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Senate passes bill to provide payments to 'Havana syndrome' victims

Senate passes bill to provide payments to 'Havana syndrome' victims
© Greg Nash

The Senate unanimously passed legislation on Monday to provide payments to government employees who were injured by directed-energy — or "Havana syndrome" — attacks while abroad. 

The bill, which introduced last month by a bipartisan group, authorizes the CIA and State Department to provide financial support to employees for their brain injuries.

It would also require the two agencies to come up with regulations for the payments and report to Congress on how the money being used.

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“I am pleased that there has been widespread, bipartisan support for my bill, which will provide additional support to these government employees who were harmed while representing our interests,” GOP Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate confirms Garland's successor to appeals court Bipartisan infrastructure deal takes fire from left and right Outrage grows as Justice seeks to contain subpoena fallout MORE (Maine), a member of the Intelligence Committee, said in a statement.

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerOutrage grows as Justice seeks to contain subpoena fallout The Hill's Morning Report - Biden-Putin meeting to dominate the week The tale of the last bipartisan unicorns MORE (D-Va.), the chairman of the committee, added that the bill “will make sure that we can provide financial relief as they seek medical treatment for the injuries they’ve endured.”

An estimated 130 government officials have been hit by the attacks, which a government-funded report by the National Academy of Sciences determined were most likely caused by microwave radiation. The bulk of known cases have been State Department or CIA employees.

The suspended attacks first jumped on to the national radar in 2016, when they occurred in Havana, for which they are informally named. But they have since surfaced in other countries, leaving U.S. diplomats and analysts with neurological symptoms.

Lawmakers become increasingly alarmed earlier this year after multiple outlets reported on investigations on two suspected attacks on U.S. soil, including one near the White House that harmed a National Security Council official.

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Warner and Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioFive years after the Pulse nightclub massacre the fight for LGBTQ+ rights continues Rubio calls on Biden to 'forcefully' confront Iran over movement of war ships Bipartisan lawmakers want Biden to take tougher action on Nicaragua MORE (R-Fla.), the vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, released a joint statement earlier this year warning that the attacks appeared to be on the rise.

“For nearly five years, we have been aware of reports of mysterious attacks on United States Government personnel in Havana, Cuba, and around the world. This pattern of attacking our fellow citizens serving our government appears to be increasing," they said. 

The intelligence community hasn’t offered a formal determination for who is behind the attacks, but Politico reported last month that officials suspect the GRU, a Russian spy agency.

The House could soon take up companion legislation. And senators pointed to Monday night's passage of the legislation as one of many steps they are taking to try to get to the bottom of the attacks, and provide support for victims.

"The whole Intelligence Committee is united on this: We are going to find out who is responsible. And we are going to hold them accountable," Warner said.

Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenPelosi: 'No intention' of abandoning Democrats' infrastructure goals McConnell seeks to divide and conquer Democrats Progressives want to tighten screws beyond Manchin and Sinema MORE (D-N.H.), who introduced this bill along with Collins, Warner and Rubio, added in a tweet that "our work goes on to ensure ALL affected have the support they need."

—Rebecca Beitsch contributed.