Cuban skepticism grows after microwave weaponry emerges as top suspect of attacks

U.S. scientists work to unravel medical mystery with serious implications

By Hatzel Vela - Cuba Correspondent, Andrea Torres - Digital Reporter/Producer

HAVANA - After U.S. investigators examine evidence suggesting that the attacks that injured Americans in Havana, Cuba, and later in Guangzhou, China, were not from a sonic weapon, Cuban officials said they have yet to get any evidence to start their own investigation on the alleged warfare. 

U.S. officials said the mysterious attacks, which began about two years ago and were first reported last year, caused Americans to suffer symptoms consistent with mild traumatic brain injury or brain network disorder. But they have yet to determine with certainty the kind of weapon that was used and its origin.

There are some scientific theories, but Carlos Fernández de Cossio, who heads the U.S. section in Cuba's Foreign Ministry, doesn't trust any of them. He has said he believes the attacks are political manipulation in part of President Donald Trump's administration. 

The recent suspicions that the sonic attack was really a microwave attack will likely come up on Thursday when U.S. State Department officials testify before the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s subcommittee for the Western Hemisphere.

RECENT THEORY

Some scientists in the U.S. agree with Allan Frey, an 83-year-old scientist who has interest on the evidence. He believes the culprit was a microwave weapon. He was working at Cornell University's General Electric's Advanced Electronics Center when he discovered the brain could perceive fake sounds.

Frey first discovered the neural phenomenon, known as the microwave auditory effect or the Frey effect, in 1961. Decades later, after the attacks, Dr. James Lin, a University of Illinois scientist, determined the evidence available suggests there was a "targeted beam of high-power microwave pulse radiation." His findings were published Dec. 11. 

Dr. Douglas Smith, a University of Pennsylvania doctor who is leading one of the investigations, recently told ABC News that a microwave weapon could be to blame. He heads the Center for Brain Injury and Repair and believes the "buzzing" sound that was causing a "pressure-like" sensation was likely a side effect of the exposure to modulated electromagnetic energy. 

The replication studies on their theory continue at the U.S. National Institutes of Health and in Canada. 

THE CONTROVERSY

The Associated Press released a recording of the sounds that were linked to the symptoms in 2017, but a microwave-generated sound can't be heard by everyone.

Cuban scientists have already dismissed the theory. Dr. Mitchell Valdes-Sosa, a neurologist who is part of the Cuban special task force investigating the alleged attacks, told CNN the theory is science fiction, not science. 

"If you look at the alleged events, there have been reports that there are several people in a room with thick walls and thick windows and only one person was targeted," Valdes-Sosa said. "This is a kind of weapon that doesn't exist." 

De Cossio, who heads the U.S. section in Cuba's Foreign Ministry, argued the scientific community has already dismissed several theories. He also said the way the U.S. government has handled the issue is disturbing. 

On Thursday, the Congressional hearing will likely also discuss the reported communication breakdown within the U.S. State Department. It delayed the creation of a panel to assess the response to the attacks for more than six months, according to a report from congressional investigators obtained by NBC News.  

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen addressed the report by saying, "the truth about these incidents will come to light and the United States stands ready to hold accountable those responsible for attacking our citizens."  

 

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