Five families connected to US Embassy in Colombia report being hit with Havana Syndrome

The first reports apparently happened in September and involved just two cases, but since then the number has gone up and includes not just adults working at the US Embassy in Bogota but family members as well:

One U.S. official said that at least one family was flown out of the country for treatment, and concerns have grown more serious in recent days.

“There was definitely a family, including a minor hit,” said a person with knowledge of the situation in the embassy. “Adults sign up for what they sign up for and the risks that come with it…. Targeting or even incidentally hitting kids should be a hard red line.”

A former high-ranking U.S. diplomat who is familiar with the syndrome said that as in other cases around the world, some of those Americans who have complained about the ailments in Colombia work in intelligence…

Asked how family members could also be suffering, he said, “These are technologies that are directed toward a place where people live. If it’s a microwave or some other kind of advanced technology, it would affect other people.”

Secretary of State Tony Blinken is expected to travel to Bogota next week as part of a pre-planned tour. The fact that these attacks precede his arrival is similar to other incidents, including an attack of Havana Syndrome that prevented Vice President Harris’ plane from departing for Vietnam in August. And in September, a CIA officer traveling in India with CIA Director William Burns was hit by an attack.

This escalation to going after people who are near high-ranking US officials, either in time or space, has been taken by the intelligence community as a message that the people behind these attacks can get to anyone, anywhere.

Just last week the Biden administration pushed back hard on a story at Buzzfeed about a 2018 report which suggested Havana Syndrome could be a kind of mass delusion. Politico reported the administration was more certain than ever that the Syndrome was real and was being caused by some kind of directed energy weapon, probably in the hands of Russian agents.

The fact that nearly all of the targets of Havana Syndrome have been CIA officers (and their families) seems a bit too narrow a focus to be anything other than intentional attacks. I would love to think that we have a really smart bunch of people working on this who have been given free reign to do what it takes to catch the people responsible, i.e. nab the Russian spies with whatever device they are using. I hope this falls apart like the attempted Novichok poisoning of Sergei Skripal which resulted in global humiliation for Putin as the individual spies involved in the failed plot were named and shamed.

I’d love for a repeat of that outcome, but given some of the recent decision-making coming out of the Biden administration it’s hard to be too optimistic.

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