Administration

Diplomats claim 'Havana Syndrome' victims not getting proper care: report

American diplomats and other government officials who say they are victims of "Havana Syndrome" attacks are calling on the State Department to do more to provide proper medical care and support. 

In a letter dated Tuesday that was obtained by NBC News, a group of 21 government workers and their spouses demanded Deputy Secretary of State Brian McKeon adopt a series of recommendations to "ensure injured employees and families" are "fully supported" and that the U.S. government is "fully prepared to respond to future incidents." 

The 11 recommendations include benefits assistance for victims of the attacks, care plans and responses for newly injured employees and their families, long-term monitoring of affected individuals and the establishment of an accountability review board for China and other countries that have had suspected Havana Syndrome cases. 

The suspected attacks, which first occurred in the Cuban capital in 2016, have since been found in other countries across the globe, affecting an estimated 130 U.S. government officials. 

A government-funded report by the National Academy of Sciences determined that the attacks, the majority of which have affected State Department and CIA employees, were most likely caused by microwave radiation, leaving symptoms ranging from vertigo to insomnia to cognitive difficulties.

The Wednesday letter to the State Department argued that despite continued calls for more action to address the attacks and provide care to those affected, the U.S. government has continued to "deny employees and injured family members access to proper medical evaluation and treatment," "reject scientific evidence regarding the injuries and treatment needs" and "invalidate our injuries and experiences." 

The signatories also argued that "counterparts in the defense and intelligence community have had a different level and frequency of engagement." 

"After four years of challenges, we were hopeful that the new administration would welcome a partnership with us to ensure those affected receive the care and treatment they need and ensure appropriate care for the new cases," the diplomats and employees wrote.

"Unfortunately, our experience thus far has fallen short of our renewed expectations," they added. 

They went on to say, "We ask that leadership within the Department honor President Biden's commitment to elevate U.S. diplomacy and stand by the women and men advancing our foreign policy by prioritizing the health, safety and security of our officers." 

NBC reported that it did not publish the names of the signatories but was able to confirm the authenticity of the letter with several who signed onto it. 

In response to the letter, a State Department spokesman told NBC, "The Department leadership is aware of the letter and looks forward to discussing its contents with all relevant parties." 

"We have no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. personnel, their families, and other U.S. citizens," the spokesman added.

A State Department spokesperson told The Hill that the investigation into the suspected attacks is ongoing and that Secretary of State Antony Blinken has continued to receive updates throughout the past several months.

The State Department in May 2018 established an interagency task force to look into the attacks and develop the government's responses to the reports.

Last week, a bipartisan group of 15 senators unveiled legislation seeking to provide payment to employees injured by Havana Syndrome attacks and give the CIA and State Department until next year to outline how much funding each agency will provide in compensation.

Updated at 10:52 a.m.

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