The concept of a microwave attack might sound like pure science fiction. But think again. Researchers now believe that microwave weapons are likely to blame for the mysterious symptoms affecting dozens of U.S. embassy workers since 2016.
The Mystery Attacks on US Diplomats
It sounds like the plot line of a movie: diplomats in Cuba being struck with hearing loss, dizziness, nausea, headaches, and brain injuries. A web of intrigue involving FBI investigations, suspected spies, and theories about advanced weapons.
Yet none of this is fiction. Reports of these mysterious health problems began surfacing in August 2017. It was revealed that multiple US embassy staff in Havana had, since late 2016, reported hearing strange noises followed by the onset of concussion-like symptoms.
All of the incidents happened in the diplomats’ homes or in hotel rooms.
Up until now there have been around 40 reported cases in Cuba, China, and most recently, on US soil (more on that below).
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The phenomenon lead to a breakdown in U.S-Cuban relations, though to date there’s been no conclusive evidence as to who or what is responsible.
Could a Microwave Attack be to Blame?
A variety of theories have been put forward since news of the incidents broke. These have ranged from mass hysteria to viral infections to ultrasonic weapons. Many of the explanations have since been ruled out.
In September 2018, the New York Times ran a major story uncovering the latest theory to be supported by scientists and researchers: microwave attacks.
The article cites Dr. Douglas H. Smith, lead author of a study that examined 21 of the affected diplomats. According to the Times, Smith “said in a recent interview that microwaves were now considered a main suspect and that the team was increasingly sure the diplomats had suffered brain injury.”
Mark Zaid, a prominent Washington lawyer representing nine of the U.S. diplomats, has also supported the theory. “We certainly have circumstantial evidence that it is microwaves,” he said in an interview. “The (National Security Agency) had admitted to us that there was at least one country that was using microwaves as weapons against U.S. personnel.”
So if a microwave attack is now the dominant theory, the next question to explore is: how would such a weapon work?
How a Microwave Attack Weapon Would Function
Microwaves are a form of electromagnetic radiation. They’re a pervasive part of everyday life: we use them in wireless networks, satellite communications, cellphones and medical devices. They’re what you use to heat up food and open your garage door by remote control.
Yet the idea of weaponizing microwave beams is not new.
Russia’s Defense Minister announced back in 2012 that direct-energy and wave-energy weapons were “part of the state arms procurement program for 2011-2020”. The U.S. military have themselves been working on direct-energy weapons — such as those using microwaves and electromagnetic radiation — for decades.
As for why researchers think such a weapon could be responsible for the incidents in Cuba, it has to do with something called the Frey effect.
The Frey effect (also known as the microwave auditory effect) would explain why the diplomats all reported hearing unusual, directional noises at the time of the attacks. First documented by Allan H. Frey in 1961, this effect describes a phenomenon whereby our brains interpret microwaves as sounds.
Though no actual sound waves are present, microwaves hitting the head around the temporal lobe are perceived as sounds — a kind of auditory illusion. This could explain why some diplomats reported covering their ears yet experiencing no reduction in sound volume.
Given that, in this scenario, the microwaves would have been highly targeted, it’s also a logical theory as to why other bystanders didn’t hear the same sounds. In short, they were all in the victims’ heads.
A leading researcher into the Frey effect, Dr. James C. Lin, has produced a scientific paper exploring the validity of microwave weapons in the Cuba attacks. Lin concluded that symptoms reported, including nausea, dizziness, and damage to brain tissue, could also be plausibly attributed to high-intensity microwave beams.
Beyond the Thermal Effect
A common argument against stronger regulations for electromagnetic radiation exposure is that such radiation is only harmful to humans when it induces a thermal effect.
What is thermal effect? Just as a microwave oven heats food, certain levels of microwave power can heat human tissue, leading to damage. The thermal effect of holding a cellphone directly to your head, for example, is well established and documented. Many regulators and wireless companies contend that, at levels of EMF insufficient to induce the thermal effect, EMF is harmless to humans.
But, as this microwave attack episode demonstrates, the physiological effects of electromagnetic radiation on humans go far beyond thermal effect. Even at levels insufficient to heat and cook your tissue, electromagnetic fields — like those emitted by cell phones, smart meters, and wifi networks — can and do impact human health.
The diplomatic episodes are a perfect demonstration of this fact. Regardless of whether microwave weapons are proven to have been deployed in Cuba, evidence shows that such weapons do exist.
The fact that the microwave theory is a plausible one, supported by lead scientists and researchers on the case, points to one thing: Electromagnetic radiation has the power to seriously harm human health — even from a distance, and even at supposedly safe levels of EMF, lower than regulations permit.
UPDATE: NASEM Report Supports Microwave Attack Theory
Initially, there were a number of theories proposed to explain the debilitating symptoms experienced by US diplomats in Cuba. No conclusions were drawn, however.
In 2020, a long-awaited report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) was released. And its contents were striking.
After a thorough evaluation, NASEM uncovered evidence that points towards the symptoms resulting from “directed, pulsed radiofrequency energy.”
How The Research Was Conducted
Between 2019 and 2020, NASEM created a 19-member committee that included established scientists from multiple fields. They were asked by the Department of State (DOS) to analyze the symptoms, with perspectives from different scientific fields, and report their findings.
The committee then gathered reports from experts who treated the diplomats in 2016 as well as the diplomats’ medical histories. They also consulted with scientists who responded to similar issues with Canadian personnel posted in Cuba.
After gathering ample data and individually analyzing all of the reports, the committee met (twice in person and once virtually) to discuss their findings.
Evidence Points to Radiofrequency Radiation
The NASEM committee narrowed down their assessment to what they believed were the four most plausible mechanisms behind the incidents: chemical exposure, infectious diseases, psychological factors, and directed RF energy.
According to the report, the symptoms were found to be inconsistent with psychiatric disorders or typical cases of mass hysteria. While exposure to toxic chemicals or infectious agents (such as the Zika virus) could not be ruled out as contributing factors, no known toxic agent or disease was a logical fit for the symptoms described.
On the other hand, the researchers concluded that the symptoms were consistent with known effects of RF radiation exposure.
“The committee finds that many of the acute, sudden-onset, early phase signs, symptoms and observations reported by DOS employees are consistent with RF effects,” says the report. “In addition, many of the chronic, nonspecific symptoms are also consistent with known RF effects, such as dizziness, headache, fatigue, nausea, anxiety, cognitive deficits, and memory loss.”
The report serves to highlight an important and often-overlooked fact about RF radiation: the public are largely unaware of these health issues, or believe them to be speculation at best.
In truth, point out the researchers, the biological effects of RF are well established.
“While much of the general public discussion on RF biological effects has focused on cancer, there is a growing amount of data demonstrating a variety of non-cancer effects as well,” says the report.
Pulsed RF Energy Likely
The report goes on to state that there are “multiple possible mechanisms for non-thermal RF biological effects” including apoptosis, cell oxidative stress, and non-thermal cell membrane dysfunction. “However,” it states, “many of the cognitive, vestibular, and auditory effects observed in DOS personnel are most consistent with modulated, or pulsed, RF biological effects.”
These effects are described in the “significant research” conducted by Russia/USSR into the effects of pulsed, rather than continuous wave RF exposure. “Military personnel exposed to non-thermal microwave radiation were said to have experienced headache, fatigue, dizziness, irritability, sleeplessness, depression, anxiety, forgetfulness, and lack of concentration, as well as internal sound perception,” says the report. This set of symptoms is extremely similar to the ones experienced by the Cuban personnel.
The report also acknowledges that the symptoms are consistent with the Frey effect described above.
What Can We Learn From The NASEM Report?
The findings of the NASEM report are highly interesting on several levels.
Firstly, the report highlights, through well-researched and well-referenced data, just how well-established the biological effects of RF EMF exposure are – even when the exposure is at a non-thermal level.
Additionally, the fact that the microwave attack hypothesis is not only plausible but highly likely demonstrates the reality of how dangerous radiofrequency radiation can be. And let’s not forget that such RF radiation is bouncing around in our environment 24/7 in increasingly high levels. All of our smartphones, cell networks, WiFi routers and smart devices emit RF radiation which our bodies absorb.
The NASEM report cannot say conclusively that a pulsed microwave attack was behind the incidents in question. As the researchers point out, experiments would need to be done to replicate the same conditions of the attacks (i.e. characteristics including “frequency, pulse repetition frequency, pulse width, incident angle between potential source and subject, duration of exposure, number of repeated exposures, etc.”) – and ethically running such experiments would be near to impossible.
Still, regardless of whether the report can conclusively confirm the findings or not, the insights remain. Microwave weapons are not only possible, they’re highly plausible. Directed, pulsed radio frequency energy can severely harm – and it can do so without leaving any evidence.
2021: The Attacks Are Far From Over
In April 2021, leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee said in a hearing that cases of ‘Havana Syndrome’ continue to be a concern. Federal agencies are reportedly now investigating two cases believed to have originated on US soil – one of them occurring right near the White House in late 2020.
CIA Director William Burns said that the agency is making it “an extraordinarily high priority to get to the bottom of who’s responsible for the attacks”.
Also in April 2021, it was reported that the Pentagon had launched its own inquiry into suspected microwave attacks on US troops in the Middle East. If anything, it seems the use of microwave weapons is increasing.
Interestingly, a report by The Guardian suggests the CIA has had intelligence on the use of these weapons for several decades. The report explores the case of two NSA (National Security Agency) agents who experienced an attack in the late 1990s while visiting a ‘hostile’ country. Years later, both were diagnosed with the same rare form of Parkinson’s disease.
One of the agents, Mike Beck, says he arranged a briefing with CIA experts in 2016 after the NSA opposed his claims of an attack. “They supported my affirmation that I had been attacked in the hostile country with a microwave weapon,” Beck says. “They said it was a ‘no-brainer’ that this medical condition was due to an attack.”
So what can we conclude from all of this?
It’s extremely difficult to conclusively prove the use of microwave weaponry in any of these attacks. But by all reports, that’s exactly what we’re facing. What we know is that radio frequency energy can be used at a distance to severely and directly impact the human brain and body.