National Security

Congress Presses for Exact Timeline of Cuba Health Attacks

New push comes amid Trump admin's tougher line in Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua

The US Embassy in Havana / Getty Images
The U.S. Embassy in Havana / Getty Images

A senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee is pressing the State Department for an exact timeline of when mysterious and still-unresolved health attacks began occurring against U.S. personnel in Cuba and China and is calling for the removal of all diplomatic workers from Havana until an investigation into the attacks is completed.

Rep. Joe Wilson (R., S.C.) on Tuesday wrote a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo citing new reports that victims of the health attacks in Cuba and China have experienced harassment and break-ins after they were evacuated from their overseas posts and returned to the United States

Some of the diplomatic personnel told NBC News that they suspect their U.S. homes had been broken into after they found items that had been moved or tampered with when they returned. In the Cuba cases, the FBI gave some of the confirmed victims letters identifying them as "a possible victim of a crime."

"According to NBC News, in addition to the attacks in Cuba and China, the victims may have been subjected to ‘incidents of harassment and break-ins' on U.S. soil," Wilson wrote in the letter obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. "This is deeply troubling—for not only have our diplomats been injured, but so have their family members including children."

An internal State Department probe of the mysterious health attacks in Cuba in August cleared State Department officials of any wrongdoing in the way they responded to the incidents perpetrated against U.S. diplomats and their families. However, other federal investigations into who carried out the attacks and why have yet to produce any conclusions and remain ongoing.

Wilson also asked for a detailed accounting of when the health attacks first started in Cuba and China and when the United States first learned of the incidents. He gave the State Department 14 days to provide an updated staff briefing to him about the health attacks, citing their unresolved nature and "this growing trend of attacks."

The State Department has said they first learned about the health attacks against U.S. diplomats in the fall of 2016 after Trump's election, but some U.S. officials suspect that the incidents began months earlier but were not publicly acknowledged in an effort to preserve President Obama's diplomatic thaw with the communist island nation.

The letter was sent on Tuesday, just days before National Security Adviser John Bolton in a speech in Miami laid out a tougher Trump administration policy on Cuba, as well as Venezuela and Nicaragua. Bolton labeled the dictators of the three countries the "Troika of Tyranny" for their oppressive regimes and pledged that the Trump administration would confront them more aggressively.

"This Troika of Tyranny, this triangle of terror stretching from Havana to Caracas to Managua, is the cause of immense human suffering, the impetus of enormous regional instability, and the genesis of a sordid cradle of communism in the Western Hemisphere," he said during his remarks, delivered in front of Freedom Tower in downtown Miami. "The United States looks forward to watching each corner of the triangle fall … the Troika will crumble."

The get-tough stance corresponded with the announcement of new sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela. Bolton said that the State Department has added more than two-dozen additional entities owned or controlled by the Cuban military and intelligence services to the U.S. blacklist.

"The United States will not prop up a military monopoly that abuses the citizens of Cuba," he said.

President Trump last year in a speech in Miami rolled back several aspects of the Obama administration's détente with Cuba, tightening travel restrictions and blacklisting business engagement with most government-owned entities.

Earlier this week, Russia loaned Cuba $50 million to purchase military equipment. A senior Russian official this week said Moscow was seriously considering establishing a military base in Cuba in response to the Trump administration's decision to leave the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, but U.S. officials are viewing it as more of a threat than a plan of action.

The cash infusion to Cuba comes after Moscow increased its military and economic aid to Nicaragua in April, stirring new fears in the United States about Russian influence in Latin America.