Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Newly filed report with federal court seeks Havana Syndrome transparency

By: Steve Schuster, [email protected]//April 29, 2024//

CIA

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) headquarters in McLean, Virginia. Staff Photo

Newly filed report with federal court seeks Havana Syndrome transparency

By: Steve Schuster, [email protected]//April 29, 2024//

Listen to this article

On April 26, 2024, the director of National Intelligence filed a request in federal court seeking a two-business-day extension of time — until April 30, 2024, in a request to make public records that will likely shed light on some of mystery behind Havana Syndrome, according to court documents obtained by the Wisconsin Law Journal Monday.

Brian J. Karem, a journalist through his attorney, Mark Zaid, is requesting the court order the federal government to disclose non-exempt sections of 365 pages about Havana Syndrome within the next month, according to a joint status report filed in Federal Court earlier this month.

Through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), The James Madison Project is seeking the records from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on behalf of Karem.

“This lawsuit continues ongoing efforts to bring needed transparency surrounding the U.S. Government’s knowledge of Anomalous Health Incidents (AHI) impacting federal employees and their family members,” Zaid argued in court documents.

Zaid, an attorney representing those impacted by Havana Syndrome, including employees of the CIA, FBI and State Department, is also representing the James Madison Project.

The project’s goal is to reduce government secrecy and improve transparency.

The James Madison Project is a “non-partisan organization established in 1998 to promote government accountability and the reduction of secrecy,
as well as educating the public on issues relating to intelligence and national security,” according to court documents.

The requested documents include a whistleblower complaint and the accompanying exhibits that can be found catalogued within the Office of Inspector General.

The original lawsuit was filed in November of 2023 and alleges a widespread and ongoing coverup among several federal agencies, including the CIA.

“This whistleblower complaint and accompanying exhibits demonstrates an ongoing cover-up by various federal agencies, most notably the Central Intelligence Agency. The public has a vested interest in exposing the failures of the Intelligence Community, particularly with respect to deliberately withholding relevant information and protecting its personnel and their family members from harm caused by one or more adversaries,” Zaid wrote in the report.

“The American public deserves to have a straight answer from the U.S. Government regarding AHIs and the impact that has been and is continuing to be felt by U.S. Government personnel, both overseas and domestically,” Zaid added.

The April 2024 report cites a recent “60 Minutes” episode which featured ‘Targeted Americans.’

“On March 31, 2024, the renowned news program 60 Minutes aired a rare two segment episode on “Targeted Americans,” specifically pertaining to new evidence obtained regarding Anomalous Health Incidents. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdPSD1SUYCY (full 60 Minutes episode);
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/havana-syndrome-culprit-investigation-new-evidence-60-minutes-transcript/ (60 Minutes transcript). The impact of this broadcast was so significant that it prompted at least three major news organizations, which span the political spectrum, to issue editorials calling for additional governmental investigations into what and who is harming federal employees and their families. The document subject to this FOIA lawsuit, which again has been granted expedited processing and must be released as “soon as practicable”, the report states.

On April 12, 2024, U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the U.S. Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees, and Susan Collins (R-ME), a senior member of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, led a bipartisan group of senators in sending a letter to President Joe Biden urging his administration to renew efforts to investigate the root cause behind anomalous health incidents, also known as “Havana Syndrome.”

Courtesy U.S. Senate

“In light of the allegations raised in the CBS 60 Minutes television segment, the letter also calls for timely compensation for impacted individuals and requests an interagency briefing from administration officials to understand their current efforts to identify attribution behind these attacks. Joining Shaheen and Collins on the letter are U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Mark Warner (D-VA), Roger Wicker (R-MS), James Risch (R-ID) and Ben Cardin (D-MD),” Senators wrote in a statement.

“We write to express concern regarding the allegations raised in a joint investigation by CBS’ 60 Minutes, Der Spiegel and the Insider which point to evidence that the Russian intelligence unit, GRU, is responsible for directed energy attacks against American government officials and their families. … Despite our efforts to provide support to affected individuals and advance legislation to ensure that an interagency response was in place to get to the root cause behind these incidents, we are frustrated that this phenomenon is left unresolved and urge you to renew efforts to identify the cause behind directed energy attacks.,” the senators wrote in a letter to Biden.

To read the full letter senators wrote to the president, click here.

Last year, Bloomberg News reported the State Department agreed to pay $460K to Mark Lenzi, an engineer who said the government discriminated against him over his Havana Syndrome diagnosis and his public advocacy for victims of the condition.

As part of the agreement, Lenzi withdrew all claims against the State Department, which denied liability.

‘Non-lethal Acoustic Weapons’

Several foreign media reports have also taken note of the “60 Minutes” report, which called out a special Russian military unit.

“Originally conceived as a training unit within the GRU, it was reorganized and expanded in 2008 as an operations team devoted to assassination, sabotage, and political destabilization campaigns across the world,” a new foreign report said, noting, “Unlike other teams within Russia’s sprawling intelligence apparatus, this one doesn’t spy on people, at least not for the sake of gathering information. It is devoted exclusively to so-called kinetic — i.e. violent — military operations.”

The report noted the first Havana Syndrome victims may have been impacted seven years earlier that previously reported.

As previously reported by the Wisconsin Law Journal, CIA employees around the world, including in Wisconsin and U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, are among the latest possible targets of Havana Syndrome.

“I don’t publicize this much, but I have certainly been evaluated for possible exposure myself,” Johnson said during an interview with the Wisconsin Law Journal previously.

“I lost my hearing and my balance simultaneously,” Johnson said, noting that the 2018 hearing loss has been permanent.

Johnson said he experienced significant neurological symptoms consistent with Havana Syndrome following a 2018 trip to Moscow, which resulted in permanent hearing loss in one ear, balance issues and evaluation at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Walter Reed Hospital for Havana Syndrome.

“I had blood loss to my cranial nerve. … I am basically deaf in my right ear. My balance has come back to a certain extent, but it’s still impaired,” Johnson said, noting he wasn’t given a definitive Havana Syndrome diagnosis, but that was what was being evaluated.

Washington, D.C., attorney Mark Zaid, who represents victims of Havana Syndrome, previously said, “imagine waking up one morning feeling great and getting ready for work. Then all of a sudden being hit with paralyzing simultaneous symptoms.”

Those symptoms include, but are not limited to, ear pain, blurred vision, vertigo, uncontrollable vomiting lasting days.

Zaid also said children and family pets have reported suffering from the same symptoms, noting this has been the case for the men and women of the U.S. intelligence community.

New information provided to the Wisconsin Law Journal explains how technology likely developed and deployed by the United States has now been used by Russia to target American citizens. As a result, many U.S. citizens are entitled to settlements; Wisconsin residents are no exception. The need for legal representation is increasing.

Tier I settlements with the federal government under the Havana Act start around $140,0000, Zaid said during an interview with the Wisconsin Law Journal.

Zaid said he represents clients in the intelligence community throughout the nation, including CIA employees based in Wisconsin.

“I wish there were more attorneys involved. One of my CIA clients is originally from Wisconsin,” Zaid said, noting that he’s a small D.C. firm that specializes in National Security.

Navigating these complex legal matters within the intelligence community is no easy task, Zaid said, noting it’s not traditional litigation.

“Compensation under the Havana Act doesn’t require much in way of litigation work, it’s simplistic filings. It’s more trying to coordinate within agencies to push them to render decisions favorable of their clients,” he said.

A U.S. government cover-up?

According to Zaid, Havana Syndrome may be part of a larger-scale government cover-up.

“I would dare say there is cover-up,” Zaid said, noting there are several theories why the U.S. government has downplayed it and made victims of the syndrome think there is something off with them psychologically, when in reality there is a serious brain injury.

In response, Johnson said there are certainly more questions than answers.

“I think the executive branch and the intelligence agencies classify way too much information. We are not transparent. We are not honest to the American public who are paying their bills,” Johnson said. “I will always be on the side of greater transparency and always suspicious of the federal government not telling us the truth.”

When: History of Havana Syndrome

To start, Zaid noted that same microwave technology used in Havana Syndrome has been around since the 1950s and the U.S. government had a duty to protect its employees and perhaps has not, he said, noting that there are no-known  reported incidents from the ’50s. Zaid added, the Moscow Signal incident, “bathed” the U.S. Embassy with microwaves in the 1960s and 1970s.

“The technology goes back decades. It’s very likely the U.S. government created the technology in the first place. If it is what we think it is, and it has been going for as long as we think, this also means we didn’t take proper steps to protect our people,” Zaid said.

Zaid also pointed out that attacks on U.S. citizens could constitute an act of war and so perhaps it’s “intentional ignorance” that has prevented the federal government from responding appropriately.

“If it’s intentional to harm our people, not only overseas and here on our soil, this is an act of war and we need to respond. Nobody wants that,” Zaid said.

Johnson said he has learned a variety of different theories on the history and origins of Havana Syndrome.

“I don’t know what to believe other than I believe you really can’t trust the federal government to tell you the truth, which is really a sad state of affairs,” Johnson said, noting he has been kept out of classified briefings on the matter.

“You would think maybe a U.S. senator who the State Department and NIH provided medical exams for because they thought I might be a victim of Havana Syndrome, might be a little more transparent with an individual like me, but I don’t have any clue,” Johnson said.

Why are U.S. Citizens being targeted

Zaid noted a theory floating around that the U.S. intelligence community first used similar microwave technology in surveillance operations, and the first victims of this were from those who were conducting those operations and then were exposed to the radiation.

Officially, “we do not publicly know who the first victims were/are. I have no knowledge that the first victims were exposed by these alleged U.S. operations,” Zaid added.

The Wisconsin Law Journal reached out to Northrop Grumman previously. Officials for the company said they would issue a statement, but did not.

Zaid then outlined another theory, not yet proven, where a U.S. adversary used the technology for surveillance purposes and it morphed into a weapon given it is publicly known humans are being injured.

He also noted most who suffer from Havana Syndrome were actively working on Russian intelligence operations.

Who and Where: Responsibility and Targets

State Department personnel in Cuba and CIA officers in Europe have all been targeted. The targeting does not stop with the intelligence community. Families have been “zapped” too, according to Zaid.

“Minor children and the family pet have been hit, too, Zaid said. “Most of the time the incidents happen at home where sometimes family members are caught in the wave,” he added.

Zaid also noted hotels are frequent targets. According to another theory, in some cases the adversary will rent a hotel room right next to the target to “zap” them in close range.

“It’s especially easy when in a country where the host nation would have greater knowledge of individual U.S. officials staying there,” Zaid noted.

Russia has recently proudly claimed responsibility for attacking the U.S. intelligence community with a directed energy weapon.

“There is no doubt that Russia is the primary party responsible for this,” Zaid said, noting other adversaries of the United States also engage in similar activities.

To date, the majority of those who have been targeted are U.S. State Department employees and Central Intelligence Agency personnel who have been working on gathering intelligence on Russia, Zaid said.

On Sept. 15, 2023, Reuters reported a top Russian security official bragged how Moscow had successfully “neutralized” hundreds of foreign spies in recent years.

Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia’s Security Council, wrote in Russia’s foreign intelligence agency’s house magazine:

“In recent years, hundreds of employees of foreign intelligence services, as well as other persons involved in organizing intelligence and subversive activities against our country and our strategic partners, have been identified and neutralized.”

Zaid said no one is safe from being targeted, even those who have never written about the subject or represented a client who suffered from it.

“An interesting working theory, wouldn’t it make sense for the adversary in order to hide tracks or undermine legitimacy of actual incidents by hitting random people across the country who have no connection to anything intelligence related? Those people sound like they are crazy, so everyone gets lumped into the same basket. Mass hysteria and mass psychosis, no evidence,” Zaid said.

Among those “random” people — Chicagoland Doctor Len Ber had been a medical doctor in the former USSR before having to go on disability after what he says was a targeted energy attack. Ber said the attack occurred while in his home in suburban Chicago.

Reporting a similar onset of symptoms as those employed by the CIA and State Department, he said although he never worked for the intelligence community he was diagnosed with acquired neurosensory dysfunction and is now a part of an 18-party lawsuit, represented by Attorney Ana Toledo.

Ber claims he has been in close contact with the Department of Defense, as well as other U.S. government agencies about the incident.

“They swept it under the rug. Nobody is looking for answers,” Ber said.

How does one get ‘zapped?’

Also as previously reported by the Wisconsin Law Journal, a small portable microwave-based energy weapon is deployed by the foreign agent. The way the technology works is the sudden and possibly uneven pressure change in the brain causes a propagating stress wave in the brain. This mechanical wave shakes structures in the ear, causing the perception of sound. It is hypothesized that the same effect at much higher power density levels could cause pressure waves similar to those experienced during traumatic brain injury.

Crisis of Conscience

“The reality is the Russians don’t give a damn about stuff like that and have done research well beyond would be ethically appropriate. They have much better data and or they don’t seem to care about impact,” Zaid said.

Technology applications

Beyond the intelligence community, a lower dose of the microwave technology is currently being deployed throughout the United States by local law enforcement for crowd control and crowd disbursement, Zaid said.

Caught in the act

What seems like it might belong in a James Bond film are actors who carry these small, highly concealable and portable directed energy weapons to “zap” victims at hotels, in private residences, in office buildings and even in automobiles, Zaid said.

“From our understanding, it’s a handheld device that can be easily hidden. I’m not aware of the government ever having caught anyone in the act of deploying the energy weapon. No device has been captured,” Zaid.

Holding the powerful accountable

According to Zaid, to date there are only a few members of Congress who have advocated for targeted U.S. Citizens who are victims of Havana Syndrome. Among those elected officials who have taken an interest in pursuing justice is Sen. Ron Johnson, Zaid said, who noted he, along with Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and Democrat U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, have been meeting with constituents and members of the intelligence community to investigate and hold those accountable.

Johnson said Shaheen was his ranking member when he was on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Rubio is co-chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Johnson again expressed his frustration over getting answers about Havana Syndrome, regarding his own health, the health of his constituents and other Americans who may have fallen victim to Havana Syndrome.

“Getting information out of the Federal government is like pulling teeth. They simply do not provide it,” Johnson said.

Johnson said that Havana Syndrome is only one example of a government cover-up, citing other examples such as a lab leak being one of the most likely ways the coronavirus spread.

“My guess is this has happened time and time again with the Federal government being involved in things, not working out too well, then using all of the power of the federal government to cover it up, and they have awesome powers of covering things up.”

The Wisconsin Law Journal reached out to officials at the State Department and the NIH. The NIH deferred questions to the State Department. A comment was not immediately available from the State Department prior to publication.

Polls

What kind of stories do you want to read more of?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Legal News

See All Legal News

Case Digests

Sea all WLJ People

Opinion Digests