There is a "high probability" that U.S. embassy workers sickened in Cuba in late 2016 were attacked by a "directed energy" weapon, a biochemistry expert told officials from U.S. Special Operations Command and its Ybor City-based incubator partner Sofwerx during a lecture last month.
Another medical expert called what happened in Cuba a "wake-up call" for the United States. A third expert, who was the first to examine the workers, said he, too, believes they showed the effects of a directed energy weapon and the the United States needs to develop means to detect and deter such attacks.
To officials at SOCom and elsewhere throughout the military, the question of what happened to those workers is more than academic curiosity. The United States and its allies are suffering the effects of advanced electronic weaponry, so figuring out what happened and how to detect and stop it is vital.
James Giordano, professor of neurology and biochemistry at Georgetown University, spoke to about 100 guests attending the Sofwerx/SOCom J5 Donovan Group Radical Speaker Series.
He said that in theory, devices known as directed energy weapons can concentrate sound, electromagnetic, microwave or other energy streams and direct them to specific targets.
That belief is shared by Michael Hoffer, the first medical professional to examine the embassy workers. Hoffer, a professor of otolaryngology and neurological surgery at the University of Miami, along with colleagues Bonnie Levin, Hilary Snapp, and Jim Buskirk, began examining the workers in March, 2017.
He told the Tampa Bay Times that he and his team found the workers to be suffering from balance problems and slightly diminished cognitive capabilities like the inability to concentrate. As an important side note, Hoffer said that by examining the patients before anyone else, and before their stories made headlines, he has far greater confidence that they were relating what they actually experienced as opposed to what they think they should have experienced based on the statements of others.
Those affected were in their homes, heard loud noises and felt a pressure sensation, Hoffer said.
Hoffer, a retired Navy captain, and Carey Balaban, a professor of otolaryngology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, had studied the effects of mild traumatic brain injury on troops in Iraq and were called in by the State Department to examine the workers because they were exhibiting similar problems.
Balaban, who also spoke at the Sofwerx event, told me the incident should serve as a red alert for the United States.
"Havana is, to me, a wake-up call that we face a serious potential of gray area weapons ... and we have to pull ourselves together and understand how this works and how we can protect against it."
None of these sources would speculate on who might be responsible or just what kind of energy was used.
SOCom officials did not comment. State Department officials said only that the investigation into what caused the problems is ongoing and involves broad interagency cooperation.
Balaban said it is important to find a way to stay on top of the problem and find ways to detect the attacks before they happen.
"We need to have some kind of alerting mechanism so that we know something has happened to those risking their lives for the common good," he said.
The Department of Defense last week announced the deaths of two soldiers supporting Operation Freedom's Sentinel.
Staff Sgt. Diobanjo S. Sanagustin, 32, from National City, California, died Sept. 4, 2018, from a non-combat related injury at Bagram Airfield, in Bagram district, Parwan province, Afghanistan. The incident is under investigation. Sanagustin was assigned to 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colorado.
Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy A. Bolyard, 42, from Thornton, West Virginia, died Sept. 3, 2018, of wounds sustained from small arms fire in Logar Province, Afghanistan. The incident is under investigation. Bolyard was assigned to 3rd Squadron, 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, Fort Benning, Georgia.
There have been 2,347 U.S. troop deaths in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan; 55 U.S. troop deaths and one civilian Department of Defense employee death in support of the follow-up, Operation Freedom's Sentinel; 56 troop deaths and two civilian deaths in support of Operation Inherent Resolve; one troop death in support of Operation Odyssey Lightning, the fight against Islamic State in Libya; one troop death in support of Operation Joint Guardian, one death classified as other contingency operations in the global war on terrorism; one death in Operation Octave Shield and six deaths in ongoing operations in Africa where, if they have a title, officials will not divulge it.
Contact Howard Altman at email@example.com or (813) 225-3112. Follow @haltman.