Havana Syndrome Spy Thriller

Havana Syndrome Spy Thriller

You saw it here first. I’m finally writing a spy thriller.

Well, part of one.

Spy-sourced thriller

I’ve been invited to contribute a chapter to a spy thriller that tackles Havana Syndrome. Different chapters will be written by former CIA officers, many of whom like me have overseas experience.

The working title is MOSCOW SYNDROME.

I’ll write Chapter 2, which will introduce Celine Macy, a savvy female operations officer. She gets a critical scrap of information as reports of Havana Syndrome start rolling in.

Tackling Havana Syndrome

In case you aren’t familiar with the term Havana Syndrome, it’s a brain injury with an unknown cause experienced first by US intel officers in Havana, Cuba in 2016, then by US and Canadian officials in numerous  locations including inside the US.

By 2021 there were around 200 victims. They experienced a variety of lingering symptoms, including dizziness, nausea, vision and hearing difficulties, memory loss, and headaches.

According to a Harvard report, “Many said they felt something pressing or vibrating around them or heard noises just before the symptoms appeared, leading some to suspect they had been exposed to a high-intensity burst of energy or sound waves.” https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2021/10/havana-syndrome-sees-uptick-in-cases-concerns-and-questions/

Medecinenet.com gives a good overview of the phenomenon:

Havana syndrome is a series of debilitating symptoms that first affected U.S. intelligence officers and embassy staffers stationed in Havana, Cuba, in late 2016. In the following year, American diplomats in different parts of the world reported similar symptoms.”

Researchers investigating the condition have stated that Havana syndrome, which was initially dismissed as mass hysteria or a reaction caused by psychosomatic causes such as stress, may be a result of microwave weaponry. Symptoms are similar to those of a concussion or mild head injury and have mostly been reported by diplomats, intelligence officers, military personnel, and their family members deployed on foreign soil. https://www.medicinenet.com/what_is_havana_syndrome/article.htm

What’s going on?

In February 2022, a panel of US intel experts concluded that “a high-tech device shooting pulsed electromagnetic energy or ultrasound waves could be causing at least some of the cases of “Havana Syndrome,” the battery of mysterious and debilitating medical symptoms sickening U.S. spies and diplomats working overseas.The finding, made by a panel of intelligence community experts, is consistent with at least one hypothesis given by U.S. officials in recent years that Russia, China or some other nation-state adversary is targeting unwitting Americans with some kind of weapon.” https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2022/02/02/us-spies-likely-targeted-energy-waves-some-havana-syndrome-cases/9317517002/

Dr. David Relman of Stanford University noted in 2022 that his study “Found what we thought [was] clear evidence of an injury to the auditory and vestibular system of the brain. Everything starting with the inner ear where humans perceive sound and sense balance, and then translate those perceptions into brain electrical signals . . . directed pulsed (radio frequency) energy…appears to be the most plausible mechanism…” https://www.cbsnews.com/news/havana-syndrome-culprit-investigation-new-evidence-60-minutes-transcript/

By March 2023, however, “five different intelligence agencies, including the CIA and FBI, concluded that ‘Havana Syndrome’ was a myth—an imaginary condition consisting of an array of pre-existing health conditions and anxiety reactions—and was not caused by a secret weapon or an inadvertent exposure of an energy source from a foreign adversary.”  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/its-catching/202303/dont-be-misled-by-the-new-havana-syndrome-claims

As recently reported by CNN. the official conclusion is that there is no credible evidence that a foreign adversary has a weapon that targeted the victims. Brain scans of victims show few abnormalities as compared to a control group. https://www.cnn.com/2024/03/18/health/havana-syndrome-studies/index.html

Government cover up or a strange mass psychological event?

What the victims say

The Harvard article includes a first-hand account from Marc Polymeropoulos, counterterrorism specialist and the former deputy chief of operations for Europe and Eurasia. In 2017 he was on a trip to Moscow when he woke up in the hotel with the room spinning, his ears ringing and with a blinding headache. He lost his long-distance vision and had a host of other issues that eventually led him to be diagnosed with traumatic brain injury.

Another victim is an FBI agent who was at home in Florida in 2021 when she was hit by a crippling shockwave effect. As recounted to CBS, “And bam, inside my right ear, it was like a dentist drilling on steroids. That feeling when it gets too close to your eardrum? It’s like that, you know, times ten. It was like a high pitched, metallic drilling noise, and it knocked me forward at, like, a 45 degree angle.”

At the same time, the battery in her cell phone swelled, bursting the phone case.

CBS documented numerous victims’ experiences. Intense ear pain was the most common inciting event, followed by disorientation and the persistently debilitating symptoms listed above.

Who is behind it?

Interestingly, like Polymeropoulos and the FBI agents, many of the victims have some connection to Russia. Just a few months ago, Greg Edgreen, a now-retired Army lieutenant colonel who ran the Pentagon investigation told CBS’s 60 Minutes program that “Consistently there was a Russia nexus. There was some angle where they had worked against Russia, focused on Russia, and done extremely well.” https://www.cbsnews.com/news/havana-syndrome-russia-evidence-60-minutes/

A joint investigation by media outlets The Insider, Der Spiegel and 60 Minutes raised the notion of an elite Russian military unit being responsible. “The fresh media investigation alleges that members of a specific Russian military intelligence unit – known as 29155 – may have targeted the brains of US diplomats with “directed energy” weapons.It says there is evidence that places members of the unit in cities around the world at times when US personnel reported incidents.The secretive unit undertakes foreign operations and has been linked to incidents including the attempted poisoning in the UK in 2018 of Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy. As part of the investigation, The Insider – a Russia-focused site – reported that an officer in the 29155 unit had been rewarded for their work related to the development of “non-lethal acoustic weapons”. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-68706317

Fiction time

Now it’s up to this band of former CIA officers to put together an espionage thriller based on what we know about Havana Syndrome. We’ll create a cast of characters, from victims to truth seekers to villains.

Will we stumble on the truth as we go?

Maybe, but the odds are that we’ll never know.

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