CIA director triples size of medical team probing cases of 'Havana Syndrome'

CIA Director William BurnsWilliam BurnsCIA director triples size of medical team probing cases of ‘Havana Syndrome’ CIA picks veteran of bin Laden hunt to head ‘Havana syndrome’ task force: report 30-year CIA veteran to run espionage operations MORE said the agency has tripled the size of the medical team investigating cases of “Havana syndrome” attacks.

Burns said he is “absolutely determined” to determine what is behind the mysterious attacks that have left government personnel with unexplained negative health effects.

“We still don’t know for sure, but I am absolutely determined — and I’ve spent a great deal of time and energy on this in the four months I’ve been CIA director — to get to the bottom of the question of what and who caused this,” the director told NPR in his first sit-down interview with taking over leadership of the agency in March.


The mysterious illness first occurred in Havana in 2016, and has since shown up in a number of countries, leaving U.S. diplomats and spies with neurological symptoms, including vertigo, insomnia and cognitive difficulties.

Burns said there have probably been “a couple of hundred” cases of the mysterious illness since Havana in 2016, roughly 100 of which “my colleagues, my officers and family members have been affected.”

He confirmed that the agency tapped a “very experienced and accomplished senior officer” who led the hunt for Osama Bin Laden to head the agency’s effort on the Havana syndrome. The Wall Street Journal reported on the CIA’s pick on Wednesday.

He said he is “throwing out the very best we have at this issue” because of the risk it poses to CIA personnel and others across the U.S. government.

“So we’re throwing the very best we have at this issue because it is not only a very serious issue for our colleagues, as it is for others across the U.S. government, but it’s a profound obligation, I think, of any leader to take care of your people, and that’s what I’m determined to do,” Burns said.


The director said the “first challenge” in the country’s effort against the syndrome is “to make sure people are getting the care that they deserve. He said the agency has reduced the amount of time it takes for officers to get into Walter Reed National Medical Center from eight weeks to less than two weeks.

When discussing the causes of the syndrome, Burns said there is “certainly a very strong possibility” that the illness is being caused by someone taking action.

“The National Academy of Sciences, a year ago, in a very extensive report that they did, suggested that the most plausible theory for what caused this was some form of directed energy, and that sort of narrows, then, the number of potential suspects who could have used this, have used it historically and have the reach to do this in more than one part of the world, too,” Burns continued.

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