The Central Intelligence Agency has started a task force to address suspected microwave attacks that have caused neurological damage to CIA and foreign service officers around the globe.
The attacks, which began as early as 2016, have surfaced in Cuba, China and Russia, causing effects ranging from vertigo to insomnia.
The first-ever task force was kicked off at the end of 2020, CNN first reported Thursday, and was designed to ensure a team would be in place to provide support to CIA individuals who may have been affected or face a similar attack in the future.
“CIA is working alongside other government agencies to double down on our efforts to find answers regarding the unexplained global health incidents that have impacted personnel. The agency’s top priority has been and continues to be the well-being of all of our officers,” CIA Press Secretary Timothy Barrett said in an email.
Some 40 government officials have been hit by the attacks, which a government-funded report by the National Academy of Sciences determined was most likely caused by microwave radiation.
The State Department is also making some changes to address the attacks.
“We elevated the coordinator role to a senior level position so that a high-level official will be empowered to advise senior Department leadership, coordinate the Department’s interagency response to the health security incidents, and provide continuing support to affected personnel,” a department spokesperson said by email.
News of the CIA task force comes as lawmakers on the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday pushed William BurnsWilliam BurnsThe CIA's next mission: Strategic competition with China and Russia Defense & National Security — Military starts giving guidance on COVID-19 vaccine refusals Blinken pressed to fill empty post overseeing 'Havana syndrome' MORE, President BidenJoe Biden White House: US has donated 200 million COVID-19 vaccines around the world Police recommend charges against four over Sinema bathroom protest K Street revenues boom MORE’s nominee to lead the agency, to ensure victims would have access to better resources and medical care.
“We still don't know the source of those attacks. We still don't potentially have a full medical diagnosis, and even though we have put in into law in the last three info authorization bills, the ability for the CIA director to provide enhanced benefits to those individuals the kind of first rate quality health care and compensation they need and deserve, we're not sure that's really taking place,” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Altria - Biden holds meetings to resurrect his spending plan Democrats feel high anxiety in Biden spending conflict Biden meets with Jayapal to kick off week of pivotal meetings MORE (D-Va.) said.
Burns committed to securing medical care and rooting out the source and manner of the attacks, which some have posited could be caused by microwaves.
“If I'm confirmed as director of CIA, I will have no higher priority than taking care of people — of colleagues and their families,” he said. “And I do commit to you that if I'm confirmed I will make it an extraordinarily high priority to get to the bottom of who's responsible for the attacks that you just described, and to ensure that colleagues and their families get the care that they deserve including at the National Institutes of Health and Walter Reed."
-Updated 3:33 p.m.