Russian spy unit may be responsible for attacks causing mysterious illness in U.S. officials: report

Russian spy unit may be responsible for attacks causing mysterious illness in U.S. officials: report
AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko
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An explosive report was published this week indicating that top U.S. officials suspect that a Russian military intelligence unit, the GRU, may be responsible for neurological attacks on U.S. government officials. The issue was first discovered in Cuba several years ago and has since occurred on U.S. soil, including near the White House. 

The report comes after multiple U.S. government officials fell ill with neurological symptoms mirroring suspected attacks that U.S. officials had experienced in Cuba. These symptoms are now known as “Havana Syndrome.” Victims of the attacks experience intense headaches, numerous hearing issues, loss of balance, and in some cases, long-term brain damage.

“The incidents have allegedly occurred all over the world, including in Europe, Miami, northern Virginia, and near the White House,” Politico reported. “The GRU’s inclusion as a suspect in the investigation, which has not been previously reported, comes as Biden administration officials are working to reassure outraged lawmakers that they are committed to getting to the bottom of the issue and holding those responsible to account.”

While sources speaking to the publication say they do not have definitive proof, they pointed to various factors that they claim make the GRU the prime suspect. The GRU has a known presence in all areas where U.S. officials have fallen ill and is the only Russian agency with the technology capable of the attacks. It has stated in the past that it seeks to pursue “irregular warfare” against the U.S. because it cannot compete at the same level on the battlefield. 

Former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller called the attacks on U.S. officials “an act of war,” and established an effort to investigate the suspected attacks last year.

In 2018, the New Yorker highlighted a suspected attack in Cuba using what officials believe is a microwave pulse weapon:

On the evening of March 17th, [Audrey Lee, a career Foreign Service officer in her late forties] came home from the Embassy, made dinner, and ate with the twins in the kitchen nook. Her husband was away on business. Afterward, the kids went upstairs to play Minecraft. At around eight o’clock, Lee washed the dishes. The kitchen lights made it hard to see out the window, but she knew that there was a wooden booth outside where Cuban police kept watch. As Lee was cleaning, she felt a sudden burst of pressure in her head, then a stabbing pain worse than any she had ever experienced. Her breath quickened and she was overcome by panic. Lee had heard rumors around the Embassy of colleagues falling victim to mysterious “sonic attacks,” but no one knew what they were or what had caused them.

As the pain grew more intense, she remembered overhearing a security officer at the Embassy talking about how employees could protect themselves. “Get off the X,” he had said, which Lee took to mean move away from the site where she experienced the pain. She made her way to the family room and took a few minutes to steady herself. After checking on the twins, she went to her bedroom to lie down, but the pain kept her from sleeping.

The next morning, Lee’s head still hurt. At breakfast, her son asked her to read the ingredients on a box of cereal, and she struggled, moving the box back and forth as she tried to focus. In the coming weeks, she often felt dizzy and lost her balance, and sometimes walked into doors. She felt as if she were moving even when she was still, a sensation that she compared to walking after taking off roller skates. She was sleeping just an hour or two a night. Co-workers noticed that she was becoming forgetful.

Multiple CIA officers are believed to have been victims of the attack and have reported nearly identical symptoms, except one. CIA officers have described hearing loud noises, similar to cicadas, that followed them from room to room. They also stated that when they went outside the sounds would immediately stop and described the feeling as if they were standing in a beam of energy. 

“Microwave pulse weapons, which use a form of electromagnetic radiation to damage targets, are ‘the perfect gray zone’ weapons because attribution is so difficult,” Politico reported. “While investigators have not determined definitively that these incidents are caused by a specific weapon, some believe any such device would be primarily transported by vehicle, according to the former official and a congressional official. Some could be small enough to fit into a large backpack, and an individual can be targeted from 500 to 1,000 yards away.”

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