State Department Confirms Another Victim of Sonic Attacks in Cuba

Total number of victims increases to 25

U.S. embassy in Havana

U.S. embassy in Havana / Getty Images

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The State Department on Thursday confirmed that another U.S. employee has experienced a mysterious health attack while working in Cuba, bringing the total number of U.S. personnel impacted to 25.

The U.S. government acknowledged the additional victim one week after senior State Department officials stressed the "urgent need" for the Cuban government to identify the source of the mysterious attacks during bilateral talks between U.S. and Cuban officials in Washington.

The Washington Free Beacon obtained an internal State Department confirmation that the unexplained sonic attacks had claimed another U.S. victim in Cuba.

The notice did not say when the attack on the latest victim occurred, noting only that "until now, the most recent case with confirmed medical symptoms occurred on August 21, 2017."

"Based on continued assessments of U.S. government personnel, we can confirm today that one additional U.S. employee has experienced injury from suspected health attacks against U.S. Embassy personnel in Havana," states the notice, dated Thursday. "The total number of affected persons is now 25."

The State Department earlier this month first acknowledged that U.S. diplomats from a U.S. consulate in China also had suffered from mysterious neurological symptoms in recent months, and that they had started evacuating U.S. diplomats from the consulate back in April.

The spate of strange health issues experienced by U.S. diplomats in China sparked inquiries from the U.S. government about whether the incidents in Cuba and China are linked and whether the host governments had any knowledge of, or involvement in, the apparent attacks.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a Free Beacon request for comment about the additional victim of a health attack in Cuba and whether the attack took place more recently than the last documented incident last August.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said during a briefing with reporters she had planned to disclose the confirmation of another victim in Cuba during her briefing but acknowledged that the information had leaked out before the briefing started.

"We still don’t know to this date what is causing it and who is responsible," she said. "I want to make that very, very clear. With regard to China, there is also an investigation underway, and that is something we will take very, very seriously."

Nauert also acknowledged that a second U.S. worker who recently experienced strange health symptoms in Cuba is still under medical evaluation at this time.

"The health and well-being of our personnel remains our top priority here at the State Department," she said. "The investigation into the origin of these symptoms continues. It is an inter-agency effort. The inter-agency community continues to work diligently to determine the cause of symptoms, as well as to develop mitigation measures."

She declined to elaborate on whether the recent incidents in Havana would cause the U.S. government to shutter the embassy there completely.

"We informed the Cuban government of this occurrence on May 29th of this year. They assured us that they will continue to take this seriously, and they are continuing their investigation," she said. "We strongly reminded the Cuban government of its obligation under the Vienna Convention to protect our diplomats."

The United States only has a skeletal embassy staff operating in Havana. After an FBI investigation failed to identify the perpetrators behind the sonic attacks in Cuba, or how and why they took place, then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last fall ordered nonessential diplomats and families out of Cuba.

That decision further frayed relations between Washington and Havana that had already suffered serious setbacks after President Trump last summer rolled back some of the looser travel and commerce rules the Obama administration put in place as part of its détente with the Castro regime.

Cuban officials have repeatedly denied any role in perpetrating or permitting the sonic attacks to occur and said they fully cooperated with the FBI investigation. However, several Cuban officials have suggested that the sonic attacks were coming from crickets and cicadas even though U.S. medical experts have confirmed that they caused hearing loss, and in some cases, cognitive damage.

U.S. and Cuban officials last week resumed planned biannual bilateral talks that began during Obama's rapprochement with Havana.

During those discussions, U.S. officials reiterated the "urgent need to identify the source of the attacks on U.S. diplomats and to ensure they cease," according to a State Department press release.

"We also reiterated that until it is sufficiently safe to fully staff our embassy, we will not be able to provide regular visa services in Havana."

Susan Crabtree

Susan Crabtree   Email Susan | Full Bio | RSS
Susan Crabtree is a senior writer for the Washington Free Beacon. She is a veteran Washington reporter who has covered the White House and Congress over the past two decades. She has written for the Washington Examiner, the Washington Times, the Hill newspaper, Roll Call, and Congressional Quarterly.

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