American ambassadors to Cuba were the victims of what The Washington Post is calling a “covert sonic weapon.” In 2016, a number of Americans serving at the U.S. Embassy in Havana began experiencing unexplained physical ailments.
“Initially, when they’d started reporting what I will just call symptoms, it took time to figure out what it was, and this is still ongoing,” State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said to the Post. “We’re monitoring it. We provide medical care and concern to those who believe that they have been affected by it.”
The strange medical symptoms were discovered on Wednesday, August 9, to have been the cause of a device that had been operating within or just outside of the residences of the American officials. The device, according to Fox News, was operating at a range outside of human hearing. While it’s not clear exactly how many decibels the diplomats were subjected to, studies show that anything over 85 decibels can result in severe hearing loss.
Earlier in 2017, two Cuban diplomats were asked the leave the Washington embassy while the investigation was underway. The Cuban government called the removal of the diplomats baseless and unjustified. As a result, a protest against the decision was led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cuba. However, Nauert declined the relation between the investigation and the diplomats’ departure.
The symptoms themselves have not been disclosed by the State Department nor was the number of American officials who have been brought back to the United States. However, according to the Post, it can be assumed the number of diplomats brought back to the U.S. is the same number as those who were removed from the Washington embassy.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio denounced Cuba in a statement reported by NPR, saying, “The Cuban government has been harassing U.S. personnel working in Havana for decades … Personal harm to U.S. officials shows the extent the Castro regime will go and clearly violates international norms.”
However, the Cuban government claims otherwise. According to NPR, Cuba is willing to work with the U.S. in order to investigate the crime and reports that the country would never allow for such actions to be committed against diplomats. The Cuban government has since reinforced the security surrounding the Havana embassy as well as protection around the residences of international staff.