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The Real Danger 'Havana Syndrome' Poses to Society

Don’t be misled by the latest 'Havana Syndrome' report.

Key points

  • A new report on 'Havana Syndrome' is flawed.
  • Claims of mysterious energy attacks on U.S. diplomats continues to be mired in controversy.
  • Two C.I.A. panels with the same facts came to different conclusions.

“We have met the enemy and he is us.” -Walter Kelly

The ongoing saga of Havana Syndrome—a mysterious malady affecting U.S. diplomats and intelligence officers with everything from difficulty concentrating to brain damage, marks an important milestone in the history of politics and science. If this trend continues, the repercussions could be felt in everything from climate change to vaccinations.

It started out like a page from a spy thriller, but the American government’s investigation into the origin of ‘Havana Syndrome’ has turned into a horror story that is undermining the credibility of its intelligence agencies and making them look like keystone cops. In this case, the villain is the political agenda of investigators and politicians who are determined to find a sinister foreign actor lurking in the shadows.

Havana Syndrome has come to define the present state of America: fractured and partisan. What is so alarming is that in its search for scapegoats after a 5-year-long wild goose chase, the investigation has crossed the line from science and into the murky world of politics.

When I write that ‘Havana Syndrome’ is “an imaginary condition,” I mean that it is created in the mind, but the symptoms are as real as any organic illness. If one follows the facts in this case, there can be only one outcome: it is psychological in origin. Yes, I know, a new government panel has just concluded that a weapon using pulsed microwave radiation was likely involved, but look closer and you will see political fingerprints all over it and a report that is full of red flags and caveats and which is tainted with the specter of partisanship.

The panel was said to have focused on victims who “reported hearing a sound from a particular direction or feeling pressure in one ear, and who then suffered vertigo.” This was common in the Cuban cohort of patients. Here’s how NBC News reported the story: “The mysterious and sudden brain injuries suffered by a small group of American diplomats and spies overseas were most likely caused by pulsed electromagnetic energy delivered by an external device, a panel of scientific experts working for U.S. intelligence agencies has concluded.”

Stop right there.

Leave aside that vertigo and head pressure are not uncommon. How can this panel reach such a conclusion when the brain damage that was reported among the U.S. diplomats in Cuba turned out to be a myth? A 2019 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found brain anomalies, but not brain damage. There is a big difference between the two. Brain anomalies are common in small cohorts such as those studied in Cuba and the study itself admitted that the anomalies were so minor as to have been potentially caused by individual variation. What’s more, twelve of those affected had pre-existing histories of concussion, compared to none in the healthy controls, which alone could explain the differences in the groups.

A source told NBC News that the panel’s conclusion was “more than theory—we were able to obtain some level of evidence,” yet they also prefaced with, “But there are some significant information gaps.” Translation: they are speculating without sufficient evidence to reach a firm conclusion.

The one thing we can be sure of is that the diplomats in Cuba were never shown to be suffering from brain damage. Why hasn’t the FBI investigation into 'Havana Syndrome' ever been released? Its contents were recently leaked to the media. They concluded it was caused by mass psychogenic illness and not microwaves. A CIA panel recently stated that all but a small number of cases could be explained by natural causes, but there was insufficient information with which to assess the cause of the remaining reports. How can two panels look at the same evidence and reach different conclusions?

The future of society does not bode well if politics continues to be mixed with science. Today 'Havana Syndrome,' tomorrow climate change scientists may well find their research being further undermined by government panels with political agendas. If we are going to continue to mix outside agendas with scientific investigation, then caveat emptor for the American peoplelet the buyer beware.


Bartholomew, Robert, and Baloh, Robert (2019). “Challenging the diagnosis of ‘Havana Syndrome’ as a novel clinical entity.” Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 113(1):7-11.

Bartholomew, Robert, and Perez, Dionisio F. Zaldivar (2018). “Chasing ghosts in Cuba: Is mass psychogenic illness masquerading as an acoustical Attack?” International Journal of Social Psychiatry 64(5):413-416.

Baloh, Robert, and Bartholomew, Robert (2020). Havana Syndrome. Cham, Switzerland: Copernicus Books.

Dilanian, Ken, and Lederman, Josh (2022). “Havana Syndrome' in small group most likely caused by directed energy, says U.S. intel panel.” NBC News, February 2 at:…

Ragini V, Swanson, RL, Parker D, Ismail A, Shinohara RT, Alappatt JA, et al. (2019).“Neuroimaging findings in US government personnel with possible exposure to directional phenomena in Havana, Cuba.” JAMA 322(4):336-47 (July 23).

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