Neurologists Debunk US Report on Cuban 'Sonic Attack' Theory

According to several neurologists, the U.S. report misinterpreted test results and overlooked common disorders and psychological explanations.   

Neurologists have challenged claims by the United States that its diplomatic core in Havana, Cuba suffered brain injuries after being allegedly targeted by Cuban officials with a sonic attack.

RELATED: Cuban Offical: US Embassy Staff Cut Politically Motivated

This March, a medical report by the University of Pennsylvania commissioned by the U.S. government claimed that staff at the U.S. embassy in Havana had suffered concussion-like injuries after hearing strange noises.

However, on Tuesday, specialists in neurology, neuropsychiatry, and neuropsychology from the U.S., the United Kingdom, and Germany contested the results, and questioned the validity of the study, citing several flaws.

In four letters to the Journal of the American Medical Association, several specialists argued the University of Pennsylvania team misinterpreted test results and overlooked common disorders or psychological explanations that could have explained their symptoms.   

Robert Shura, a U.S. certified clinical neuropsychologist who works at the Salisbury veterans medical center in North Carolina, explained how the study misinterpreted the cognitive tests performed on the U.S. diplomats.

According to Shura, a score in the bottom 5 percent typically means there is a problem, but the study established that those who scored in the bottom 40 percent were “impaired.” This assessment, Shura and two other colleagues contend, is “inappropriate.”

RELATED: Joint Cuban, US Probe Finds No Evidence for Sonic Attacks

A common disorder that was unaccounted for is inner ear damage. Doctor Gerard Gioanoli of the Ear and Balance Institute in Louisiana said “given that almost all of the patients complained of hearing loss and balance problems, I am extremely suspicious of an inner ear insult in this group of patients… I do wish they would be more thoroughly evaluated.”

University of Edinburgh neurologist Jon Stone and neuropsychiatrist Alan Carson argued that Smith’s team too easily dismissed functional neurological disorders that can be triggered by sudden noises which, combined with anxiety, can lead to persistent neurological problems.

“Functional neurological disorders are common genuine disorders that can affect anyone, including hard-working diplomatic staff,” they said.

In September 2017 the U.S. government decided to drastically reduce its staff in the Caribbean island after 24 diplomats reported concussion-like symptoms, including headaches, dizziness, difficulties in sleeping, and lack of balance.

The U.S. accused the Cuban government of orchestrating a sonic attack. A claim Cuban authorities vehemently denied.

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Joint Cuban, U.S. probe finds no evidence of sonic attacks

The Cuban Foreign Ministry has issued a statement calling on the U.S. government to stop the "political manipulation" of alleged health issues.

A fourth meeting was held in Washington D.C. Tuesday between authorities from law enforcement agencies from Cuba and the United States, the Cuban foreign ministry said, adding that joint investigations by the agencies from both countries have found no evidence of the alleged sonic attacks against U.S. diplomats in Havana.

The statement said that the Cuban delegation urged the United States government to stop its hostile behavior and “political manipulation” towards the Caribbean country using “the alleged health incidents that became a pretext to adopt new unilateral measures that affect the operation of the respective embassies, particularly, the rendering of consular services depended upon by hundreds of thousands of people.”

The meeting was concluded with an agreement to “continue with this dialogue and to keep holding the technical meetings between the law enforcement agencies from both countries to bring bilateral cooperation to fruition,” the statement of the Cuban ministry said.

Last year, so-called 'sonic attacks' led to the withdrawal of U.S. diplomatic staff in Cuba, after 24 staff displayed concussion-like symptoms, according to the State Department. No evidence was ever found to support the allegations.

Edited by Pavel Jacomino
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Cuba Rejects US Claims of Another 'Attack' Against Diplomats

"The supposed concern for health and security is used with political opportunism," a Cuban official said.

 Cuba has denounced U.S. "opportunism" for claiming that health problems reported by U.S. diplomatic staff in Havana are "attacks" after another case of a "mysterious illness" was reported.

RELATED: US Diplomatic Staff Flee China After Mystery 'Medical Incident'

The U.S. State Department said on Thursday that another diplomat had been affected by a "mysterious illness" in Cuba, and said it would "work diligently to determine the cause of the symptoms, as well as develop mitigation measures."

State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said that Cuba was informed of the "attack."

The director of the United States in the Cuban Foreign Ministry, Carlos Fernandez de Cossio, said the insistence of the State Department on using the term "attack" to describe the incidents confirms the United States is opportunistically using them for political motives.

"The supposed concern for health and security is used with political opportunism," Fernandez de Cossio said, noting that Washington has a long history of political manipulation in the Caribbean island.

The Cuban official reiterated his country's commitment to guaranteeing the security of all foreign diplomats, including those of the United States, and that it has and will continue to cooperate in every way possible to identify the cause of these reported symptoms.

Similar symptoms were also recently reported by U.S. diplomats in China, leading to their evacuation.

Last year, so-called 'sonic attacks' led to the withdrawal of U.S. diplomatic staff in Cuba, after 24 staff displayed concussion-like symptoms, according to the State Department. No evidence was ever found to support the allegations.

The incident led to heightened tensions between the two countries and coincided with the United States' souring of bilateral relations after several years of openness under Barack Obama.

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The United States accepts that they do not know the explanation, nature or cause of the health problems reported by its diplomats

On May 29, 2018, the Embassy of the United States in Havana informed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cuba that, on May 27, an official of that Embassy had reported health symptoms as a result of “undefined sounds” in her place of residence.

 Immediately, the Cuban Government gave top priority to the matter and officially requested the Diplomatic Mission of the United States that specialized medical doctors and investigators respectively, could interview said official. 

The thorough and urgent investigation carried out in the residence premises found no indication of any kind of sound capable of causing health damages. 

As in the cases reported before, the Cuban authorities and specialists have had no access to the official.

Cuba has reaffirmed publicly and officially its willingness to cooperate in earnest in the joint search for answers, the elucidation and solution to the alleged facts.  

After more than a year of research by the specialized agencies and experts from Cuba and the United States, it is confirmed that there is no credible hypothesis or conclusions adhered to science that justify the actions taken by the government of the United States against Cuba to the detriment of the bilateral relationship and with obvious political motivations. 

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also taken note of the announcement made by the Secretary of State, on the past June 5, about the establishment of a Joint Task Force to respond to what he characterized as "unexplained health incidents to the personnel stationed overseas", specifically in Cuba and the People’s Republic of China.  

The announcement states verbatim that “the precise nature of the injuries suffered by the affected personnel, and whether a common cause exists for all cases, has not yet been established”.  
Guarantying the health and security of Cubans and foreign citizens, has been, is and will be a priority that distinguishes the Cuban nation.  It is widely known that the Government rigorously complies with its responsibilities in the attention and protection of the Diplomatic Corps. 

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterates that no evidence whatsoever has been presented of the alleged incidents and maintains its unwavering commitment to cooperate with the authorities from the United States to achieve the elucidation of this situation and the best medical attention to the persons concerned. 

Cuba is and will continue to be a safe, stable and attractive country.

Havana, June 10, 2018.

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Cuba is a safe, peaceful and healthy country.

Statement to the press by Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director General for U.S. Affairs.

In the morning of January 9, a hearing of the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere of the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations was held, which was organized by Marco Rubio, the Republican Senator for Florida and co-chaired by Robert Menendez, the Democrat Senator for New Jersey, who have a vast work history against the betterment of relations between Cuba and the United States and are promoters of all sort of legislative and political proposals that affect the interests of the Cuban and U.S.  peoples and only benefit a minority that is increasingly becoming more isolated and that has historically made profits out of the aggression against Cuba.

The very title, “Attacks on U.S. diplomats in Cuba”, evidenced that the real purpose of the hearing to which three high-ranking officials of the Department of State were summoned, was not to establish the truth, but to impose by force and with no evidence whatsoever, an accusation which they have been unable to proof.  

Nobody is surprised by the unwarranted allegations, or the fabrications made up by the Anti-Cuba senators, whose sole political agenda throughout the years has been to lead our two countries into a confrontation, regardless of the consequences.  Their complete unscrupulousness and lack of credibility is well known. The great victim of today’s hearing has been the truth. 

The Cuban government regards as unacceptable the irresponsible declarations made by Francisco Palmieri, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs of the U.S. Department of State. 

Dr. Charles Rosenfarb, Medical Director of the Bureau of Medical Services of the U.S. Department of State said that there are a multitude of symptoms that are not attributable to a specific cause and that there is a lack of certainty on the causal agent. Todd Brown, Assistant Director for International Programs of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security Service stated that experts have been unable to identify the cause or the perpetrator. And Mr. Palmieri used on several occasions the term attacks. It was made clear that this is an unwarranted accusation against Cuba.
The Department of State has no evidence whatsoever that allows it to affirm that there has been attacks against its diplomats in Havana, or that Cuba could be responsible for or be aware of actions carried out by third-parties.

On the contrary, months of thorough probes have proven that there has been no attack.

I categorically reiterate that the Cuban government has no responsibility whatsoever in the health conditions reported by U.S. diplomats. Cuba has never perpetrated nor will it ever perpetrate any act against the physical integrity of any diplomat without exception, and has never permitted nor will it ever permit any actions by third parties for that purpose. The Cuban government is mindful of its responsibilities and complies with them in an exemplary manner. 

Once again, I affirm that the investigation conducted by the Cuban authorities, the results of which have been made available to the Department of State and the U.S. specialized agencies for their wide and systematic access, have concluded that there is no evidence leading to the occurrence of the alleged incidents and that no attack of any sort has been carried out.

Nothing in the information provided by the U.S. government throughout this period or even today leads, based on evidences, that the health conditions reported by the diplomats may have had their origin or cause in Cuba.

We reject the politicization of this issue and the unwarranted measures adopted by the U.S. government, with a high cost for our population, the Cuban immigration and the U.S. people. 

We also denounce the political manipulation of these events by Anti-Cuba elements who seek to aggravate the bilateral climate, with the sole purpose of returning to a confrontational stage with negative consequences for both countries and the region. 

Cuba is a safe, peaceful and healthy country for Cubans, foreigners, accredited diplomats and for millions of people that visit us every year, including Americans.

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Jeff Flake says no evidence of ‘sonic attacks’ in Cuba

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake says the U.S. has found no evidence that American diplomats in Havana were the victims of attacks with an unknown weapon.

Flake, a Senate Foreign Relations Committee member, met with high-ranking Cuban officials in Havana on Friday. He spoke with The Associated Press on Saturday morning.

The Cubans told Flake the FBI has told them its agents found no evidence that mysterious illnesses suffered by U.S. diplomats resulted from attacks, despite the Trump administration’s description of the incidents as attacks.

Flake says classified briefings from U.S. officials have left him with no reason to doubt the Cuban account. The U.S. has pulled most of its staff from Havana in response to the incidents.

Cuban and FBI officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Cuban FM: “There is no evidence of sonic attacks on US diplomats.”

“The decline in Cuba-U.S. relations has worsened as a result of the recent decisions of the US government”, asserted in Washington Cuban FM Bruno Rodriguez.

At a press conference, Rodriguez criticized Washington’s decisions to substantially reduce the staff of its embassy in Havana, and to unfoundedly expel 17 officials of the Cuban mission here.

“Such steps, under the pretext of alleged incidents with its diplomats, have aversively affected the operation of the Cuban embassy, particularly of the Economic-Commercial Office, which was dismantled, and the Consulate, whose staff situation is difficult”, the minister stated.

“What is the aim behind this decision that has left the business sector without partner and has caused serious affectations on consular services to Cubans living in the United States?”, he asked.

He also asked about the purpose for the suspension of visa processing in the US Consulate in Havana, which paralyzed Cubans’ steps to emigrate or visit the neighboring nation.

Rodríguez pointed out that these decisions have been accompanied by repeated disrespectful and offensive pronouncements against his country by US President Donald Trump, “who retook the hostile rhetoric of the periods of greater confrontation.”

“Trump and senior officials of his administration have dared to claim that their diplomats in Havana have suffered attacks and directly blamed the Cuban government, when they have been unable to show the slightest evidence in this regard”, the FM remarked.

He pointed out that the measures adopted against the island are unjustified and politically motivated, because “they are not based on evidence or conclusive investigative results.”

The foreign minister of the Caribbean nation criticized the lack of collaboration of US authorities in these events, which the Donald Trump administration describes as attacks without showing any evidence on them.

“Why were the incidents reported so late, most of them weeks and months after the alleged attacks happened? Why has the information provided by U.S. been extemporaneous and insufficient?”, asked the head of diplomacy of the Antillean nation.

Rodríguez also said that the medical information provided to Cuba has been general and lacks objective data, as well as that there have been no meetings among experts from the two countries on the technology that could allegedly been used.

The Cuban official noted that despite these and other insufficiencies, the authorities of the Caribbean country continue the investigation and preliminarily concluded there does not exist evidence of the occurrence of the alleged incidents, nor the causes or origin of the health conditions notified by the diplomats and their relatives.

'There is also no evidence that these health problems have been caused by an attack of any nature during their stay in Cuba”, remarked the foreign minister on the symptoms that, according to the US Department of State, include migraine, dizziness, hearing loss and mild brain injuries.”

According to the minister, it is highly striking that the US government is still talking about attacks and acoustic attacks” and takes punitive measures against Cuba, when it is expertly demonstrated that such events are not possible.

“The diversity of the reported symptoms cannot be associated with a single cause and there is no known technology that allows targeting a sound source selectively against specific people, without affecting others”, the minister added.

In responding a question from Prensa Latina, Rodríguez said Cuba is willing to continue the cooperation to investigate this sensitive issue and shares the concern over the health conditions that US diplomats may have.

“The Cuban government, he stressed, has no responsibility whatsoever in the incidents to have affected US diplomats.”

On the other hand, Rodríguez positively assessed the four exchanges held with representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), who, he added, have been provided with all facilities to work on the ground.

“Washington should stop politicizing this issue, which may cause an escalation and further roll back bilateral relations, with damaging consequences for both peoples and countries”, he stressed.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / Cubasi Translation Staff

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