National Security

CIA picks veteran of bin Laden hunt to head ‘Havana syndrome’ task force: report

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The CIA has recruited a veteran of the agency’s effort to track down Osama bin Laden to lead the task force examining a number of apparent “Havana syndrome” attacks that have left government personnel with unexplained negative health effects, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

The suspected attacks, which first occurred in Havana in 2016, have since surfaced in a number of countries, leaving U.S. diplomats and spies with neurological symptoms ranging from vertigo to insomnia to cognitive difficulties.

Current and former officials told the Journal the unnamed chief of the task force has experience in the agency’s Counterterrorism Center and largely focused on bin Laden and al Qaeda.

The CIA did not comment on the task force leadership to The Hill, saying only that CIA Director William Burns is “personally engaged with personnel affected by anomalous health incidents and is highly committed to their care and to determining the cause of these incidents.”

The CIA task force, which was formed in December, is evaluating what appear to be an increasing number of attacks, including possible incidents on U.S. soil.

Up to 200 Americans have reported possible “directed energy attack” symptoms, 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.

Officials are investigating potential exposure near the White House, while one of the most recent possible exposures occurred among U.S. officials in Austria. 

Updated: 7:48 p.m.

Tags austria CIA Cuba havana syndrome Osama bin Laden William Burns
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