National Security

Rubio to Hold Hearing on Sonic Attacks in Cuba

Sen. Flake over the weekend said he has seen no evidence of attacks, spurring strong Rubio rebuke

Marco Rubio / Getty

Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) on Tuesday will hold the first open public hearing on the mysterious sonic attacks perpetrated against U.S. diplomats and other personnel in Cuba.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing was originally scheduled for November 15 but was indefinitely postponed without explanation.

Three State Department officials will testify: Francisco Palmieri, the acting assistant secretary for the western hemisphere; Todd Brown, diplomatic security assistant director for international programs; and Charles Rosenfarb, medical director of the Bureau of Medical Services.

The State Department in August first disclosed that the attacks on U.S. personnel occurred in Havana, most of which they said took place in the fall of 2016 with some attacks coming as late as August of this year. Since then, the State Department has said the number of victims has risen sharply to at least 24, but has been unable to ascertain what device caused the attack or who was behind it.

U.S. government sources have told the Washington Free Beacon that some type of sonic device left some of the diplomats, as well as other U.S. personnel, with hearing loss, headaches, dizziness, sleeplessness, and other cognitive problems.

Rubio on Sunday took to Twitter to push back against comments from outgoing Sen. Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.) a longtime advocate of normalizing ties with Cuba, saying he has seen no evidence that American diplomats who suffered ailments were "attacked."

"It's a documented FACT that 24 U.S. government officials and spouses were victims of some sort of sophisticated attack with stationed in Havana," Rubio tweeted Sunday.

"Any U.S. official briefed on matter knows full well that while method of attack still in question, that attacks & injuries occurred isn't," he added in another tweet.

Flake on Saturday said he had met with high-ranking Cuban officials and attended classified briefings from U.S. officials but has still seen no evidence that the health symptoms were a result of an attack, according to the Associated Press.

Flake said the Cuban officials told him during a meeting Friday that the FBI, after four trips to Cuba, have found no evidence that the illnesses suffered by U.S. diplomats were the result of "attacks."

Both senators sit on the Foreign Relations Committee so their public spat sets up an potentially explosive clash for Tuesday's hearing.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has previously said he’s "convinced" that the symptoms diplomats experienced were the result of "targeted attacks."

The Castro regime has denied any involvement or knowledge of the attacks and has allowed FBI agents into Havana to investigate. Several GOP lawmakers, including Rubio, have accused the Castro regime of lying about its knowledge of the attacks, arguing that the surveillance of Americans in Havana is so closely monitored there is no way the attacks occurred without the Cuban government's knowledge and, in all likelihood, consent.

President Donald Trump in October expelled 15 Cuban diplomats from the United States and cut down the American staff in the Havana embassy to a skeleton crew in response to the lack of progress in the investigations into the attacks. The Cuban government called it a "hasty, inappropriate and unthinking decision" and warned that the diplomatic dispute could upend the détente between the U.S. and Cuba undertaken by President Barack Obama.

Trump also tightened restrictions on travel and commerce with the island nation in June, partially rolling back some of the Obama-era efforts to normalize relations.