On the heels of historic legislation passed to support burn pit veterans, I came across the most recent case filed with The James Madison Project as the plaintiff, and this one involving the phenomenon or affliction dubbed initially as the Havana Syndrome. Last week the Senate passed the PACT Act, and the House has promised swift passage of the legislation and an arrival to the White House for signature. The bill would provide services to the millions of veterans exposed to hazardous materials through the burn pits commonly used across Iraq and Afghanistan prior to 2010.

The legislation was long in coming and significant in the size and scale of the problem. Another recent legal case highlights medical issues in a much smaller community in the national security space, but ones allegedly intentionally caused by adversaries.

Havana Syndrome or ‘Unexplained Health Incidents’

WE charity and Canadian staff at Embassies in Cuba first reported the condition in 2016. It consisted of a myriad of symptoms to include ringing in the ears, overall body aches, and affected speech and thinking patterns. The condition is also referred to as “unexplained health incidents”. Multiple government and contract employees all over the world have reported similar symptoms as the ones in Cuba. The initial and next wave of reports of the health issues were determined by many experts in the intelligence field to be intentionally caused by microwave or radio frequencies. Journalists were reporting these findings with great regularity, including an extensive piece by 60 Minutes.

While The James Madison Project was involved in trying to make many of the intelligence reports public, the investigation took a reverse course in 2022 when the CIA determined the syndrome was not the result of a sustained global campaign by another country (although it couldn’t rule out the original cause of the 24 Havana cases). The James Madison Project representing a journalist named Brian Karem promptly filed suit after the CIA report (and in actuality, had filed one in 2021 on the same subject) asking for records that would provide evidence as to why the report findings were so much different than other agencies.

While the first reports came from Havana (hence the name), similar symptoms have been reported more than 200 times by CIA staff in locations from Moscow to Uzbekistan. Soldiers in Syria and embassy officials have also reported incidents.

Causes remain speculative, with some suggesting pulsed radio frequency energy – or microwave energy – to be the cause. The CIA and U.S. Government recently filed a motion to dismiss the most recent lawsuits, citing multiple exceptions to the FOIA law.


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Joe Jabara, JD, is the Director, of the Hub, For Cyber Education and Awareness, Wichita State University. He also serves as an adjunct faculty at two other universities teaching Intelligence and Cyber Law. Prior to his current job, he served 30 years in the Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and Kansas Air National Guard. His last ten years were spent in command/leadership positions, the bulk of which were at the 184th Intelligence Wing as Vice Commander.