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The Biden administration is conducting a “full review” of reports from across the U.S. government on reported cases of “Havana syndrome,” a set of unexplained medical conditions that have afflicted U.S. personnel since 2016, the White House said Friday.
The cases have occurred among U.S. personnel across several agencies, including the State Department, Pentagon and CIA. The “vast majority” of cases have been reported from overseas, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
The administration is taking reports of the health incidents “extremely seriously” and is working to gather the reports “into one place,” she said at a media briefing.
“That’s how you can look at it across the board and see if there are patterns,” Psaki said. “Our team is coordinating a full review of intelligence reporting to ascertain whether there may be previously unreported incidents that fit a pattern.”
Psaki said that they are collecting reports from U.S. government personnel “experiencing sensory phenomena, such as sound, pressure, or heat, concurrent with or followed by physical symptoms, such as sudden onset vertigo, nausea, or head or neck pain.”
National security officials say the government still has not identified a cause for the health incidents that were first identified among U.S. Embassy staff in Havana in late 2016.
Psaki said the number of cases is “limited,” but could not specify the number reported in the past five years.
Two officials said that new cases have been reported since the beginning of the Biden administration. Some agencies have put out a call in recent months for personnel to report any symptoms that might correspond with “Havana syndrome,” which one official said may have led to more reporting of cases rather than an increase of actual incidents.
Last month, CIA Director Bill Burns told members of Congress that he had appointed a senior agency officer to report directly to him on reported cases and the progress of their investigations.
“We take very seriously what they’ve experienced and have enormous respect for their sacrifice and their dedication and that we will get to the bottom of this,” Burns said. “We’ll work very closely with our partners across the intelligence community and the U.S. government to ensure we are able to get those answers.”
The intelligence agency created a fusion cell late last year to collect expertise on the Havana syndrome cases affecting CIA personnel in one place.
A National Security Council official told McClatchy on Thursday that, “at this time, we do not know the cause of these incidents.”
“We also do not know whether they constitute an attack of some kind by a foreign actor,” the official said. “But these are areas of active inquiry.”