The bill, dubbed the HAVANA Act, authorizes new funding for treatment and gives the CIA Director and Secretary of State increased flexibility over how the money is spent. It also requires the two to report regularly to Congress on fundraising initiatives. Behind closed doors, lawmakers have expressed frustration with the intelligence community for what they perceive as a failure to sufficiently address the issue in recent years.
“There is no higher priority than ensuring the safety of our people, and the people who have served our country and are now suffering from these disturbing health incidents deserve answers and our support,” the president said. from House Intelligence Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who is leading the effort in the lower house.
The Senate unanimously passed the bill in June; he is now heading to President Joe Biden’s office, where he is expected to sign it.
“President Biden supports the HAVANA Act and the efforts of Congress to provide additional support to people who have suffered abnormal health incidents,” said a senior administration official. “It’s a top priority to make sure they get the medical care they need, and we’re working with Congress to expand benefits to those affected across the US government.”
Biden himself has pledged to get to the bottom of the mysterious illness.
“My administration is coordinating a government-wide effort to respond to these incidents, as this challenge requires… departments and agencies, including the entire intelligence community, to urgently work together,” Biden said. during a recent visit with intelligence officials.
Victims of the suspected attacks have reported symptoms such as intense ringing and pressure in the ears, loss of cognitive abilities, and even permanent brain damage. The disease dates back to 2016, when U.S. diplomats stationed in Havana began reporting symptoms.
The threat has since increased considerably; This year alone, several U.S. personnel stationed in Vienna, a hotspot for international spies, developed related symptoms, according to two officials close to the investigation. Two National Security Council officials were also reportedly affected by directed energy attacks on U.S. soil – one in Arlington, Virginia, and the other on the South Lawn of the White House. Europe is quickly becoming a hotspot for incidents, officials say. Others have been detected in South Florida.
The New Yorker first reported the spike in Vienna-based cases.
US officials believe the Russian military intelligence unit, the GRU, is responsible for the alleged attacks, POLITICO first reported. Although there was no formal attribution, the GRU would be technologically capable of carrying out such attacks, and it has known footprints in all the countries and cities where the incidents have been reported. One working theory is that Russian secret agents used microwave radiation to collect data from their targets’ devices.
Yet the United States has struggled, through various investigations, to learn more about the technology behind the alleged attacks. This raises the possibility that a foreign adversary has developed technology that the United States does not fully understand – a major national security vulnerability.
The Biden administration has stepped up its efforts to get to the bottom of this; the investigation expanded to include the entire intelligence community in addition to the National Institutes of Health, which help analyze victims’ symptoms.
Already, CIA Director William Burns has devoted significant resources to the matter, receiving near-daily updates and appointing a senior officer to lead the investigation. This individual, whose identity is kept secret, previously oversaw the successful manhunt of Osama bin Laden, the terrorist mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.
In a recent interview with NPR, Burns said he met several victims of the alleged directed energy attacks.
“I am absolutely determined – and I have devoted a lot of time and energy to this during the four months that I have been director of the CIA – to get to the bottom of the question of what and who caused this,” Burns said, describing the threat as “real” and “serious”.
“It is a deep obligation, I think, for any leader to take care of his people, and that is what I am determined to do,” he added.
Burns’ team were also directly affected by the case. According to CNN, a Burns staff member exhibited symptoms of a directed energy attack during the director’s recent trip to India.