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Deputy CIA chief briefs senators on ‘Havana syndrome’ as US prepares to pay victims

WASHINGTON — Top Biden administration officials told senators Thursday that the government would soon release its plan to make payments to U.S. diplomats and intelligence officers who suffered mysterious injuries overseas known as the “Havana syndrome,” four people with knowledge of the case told NBC News.

In a classified briefing, CIA Deputy Director David Cohen and FBI Deputy Director Alan Kohler briefed a group of senators on the latest news from the years-long injury investigation, which the administration calls “abnormal health incidents”. They were joined by Melissa Dalton, assistant secretary of the Department of Defense responsible for overseeing the Western Hemisphere, and senior officials from the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Center for Counterintelligence and security.

It is unclear what information they provided on the investigation into the incidents, which remain unexplained more than five years after US diplomats and spies in Havana began reporting strange sounds and sensations followed by various symptoms, including brain damage. U.S. officials familiar with the investigation say the U.S. has yet to determine a cause.

State Department and CIA officials told senators that within days the administration would release a plan to compensate US personnel who suffered injuries and how much to pay them, with some payments expected to exceed $100,000 per person. , said people familiar with the briefing.

The Washington Post first reported that victims could receive six-figure compensation.

The plan will come in the form of new regulations requested under the HAVANA Act, which President Joe Biden signed into law last year. The law gave the Secretary of State and the CIA the power to determine who is eligible for payments, a thorny task given wide disagreement over what should be considered legitimate and “confirmed” cases.

There are also longstanding tensions over Havana Syndrome between the CIA and the State Department, which have taken different approaches to responding to incidents reported by their employees.

Dollar ranges for how much people could receive are still being finalized and could change, people briefed on the plan said. The Biden administration has already missed an April deadline to come up with a system for who will be eligible and for how much.

The State Department declined to comment on the briefing with senators. He said he would “soon” release more information about the compensation proposal.

“The department makes every effort to ensure that employees who report an AHI receive immediate and appropriate attention and care,” a State Department spokesperson said, using an acronym for “health incident unnatural”.

A spokesperson for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment on the briefing.

Deputy CIA chief briefs senators on ‘Havana syndrome’ as US prepares to pay victims

A provision added to an annual military spending bill by the senses. Jeanne Shaheen, DN.H., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, require the administration to periodically update lawmakers on the status of the investigation.

Yet there have been few public updates on what the government has learned about the cause of the incidents since the start of the year, when a pair of intelligence assessments added new uncertainty to the question of find out how many Americans have been affected and by what.

In January, a CIA interim assessment ruled out the possibility of a global campaign backed by a foreign power to hurt Americans, but it said about two dozen cases remain unexplained and may have resulted from hostile acts. A few weeks later, a panel of scientific experts recruited by US intelligence agencies concluded that at least some injuries were most likely caused by pulsed electromagnetic energy from an external device.

“The U.S. government continues to take all AHI reports seriously,” a White House National Security Council spokesperson said. “We remain committed to ensuring that people who report AHI have access to medical care, and we will continue to rigorously investigate the cause of these incidents.”

Beginning in late 2016, US diplomats and intelligence officers stationed in Havana began reporting bizarre sounds and physical sensations followed by unexplained illnesses and symptoms, including loss of vision and hearing, problems loss of memory and balance, headaches, nausea and nosebleeds. In the years since, several hundred US government employees in more than a dozen countries have reported alleged incidents, NBC News reported.

Shaheen, who also drafted the legislation authorizing monetary payments for an “eligible brain injury,” said Senate Democrats and Republicans continue to work to ensure public officials injured on the job have access to resources “to heal. and recover”.

“We still don’t know a lot about directed energy attacks, but what we do know is that the injuries are real,” Shaheen said in a statement Thursday. “There is still a lot of work to be done to get to the bottom of these attacks to understand how our government can best help the victims – that work continues.”

Since the incidents were first made public in 2017, Cuba has categorically denied any knowledge of or involvement in attacks on US diplomats. US intelligence officials have long viewed Russia as a prime suspect, NBC News reported; Moscow has strongly denied being involved. Some US officials and experts who have studied the cases have raised the possibility that mass hysteria may explain many of the cases, although doctors treating the victims say at least some of them have concrete medical findings similar to mild traumatic brain injury.

Ken Dilanian contributed.

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