear disorders and neuroscience at New York University School of Medicine.
If not infrasound, maybe ultrasound?
At high-intensity, ultrasound can damage human tissue. That’s why doctors use it to destroy uterine fibroids and some tumors.
But ultrasound damage requires close contact between the device and the body. “You cannot sense ultrasound from long distances,” Svirsky said. No victim said they saw a weird contraption nearby.
None of these sound waves seems to explain the concussions. Usually, those follow a blow to the head or proximity to something like a bomb blast.
“I know of no acoustic effect or device that could produce traumatic brain injury or concussion-like symptoms,” said Juergen Altmann, an acoustic weapons expert and physicist at Germany’s Technische Universitaet Dortmund.
It may sound like Star Wars fantasy, but electromagnetic weapons have been around for years. They generally harm electronics, not humans.
The electromagnetic spectrum includes waves like the ones used by your cellphone, microwave, and light bulbs.
And they can be easily pinpointed. Think lasers. Such waves can also travel through walls, so an electromagnetic attack could be plausibly concealed from afar.
There’s precedent. For more than a decade ending in the 1970s, the former Soviet Union bombarded the US Embassy in Moscow with microwaves. The exact purpose was never clear.
What about the sounds people heard?
Microwave pulses — short, intense blasts — can cause people to “hear” clicking sounds. According to a two-decade-old US Air Force patent, the American military has researched whether those blasts could be manipulated to “beam” voices or other sounds to someone’s head.
But when electromagnetic waves cause physical damage, it usually results from body tissue being heated. The diplomats in Cuba haven’t been reporting burning sensations.
The stress and anxiety about the disturbing incidents could be complicating the situation. Diplomats may be taking a closer look at mild symptoms they’d otherwise ignored.
After all, once symptoms emerged, the US Embassy encouraged employees to report anything suspicious. Many of these symptoms can be caused by a lot of different things.
At least one other country, France, tested embassy staffers after an employee reported symptoms. The French then ruled out sonic-induced damage, the AP reported .
Not knowing what’s causing the crisis in Cuba has made it harder to find the culprit. If there is one at all.
The Cuba Theory
It was only natural that American suspicion started with Cuba.
The attacks happened on Cuban soil. The two countries routinely harassed each other’s diplomats over a half-century of enmity. Despite eased tensions over the past couple of years, distrust lingers.
Diplomats reported incidents in their homes and in hotels. Cuban authorities would know who is staying in each.
But what’s the motive?
When symptoms emerged last November, Cuba was working feverishly with the US to make progress on everything from internet access to immigration rules before President Barack Obama’s term ended. Officials still don’t understand why Havana would at the same time perpetrate attacks that could destroy its new relationship with Washington entirely.
Cuban President Raul Castro’s reaction deepened investigators’ skepticism, according to officials briefed on a rare, face-to-face discussion he had on the matter with America’s top envoy in Havana.
Predictably, Castro denied responsibility. But US officials were surprised that Castro seemed genuinely rattled, and that Cuba offered to let the FBI come investigate.
Cuban President Raúl Castro (left) shakes hands with former US President Barack Obama, 2015. Photo courtesy of the White House.
Then, Canadians got ill. Why them?
The warm, long-standing ties between Cuba and Canada made it seem even less logical that Castro’s government was the culprit.
If not Castro, could elements of Cuba’s vast intelligence apparatus be to blame? Investigators haven’t ruled out that possibility, several US officials said.
It’s no secret that some within Cuba’s government are uneasy about Raul Castro’s opening with Washington.
“It’s entirely possible that hard-line elements acted,” said Michael Parmly, who headed the US mission in Havana until 2008.
But mounting unauthorized attacks, tantamount to aggression against a foreign power, would be a risky act of defiance in a country noted for its strong central control.
Cuba’s surveillance of US diplomats in Havana is intense. The government tracks US diplomats’ movements and conversations.
So at a minimum, if Americans were being attacked, it’s difficult to imagine Cuba’s spies being left in the dark.
Who else would dare?
US investigators have focused on a small group of usual suspects: Russia, Iran, North Korea, China, Venezuela.
Cuban President Raúl Castro (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.
Russia, in particular, has harassed American diplomats aggressively in recent years.
Moscow even has a plausible motive: driving a wedge between the communist island and “the West” — nations such as the United States and Canada. Russia also has advanced, hard-to-detect weaponry that much of the world lacks and might not even know about.
None of the officials interviewed for this story pointed to any evidence, however, linking Russia to the illnesses. The same goes for the other countries.
Spying Gone Awry?
Maybe no one tried to hurt the Americans at all.
Several US officials have emphasized the possibility the culprit merely surveilled the US diplomats using some new, untested technology that caused unintended harm.
You might think eavesdropping devices simply receive signals. But the world of espionage is full of strange tales.
During the Cold War, the US Embassy in Moscow discovered Russia listening to conversations through a wooden plaque that the American ambassador received as a gift. The plaque had a tiny “microphone” and antenna embedded, but no power source, making it hard to detect even when the room was swept for bugs.
The Russians had developed something novel. They remotely beamed electromagnetic waves to activate the device, which then transmitted sound back via radio frequencies.
Yet if the Cubans or anyone else were equally as innovative, it’s unclear why the incidents would have continued once the United States and Canada complained.
While there has been a pause in tensions with North Korea — to the point where the dictatorship, led by Kim Jong Un, is taking part in next month’s Winter Olympics — that regime has always been tricky. Remember, we’re talking about a rogue nation that sank the South Korean corvette Cheonan with a minisub out of nowhere on March 26, 2010, killing 46 of her crew.
Now, you might think that an American carrier isn’t at the same risk as a South Korean corvette. After all, a North Korean minisub can’t carry that many torpedoes. A Yono-class minisub, the type suspected of sinking the Cheonan, packs two 21-inch torpedoes. The larger Sang-o-class sub carries four.
Could the United States Navy lose an aircraft carrier if attacked by one of these minisubs? It seems far-fetched at first. The United States Navy has lost only one fleet carrier, USS Wasp, to a submarine-only attack. Two escort carriers, USS Block Island and USS Liscome Bay were also sunk in submarine attacks, and USS Yorktown was finished off by a Japanese submarine after being rendered dead in the water by aircraft.
Wasp weighed in at 14,900 tons, according to MilitaryFactory.com. By comparison, today’s Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers have a much larger displacement of over 90,000 tons. When the Soviet Union was considering how to kill a Nimitz, they designed the Oscar-class submarine for the job. That was a huge vessel, carrying 24 SS-N-19 anti-ship missiles as well as eight torpedo tubes for disabling and destroying the carrier.
Fortune plays a big role in war, however. For example, The Japanese carrier HIJMS Taiho was sunk by a single torpedo in 1944. Additionally, since the end of the Cold War, American expertise in anti-submarine warfare has declined. In 2006, a Chinese submarine surfaced near and surprised the aircraft carrier, USS Kitty Hawk.
While two-to-four torpedos typically wouldn’t do the job against a U.S. carrier, North Korea could get lucky and sink one, but that luck would quickly turn into bad news for Kim Jong Un.
Learn more about North Korean submarine capabilities in the video below.
China just released a gallery of photos showcasing their airborne military might. The images depict Beijing’s domestically made jet fighters flying in impressive aerial formations. Some of the planes are fully armed.
These pictures, released by China’s state news service, Xinhuanet, reveal the extent of China’s domestic military aircraft development, a crucial element in its efforts to become Asia’s unquestioned military and strategic power.
The Chinese Chengdu JF-17 is a multi-role fighter introduced as an upgrade to the J-7, a reworking of the 1950s Soviet Mig-29.
The J-11s also are based on Soviet models — they strongly resemble the Sukhoi-30, which debuted in 1989.
Here’s what an armed J-11 looks like.
Here, J-11s fly in formation above the Chinese countryside.
Chinese J-11s fly in formation.
J-11 jets streak across the sky.
Here are two J-10s, multirole aircraft meant to replace the older J-7.
J-10s ascend in tight formation, using colored smoke to create a brilliant aerial display.
A view of the J-10s from the ground
This is a JH-7 “Flying Leopard,” a lightweight, twin engine fighter/bomber that was introduced into service in 1990.
This year the GI Film Festival is celebrating its 10th anniversary of sharing the military experience in and out of the arena of war. The festival is the first in the nation to exclusively celebrate the successes and sacrifices of the service member through the medium of film.
Over the last 10 years, the GIFF has presented films from new and established international and domestic filmmakers that honor the heroic stories of the American military and the universal lessons of war and conflict. All of them in some way express the courage and selflessness of our fighting men and women and the value of their work.
The GI Film Festival is open to filmmakers of every experience level, from first-timers to veteran directors and producers. Prizes are awarded annually to winners in three main categories: feature, documentary, and film shorts.
Here are the trailers of 7 of this year’s best. Watch them and be moved:
The Last Man Club is a story about four World War II veterans who served together on a B-17 Bomber. After losing touch over the years they each find themselves trapped in life circumstances and are all too compliant to live out their last days in their own “private little hell”. Pete is dying in a veteran’s hospital and it’s his nurse, Ripley who helps him find the last known address of Eagle, his captain and the pilot of their beloved B-17.
Pete’s letter finds Eagle living in his son’s home, stripped of his privileges and housebound. The letter informs him that he is the last man after Pete passes and he must fulfill the oath they had all taken after the war. What Eagle first sees as impossible, he is jarred from his fears when he learns that he will soon be going to a retirement home.
Dressed in his reunion military uniform he steals the battery from his son’s car and escapes in his late wife’s 1958 Ford Fairlane. At the start of his journey, Eagle meets up with the most unlikely of accomplishes. Romy is an attractive young woman on the run from her abusive gangster boyfriend. Through a series of happenstances, Romy becomes Eagle’s unwilling tour guide. As they travel cross country Eagle teaches Romy to respect herself and through Romy’s friendship, Eagle conquers his own limitations, finds vitality and a life worth living. They venture through the backroads of America, in a race to complete their mission, as the police, the FBI, a dangerous gangster and Eagle’s family try to figure out this band of geriatric’s next move.
As they travel cross country Eagle teaches Romy to respect herself and through Romy’s friendship, Eagle conquers his own limitations, finds vitality and a life worth living. They venture through the backroads of America, in a race to complete their mission, as the police, the FBI, a dangerous gangster and Eagle’s family try to figure out this band of geriatric’s next move.
Ride The Thunder is the true heroic story of a friendship between American military legend and recipient of the Navy Cross, John Ripley and one of South Vietnam’s most decorated Heroes, Le Ba Binh. The film is based on a book by the same name by Richard Botkin, former Marine Infantry Officer (1980-1995) The storyline follows Ripley’s and Binh’s fight together against the communists at the Battle for Dong Ha during the Vietnam War and the aftermath of the fall of Saigon, as Ripley goes home to a divided America while Binh is imprisoned in a communist re-education camp. After the war, their wives struggle to adjust to their changed lives. Immersed in this true story are interviews and rare historical footage that educates the moviegoers on the truth of the war along with the heroes who fought in it, while exposing the opportunists who betrayed them. The main Vietnamese actors in the film are Vietnamese refugees.
The U.S. military faces a mental health crisis of historic proportions. Thank You for Your Service takes aim at our superficial understanding of war trauma and the failed policies that have resulted. Director Tom Donahue interweaves the stories of four Iraq War veterans with candid interviews of top military and civilian leaders. Observing the systemic neglect, the film argues for significant internal change and offers a roadmap of hope. Interviews include Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Admiral Mike Mullen, Generals David Petraeus and Loree Sutton, Sebastian Junger, Nicholas Kristof, Dexter Filkins, Senator Patty Murray, Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Colonels Lawrence Wilkerson and Dave Sutherland.
At the time of filming, Peter Ertel is 95 years old. He is a published author and an avid pianist. Using his skill as a riveting storyteller, Ertel recounts his experiences as a soldier in the German army – from his early days as an “unsoldierlike” recruit who was deemed an “unreliable follower of the Fuhrer” to his becoming a highly respected platoon leader, who routinely risked his life to save the lives of his men, as well as the lives of the enemies he encountered on the battlefield. Though Peter takes us through the hell of front-line combat in both France and Russia, perhaps the most ‘unimaginable’ part of his journey begins after he becomes a prisoner of war. The Unimaginable Journey Of Peter Ertel is a documentary portrait of a man who maintained his humanity despite being thrust into a world of hatred, destruction and death. Peter Ertel tells his own story as only he could tell it – with unflinching honesty and raw emotion.
Marine Ryan Taylor is given a phone number by a pretty, mysterious girl. Believing it’s hers, he calls and it detonates a bomb in downtown Pittsburgh. The marine then becomes the main suspect in the bombing. Now, he must evade the authorities and hunt down the people who set him up before they can launch a second attack. Rising Fear is an indie action thriller boiling with twists, turns, and a deadly conspiracy that threatens to destroy the US government–and freedom itself. Buckle in as writer director Tom Getty takes you on a roller coaster ride that starts with a bang and doesn’t let up until its explosive finale.
Noah Cass was a machine gunner for the Marine Corps during the 2005 Operation Spear in Iraq. During an over-watch mission, his team was ambushed and a mortar round hit his truck leaving him with permanent hearing loss and tinnitus. When Noah returned home, he dealt with issues common to veterans transitioning into civilian life: aggressive behavior, alcohol addiction, depression, difficulty keeping a job, and relationship problems. Noah eventually hit rock bottom and was desperate for a change. He decided to get sober and started running in the woods nearby. Noah, now a father and husband, enters the 50-mile wilderness race having only completed one 26-mile marathon. This race represents the journey a young soldier faces to help cope with a past that haunts him every day.
Chaplain Justin David Roberts served 6 years active duty as an Army Chaplain. Before he left the Army in 2015, he found that beneath the collar of ministry he was struggling with depression and PTS. Wondering what kind of father he would be if he didn’t face his issues, he set out on a journey to meet up with members of his old unit. Along the way, they recall their tour of duty. In total, 17 soldiers were killed in action and over 200 were wounded during the deployment. Almost all of the men lost died while either trying to save someone or protect others. The common thread in every one of these stories of valor is love. This film layers the footage Roberts shot on missions in Afghanistan with heartfelt interviews of the men he served with, as well as surviving family members. Through telling these stories, the soldiers that deployed with the legendary No Slack battalion are finding healing and purpose after combat.
For show times for these films and a complete rundown of the other films and events going on at this year’s exciting GI Film Festival go here. If you’re in the greater DC metro area you’re not going to want to miss it.
Whether you are a fan of gaming as a whole or you have recently joined the masses when it comes to trying your hand at some of the new titles for your mobile, there is no denying that 2019 was a great year for this industry. With a number of highly anticipated titles as well as quite a few new and emerging indie companies, it can be difficult to determine who came out on top.
In this article, we have created a list of the top 5 mobile applications of 2019 that positively impacted the industry.
1. Call Of Duty Mobile
When looking at some of the biggest mobile games of 2019, there were a number of highly anticipated titles that many gamers were looking forward to playing, one of which was Call of Duty Mobile. This mobile application was released on October 1, 2019 and received over 100 million downloads in the first week following its release. This comes as no surprise to those that have been a fan of the franchise for some time now as many of their leading console titles see unprecedented sales year after year.
2. War Commander: Rogue Assault
For those that are a fan of the real-time strategy genre, there are a number of games that may cater to your gaming preference. But with the sheer number of RTS games out there, the market has become bloated. However, War Commander is the perfect free-to-play game that does everything right from start to finish. With very minimal in-game purchases and the ability to build structures right away, you can begin to enjoy the game as a whole without a disjointed experience, making this a popular choice for many.
3. PUB G
2019 also saw the year of the battle royale taking over the first-person shooting genre with the likes of Fortnite gaining a huge amount of popularity. But with slightly more realistic graphics and a number of other benefits, it was PUB G that became one of the most popular mobile applications launched last year. The player is able to make a much more competitive experience for themselves as they can set about creating clans, put together a team and begin practicing strategies. This then allows them to go up against one another to get the best possible outcome at the end of the battle royale. This is ideal for those looking for an enjoyable free-to-play mobile game as you can play with as many or as few people as you want for the perfect tailored experience.
Another game that was highly popular throughout the course of 2019 was Tropico. Unlike the others on this list, you will have to pay in order to enjoy the thrill of this game, but the price of £11.99 gives you all the fun of the main title game in your pocket. Run your own island and line your pockets and create the best place for you and your loyal followers as you deal with the trials and tribulations that come along with being El Presidente. Though this application was originally released on just Apple devices, it has since released on Android devices with a large amount of success and has become one of the most popular applications in this genre. Whether you want to build the perfect island or customize your look to rule in style, this is the perfect game for you to choose in the long term.
5. Fortnite Mobile Edition
The final game that was highly popular in 2019 within this genre was Fortnite. With millions of users online on games consoles, PC and on mobile this truly was one of the most popular battle royale titles of 2019. With over 100 million downloads in just 138 days, it was one that many people were looking to play on a regular basis. As the hype continued to grow, there were hundreds of millions of people with registered accounts. Fortnite was by far one of the most stand-out games of 2019 with a record number of views on platforms such as Youtube and Twitch as well as dances that begun to take over—but can 2020 be just as successful?
With this in mind, 2019 was a stand-out year for the genre of mobile gaming as popularity increased. However, with a number of highly anticipated applications on the horizon for this new year, can 2020 outdo the last when it comes to providing a new and exciting experience for users?
Seven Bucks Productions recently announced plans to adapt the critically-acclaimed novel The Janson Directive into a live-action film. Dwayne Johnson is producing the film and John Cena is cast in the lead role, playing Paul Janson. While that alone should be enough to get audiences excited, everything else about the film has it set to be an outstanding spy flick.
The author of the source material, Robert Ludlum, served in the U.S. Marine Corps and, during his assignment to Pearl Harbor, he spent every possible day in the library — learning the craft of storytelling and immersing himself in classical history. His other works include The Osterman Weekend and, most notably, The Bourne Identity.
The script is being written by Akiva Goldsman, the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of A Beautiful Mind, and adapted by James Vanderbilt, writer of Zodiac and White House Down.
Originally, Dwayne Johnson was cast as Janson but stepped back to produce it.
The novel is a spy thriller set after the Vietnam War. The protagonist is a former Navy SEAL and covert operative for a fictional spy agency turned corporate security consultancy. After a job to protect a Nobel Peace Prize-winning laureate goes horrible awry, Janson is blamed for their death.
In order to clear his name, Janson must single-handedly infiltrate his former spy agency to earn his freedom, but risks revealing countless government secrets that could shatter world peace in the process.
Outside of the insanely awesome plot, the novel actually delves deep into the psyche of a man living through post-traumatic stress as he struggles to determine whether his own life is worth revealing a placating lie that is keeping the world safe.
Frightening attacks on US personnel in Havana struck the heart of America’s spy network in Cuba, with intelligence operatives among the first and most severely affected victims, The Associated Press has learned.
It wasn’t until US spies, posted to the embassy under diplomatic cover, reported hearing bizarre sounds and experiencing even stranger physical effects that the United States realized something was wrong, individuals familiar with the situation said.
While the attacks started within days of President Donald Trump’s surprise election in November, the precise timeline remains unclear, including whether intelligence officers were the first victims hit or merely the first victims to report it. The US has called the situation “ongoing.”
To date, the Trump administration largely has described the 21 victims as US embassy personnel or “members of the diplomatic community.” That description suggested only bona fide diplomats and their family members were struck, with no logical motivation beyond disrupting US-Cuban relations.
Behind the scenes, though, investigators immediately started searching for explanations in the darker, rougher world of spycraft and counter-espionage, given that so many of the first reported cases involved intelligence workers posted to the US embassy. That revelation, confirmed to the AP by a half-dozen officials, adds yet another element of mystery to a year-long saga that the Trump administration says may not be over.
The State Department and the CIA declined to comment for this story.
The first disturbing reports of piercing, high-pitched noises and inexplicable ailments pointed to someone deliberately targeting the US government’s intelligence network on the communist-run island, in what seemed like a bone-chilling escalation of the tit-for-tat spy games that Washington and Havana have waged over the last half century.
But the US soon discovered that actual diplomats at the embassy had also been hit by similar attacks, officials said, further confounding the search for a culprit and a motive.
Of the 21 confirmed cases, American spies suffered some of the most acute damage, including brain injury and hearing loss that has not healed, said several US officials who weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the investigation and demanded anonymity. They heard an unsettling sound inside and in some cases outside their Havana homes, described as similar to loud crickets. Then they fell ill.
Over time, the attacks seemed to evolve.
In many of the more recent cases, victims didn’t hear noises and weren’t aware an attack was occurring, identifying the symptoms only later. That has raised concerns among investigators that the attacks may be getting more sophisticated and harder to detect, individuals briefed on the investigation said.
Though the State Department has called all the cases “medically confirmed,” several US officials said it’s unclear whether all of the victims’ symptoms can be conclusively tied to attacks. Considering the deep sense of alarm among Americans working in the embassy, it’s possible some workers attributed unrelated illnesses to attacks.
Almost nothing about what has transpired in Havana is perfectly clear. But this is Cuba.
For decades, Washington and Havana pushed their rivalry to unprecedented levels of covert action. The former enemies tracked each other’s personnel, turned each other’s agents, and, in the case of the CIA, even mounted a failed attempt to overthrow the Cuban government in the 1961 “Bay of Pigs” invasion.
There were hopes, though, that the two nations were starting to put that bitter history behind them after renewing diplomatic relations in 2015. When the attacks first occurred, the US and Cuban governments were hard at work on clinching new commercial and immigration agreements. No new spat among intelligence services was publicly known.
Cuban President Raúl Castro (left) shakes hands with former US President Barack Obama, 2015. Photo courtesy of the White House.
Eleven months on, the US cannot guarantee the threat is over. Last week, the State Department warned Americans to stay away from Cuba and ordered more than half the embassy staff to leave indefinitely. The US had previously given all embassy staff the option to come home, but even most of those struck by the mysterious attacks had opted to stay, individuals familiar with the situation said.
For those staying and new arrivals, the US has been giving instructions about what to watch and listen for to identify an attack in progress. They’re also learning steps to take if an attack occurs that could mitigate the risk, officials said.
But the US has not identified whatever device is responsible for the harm. FBI sweeps have turned up nothing.
So to better identify patterns, investigators have created a map detailing specific areas of Cuba’s capital where attacks have occurred, several individuals familiar with the matter said. Three “zones,” or geographic clusters of attacks, cover the homes where US diplomats live and several hotels where attacks occurred, including the historic Hotel Capri.
Since first disclosing the situation in August, the United States had generally avoided the word “attacks.” It called them “incidents” instead until Sept. 29. Now, the State Department deems them “specific attacks” targeting Americans posted in Havana, without saying what new information, if any, prompted the newfound confidence they were indeed deliberate.
The most obvious motive for attacking Americans in Havana would be to drive a wedge between the US and Cuba. If that’s the case, the strategy appears to be succeeding.
Last week’s embassy drawdown added to the growing friction between the nations. And an accompanying new travel warning deemed Havana’s hotels unsafe for visitors, threatening to drive down tourism, a backbone of Cuba’s economy.
In Havana, American diplomats are frantically selling off possessions — from mattresses to canned goods to children’s toys — and hurriedly making plans to return to the US, where some haven’t lived in years. The State Department has worked feverishly to arrange transportation, temporary jobs, and places to live for those coming back early from Cuba.
“Heartbroken? Me too, but this will make you feel better,” one seller posted in a chatroom for foreigners in Cuba, under a picture of a Costco artichoke hearts jar selling for $6.
For Cubans, it may be no better. The US has been providing 20,000 visas a year to Cubans moving to the United States. It has issued thousands more to Cubans wishing to visit family in America. The reduction in US staff in Havana means visa processing there has been suspended indefinitely.
Cuba has vehemently denied involvement or knowledge of the attacks. Some in the US government believe the Cubans may be telling the truth, officials said.
When President Raul Castro denied any culpability in February, he did so on the sidelines of a meeting in Havana with five visiting US members of Congress, the AP found. The US had raised complaints about the attacks to Cuba just days earlier through diplomatic channels.
Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, Chargé d’Affaires at US Embassy Havana. Photo from US State Department.
But the visiting lawmakers knew nothing of the attacks taking place in the country they were visiting.
Nor did they know that Castro had used the occasion of their meeting to pull aside Jeff DeLaurentis, then the top US diplomat in Cuba, to say privately that his government was equally alarmed and willing to help.
The lawmakers all declined to comment. Cuban officials say they’re disappointed in the US retaliatory measures but will continue cooperating with the investigation.
Studies and Observations Group (SOG) was a highly classified, special ops unit that conducted unconventional warfare during the Vietnam War. SOG carried out the capture of enemy prisoners, rescued downed pilots, and conducted rescue operations to retrieve prisoners of war throughout Southeast Asia. The Task Force also engaged in clandestine intelligence, propaganda and psychological operations. J.D. Bath and Bill Deacy were members of this elite group.
We Are the Mighty has partnered with a research firm, Maru/Matchbox, to provide an opportunity for you to share your opinions on how you use and interact with media and technology in your daily life.
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