National Security

Bipartisan bill would create NSC position to oversee ‘Havana syndrome’ response

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) is seen at a photo op prior to a meeting with Belarus opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya and members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, July 20, 2021.
Greg Nash

A bipartisan group of senators is seeking to up the ante on addressing mysterious “Havana syndrome” attacks, pushing the White House to establish a point-person to lead a wide-ranging investigation while setting aside millions for U.S. personnel injured in the incidents.

A bill introduced Tuesday by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and others would force President Biden to designate a senior official on the National Security Council to lead a whole-of-government response to the attacks, which are believed to have impacted some 200 Americans, many of them employed by the CIA or the State Department.

“As anomalous health incidents continue to wreak havoc in the lives of affected diplomats and intelligence officials, it is our responsibility to ensure that any response is commensurate with the arduous work and sacrifices that these individuals have made for our nation,” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) said in a release. 

“This legislation will ensure a coordinated, whole-of-government response to what unfortunately remains an ongoing threat to the people of our intelligence community, and to our national security,” he said.

The CIA recently tapped an unnamed veteran of the agency’s effort to track down Osama bin Laden to lead its investigation into the attacks.

But the incidents have impacted personnel across numerous agencies, including those working on U.S. soil. Officials are still investigating a possible attack near the White House.

The NSC has appointed a top official to oversee what it calls “anomalous health incidents.”

“We look forward to working constructively with Senator Shaheen on her legislation to advance our shared aim of ensuring the safety and security of Americans serving around the world, discovering the cause of these anomalous health incidents, and helping affected individuals receive the care they need as quickly as possible,” a National Security Council spokesperson said in a statement.

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.

Some refer to them as “directed energy attacks” following a government-funded report by the National Academy of Sciences that determined they were most likely caused by microwave radiation.

The bill would set aside $45 million to support government response efforts — $30 million of which would go directly to medical care and other assistance to those impacted by the attacks.

“U.S. public servants injured by directed energy attacks should be treated with the same urgency as any other American injured in the line of duty. They shouldn’t have to jump through bureaucratic hoops to access the care they need, which compounds the suffering they’ve already endured,” Shaheen said in her statement.

Updated 4:39 p.m.

Tags Central Intelligence Agency CIA havana syndrome Jeanne Shaheen Joe Biden Mark Warner National Security Council NSC
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