GOP Senators Urge Trump to Expel Cuban Diplomats From U.S., Threaten to Shutter Embassy

Call to action comes after one month of no progress in determining cause of sonic attacks on U.S. diplomats in Havana

View of the US Embassy in Havana
View of the US Embassy in Havana / Getty Images

Five prominent GOP senators are calling on the Trump administration to expel Cuban diplomats from Washington immediately and even close the U.S. embassy in Havana if the Cuban government is not more forthcoming about mysterious "acoustic" attacks that have seriously harmed U.S. diplomats.

Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Richard Burr of North Carolina, John Cornyn of Texas, and James Lankford of Oklahoma in a letter sent Friday urged Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to take action regarding the harassment and acoustic attacks on American diplomats in Cuba.

The senators want Tillerson to immediately declare all accredited Cuban diplomats in the United States as persona non grata, and if Cuba does not take tangible action to remove these threats to the diplomats and their families, to take the decisive step of shuttering the U.S. embassy in Havana. They also said Tillerson needs to remind the Cuban government of its obligation to protect U.S. diplomats under international treaties.

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"Our officials and their families have been the targets of unacceptable levels of harassment and ‘acoustic' attacks that, in some cases, have caused permanent hearing damage and other significant injuries," they wrote. "The safety of U.S. diplomatic personnel and their families posted overseas remains one of our high priorities and a shared responsibility of those nations that host U.S. diplomatic facilities."

"Cuba's neglect of its duty to protect our diplomats and their families cannot go unchallenged," they added. "We appreciate your attention to this important national security matter and look forward to your timely response."

The senators have waited more than a month to request that President Donald Trump threaten to close the embassies, a step that would reverse much of the efforts to normalize diplomatic relations taken by President Barack Obama.

In mid-August, the Washington Free Beacon was the first to report that the U.S. government was hiding key details of the mystery attacks on U.S. diplomats in Cuba and may have misled the public and Congress on the full scope and nature of the attacks.

U.S. officials in early August said approximately six Americans were the victims of the attacks when the actual number of U.S. diplomats was far higher—in the double digits.

In addition to the greater number of U.S. persons harmed by the sonic device, sources told the Free Beacon that some Americans stationed in Havana began experiencing symptoms months earlier than the State Department has publicly admitted, and that the symptoms they suffered included permanent hearing loss, sleeplessness as well as damage to some diplomats' brain function and cognitive abilities.

All the senators who signed onto the letter to Tillerson are members of the Senate Intelligence Committee and Burr chairs the panel. Rubio is also a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Sate Department and diplomatic personnel. Cornyn also serves as the Senate majority whip, the No. 2 GOP leader in the upper chamber.