A mysterious adversary is targeting US officials worldwide. Here's what we know so far

Edited By: Gravitas desk WION
New Delhi, India Published: May 24, 2021, 11:18 PM(IST)

The White House Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

It all started in Havana in 2016 when US diplomats reported a series of unsettling events - a loud shriek, followed by a splitting headache, nausea, dizziness and hearing loss

Diplomats and intelligence officers of the United States are under attack. The officers are being picked off one by one, but it is unclear by whom. But all the affected US officials recount a similar experience - a loud shriek followed by a splitting headache.

The scientific community has no idea why this is happening. Their best guess is that this is an attack using radio waves. An unknown adversary is on the prowl - hunting American officials on foreign shores. Their modus operandi is classic spy novel stuff - no weapons, no evidence, just an untraceable mystery illness.

It all started in Havana in 2016 when US diplomats reported a series of unsettling events - a loud shriek, followed by a splitting headache, nausea, dizziness and hearing loss.

Soon, similar cases emerged in China, Russia and Europe. It then became clear that this wasn't a one-off incident and that someone was targeting American officials.

By November last year, the threat reached American shores after two cases were reported in Washington DC. Both Democrats and Republicans want answers but the experts are no closer to finding the truth. The National Security Council is leading this investigation. They are studying 130 cases across government agencies.

Some of the affected officials say the White House is playing dumb. They cited intel reports from the 1990s which talk of a hostile country using microwave signals to weaken enemies. The similarities are uncanny, but neither the CIA nor the National Security Council have confirmed this.

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There are some clues in a paper published by the National Academy of Sciences which says the symptoms are consistent with “directed, pulsed radio frequencies”. The report talks about Soviet projects in this field but nothing conclusive. Scientists are divided on the radio wave theory. Some say the neurological damage confirms radio waves were used. Others have dismissed it as mass hysteria.

When people hear of symptoms, they start feeling sick themselves. Whatever the explanation, pressure is mounting on Joe Biden. If the report does identify the assailant, they will have no option but to respond with force. And if that assailant is Russia, Biden's reconciliation plans will go down the drain.

This is uncharted territory for Washington DC - an enemy in the shadows picking off US spies and diplomats. America's battles are loud and dramatic but this silent attack has caught them off guard.

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