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Personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Cuba in Havana in 2017. Photo: Sven Creutzmann/Mambo photo/Getty Images

A radio frequency energy of radiation that includes microwaves likely caused American diplomats in China and Cuba to fall ill with neurological symptoms over the past four years, a report published Saturday finds.

Why it matters: The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine's report does not attribute blame for the suspected attacks, but it notes there "was significant research in Russia/USSR into the effects of pulsed, rather than continuous wave [radio frequency] exposures."

  • It also states that military personnel in "Eurasian communist countries" were exposed to non-thermal radiation.

Driving the news: The State Department commissioned the report after government personnel and their families began falling ill at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, in late 2016 and the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, China, in early 2017.

  • There were reports of 40 State Department staff experiencing symptoms including ear pain, intense head pressure or vibration, dizziness, visual problems, and cognitive difficulties.
  • "Many still continue to experience these or other health problems," the study authors note in a statement.
  • Canada's government has confirmed 14 of its citizens also fell ill in Cuba's capital, in what became known as "Havana syndrome," the Ottawa Citizen notes.

Of note: The report, first obtained by NBC News, recommends that the State Department act promptly to establish plans and protocols to enable future investigations if required.

  • "The larger issue is preparedness for new and unknown threats that might compromise the health and safety of U.S. diplomats serving abroad," the report states.
  • "The next event may be even more dispersed in time and place, and even more difficult to recognize quickly."

For the record: Russia has denied it's behind the suspected attack, and CIA director Gina Haspel "has not concluded the Kremlin was responsible," but some Russia experts at the agency noted to the New York Times it fits with Moscow's "long history of experimenting with the technology."

  • Mark Lenzi, a diplomatic security officer who fell ill with the symptoms when he was working in Guangzhou, China, in 2018, has filed a lawsuit against the State Department for disability discrimination.
  • "My government looked the other way when they knew I and my family were injured,” he told the NYT. "This report is just the beginning and when the American people know the full extent of this administration’s cover-up of the radiofrequency attacks in China in particular they will be outraged."
  • The Office of Special Counsel has launched two investigations into the State Department over the matter.

What they're saying: The State Department said in an emailed statement, "We are pleased this report is now out and can add to the data and analyses that may help us come to an eventual conclusion as to what transpired."

  • Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees, who led bipartisan calls for the report to be released, said in a statement: "The health effects from these mysterious injuries have tormented those afflicted. Their illnesses and suffering are real and demand a response from Congress."
"American public servants and their families — who have been targeted — have requested that Congress receive and review this report, so I’m glad the State Department heeded our bipartisan call so we can get to work."

Read the report, via DocumentCloud:

Go deeper

Jan 26, 2021 - World

Former Google CEO and others call for U.S.-China tech "bifurcation"

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A new set of proposals by a group of influential D.C. insiders and tech industry practitioners calling for a degree of "bifurcation" in the U.S. and Chinese tech sectors is circulating in the Biden administration. Axios has obtained a copy.

Why it matters: The idea of "decoupling" certain sectors of the U.S. and Chinese economies felt radical three years ago, when Trump's trade war brought the term into common parlance. But now the strategy has growing bipartisan and even industry support.

Federal watchdog finds lack of data, resources impede COVID response

A patient rests in a COVID-19 care site in a parking garage at Renown Regional Medical Center, Reno, Nevada, on Dec. 16. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

National data on COVID-19 testing is incomplete, "critical gaps in the medical supply chain" remain, and a lack of data has stalled delivering key resources to people who need it most, a nonpartisan federal watchdog, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), has found.

Why it matters: The findings come as the rise of more contagious variants ensures that Americans’ risk remains high, despite a three-week decline in the number of COVID infections in the U.S. A greater number of people are also dying from the coronavirus over less time.

55 mins ago - Health

Government website for free COVID tests launches early

COVID-19 rapid at-home test kits. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The website where Americans can request free, at-home rapid COVID-19 tests from the government launched Tuesday and is now accepting orders.

Driving the news: The website went live in its beta phase and is operating at a limited capacity a day before its official launch. Every home in the U.S. is eligible for up to four COVID tests, according to the website.