Senate bill would allow for payments to ‘Havana syndrome’ victims
Bipartisan legislation from a group of 15 senators would provide payments to government employees injured by so-called Havana syndrome attacks while serving abroad.
The legislation comes amid reports that officials are investigating two suspected attacks on U.S. soil, one of which took place near the Ellipse, the grassy oval lawn just south of the White House, harming a National Security Council official.
The suspected attacks, which first occurred in Havana, Cuba, in 2016, have since surfaced in a number of countries, leaving U.S. diplomats and analysts with neurological symptoms ranging from vertigo to insomnia to cognitive difficulties.
The legislation would allow both the CIA and the State Department to provide injured employees additional financial support, and gives each agency until next year to outline how much funding they will need for the compensation.
“The injuries that many ‘Havana Syndrome’ victims have endured are significant and life-altering. To make matters worse, some of the victims did not receive the financial and medical support they should have expected from their government when they first reported their injuries. This is an outrageous failure on behalf of our government,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the lead sponsor on the bill, said in a release.
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.
CIA Director William Burns committed to securing medical care and rooting out the source and manner of the attacks during his confirmation hearing in February.
“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.”
But some lawmakers have expressed frustration that intelligence agencies haven’t done more to relay how they are addressing and investigating the attacks.
“I would argue that with stories like this, with stories that have appeared over the last two years, really, and those people who have been affected who have gone public, that the horse is out of the barn on this,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) said at a hearing in April. “The information is already out there and I think it behooves us all to try and make sure that the information that gets out is accurate and that people understand what’s happening and that there is an effort to respond.”