A CIA official reported symptoms consistent with so-called Havana Syndrome, a mysterious affliction that has struck diplomats, spies and other government workers at home and abroad, two sources familiar with the matter said Monday.
The unidentified employee was traveling with CIA Director William Burns during a trip to India this month. The employee was immediately tested as part of a protocol the CIA has established to deal with the mysterious brain symptoms typically associated with Havana Syndrome and is receiving medical treatment, the sources said.
The incident was first reported by CNN.
It is the latest reported case of a U.S. government employee reporting symptoms associated with the mysterious ailment. Havana Syndrome first came into public view in 2017 after U.S. diplomats and other government workers stationed in Cuba reported feeling unusual physical sensations after hearing strange high- and low-pitched sounds. U.S. government employees have also reported cases in China and the Washington, D.C. area.
Late last month, at least two U.S. diplomats were medically evacuated from Vietnam after Havana Syndrome incidents were reported in the capital city, Hanoi, ahead of Vice President Kamala Harris’ arrival.
“The health and well-being of American public servants is of paramount importance to the administration, and we take extremely seriously any report by our personnel of an anomalous health incident,” a senior administration official said Monday night. “It is a top priority for the U.S. government to determine the cause of these incidents as quickly as possible and that we ensure any affected individuals get the care they need.”
Many people who have experienced Havana Syndrome report experiencing vertigo, dizziness, fatigue, nausea and intense headaches. Some describe it as being hit by an invisible blast wave. Some have no longer been able to work.
The India incident has raised questions about whether a foreign adversary had intentionally targeted the CIA director’s staff, but the sources said the agency is unclear what exactly could have caused it. The case is one of a number of new incidents in recent months involving CIA personnel who have experienced what U.S. officials call “anomalous health incidents,” the sources said.
A CIA spokeswoman declined to confirm the case in India but said the U.S. government and the agency are taking every incident seriously.
“Director Burns has made it a top priority to ensure officers get the care they need and that we get to the bottom of this,” the spokeswoman said. “We’ve strengthened efforts to determine the origins of the incidents, including assembling a team of our very best experts — bringing an intensity and expertise to this issue akin to our efforts to find [Osama] bin Laden.”
The spokeswoman added that a panel of experts has been convened from across intelligence agencies “to work collectively to increase our understanding of the possible mechanisms that could be causing” anomalous health incidents.
Many U.S. officials suspect that the incidents, which have caused permanent brain injuries in some victims, are a result of an attack or a surveillance operation by Russian spies, but the evidence is inconclusive.
The National Academies of Sciences said in a report last year that the most likely cause of the injuries was directed microwave energy, but the conclusion is being debated in the scientific community.
Last week, Deputy CIA Director David Cohen said that the agency is getting closer to solving the mystery but that there are limits.
“In terms of have we gotten closer, I think the answer is yes — but not close enough to make analytic judgment that people are waiting for,” he said.
CORRECTION (Sept. 20, 2021, 10:25 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misspelled the name of the orchestrator of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He was Osama bin Laden, not Bin Ladin.
Josh Lederman contributed.