"There is no explanation" for the large number of reported cases around the world, said a senior CIA official who insisted that "we do not see a global campaign from a foreign actor." There are still pending cases, the official continued, and the CIA is still open to the view that a nation state or a specific entity is causing symptoms such as headaches and nausea - if the agency finds evidence of this.
The analysis of these cases continues, and the CIA's preliminary findings represent an assessment of a very narrow, specific question about the scope and extent of foreign governments' potential efforts.
"We will certainly not rule out the possibility of involving foreign actors in some discreet cases," the official said, adding that "we have not identified a causal mechanism, a new weapon that has been used at this time" worldwide. , including a long-suspected weapon with targeted energy.
POLITICO has not reviewed the preliminary finding itself. However, the question that the intelligence service aimed to answer focused solely on whether there is an ongoing, global campaign against U.S. personnel causing the Havana syndrome. Symptoms described by the victims include intense ringing and pressure in the ears, vomiting, nausea and permanent brain damage.
Suspected cases of Havana syndrome have surfaced on almost every continent in the past year, with the Biden administration privately alerting lawmakers that U.S. officials posted abroad were more and more vulnerable to the incidents.
The agency's findings will certainly worry lawmakers who for more than a year have referred to Havana syndrome incidents broadly as "targeted energy attacks."
POLITICO has previously reported that intelligence officials told lawmakers behind closed doors that they believed Russia was responsible for the attacks and that the diplomats concerned were hit by pulsating energy causing traumatic brain damage. Lawmakers have also said it could be an attempt by a foreign government to steal data from an American government official units of government.
The House and Senate unanimously passed legislation last year to help victims cover medical costs, and lawmakers in both chambers have sounded the alarm about efforts by the State Department and other agencies to minimize or directly dismiss concerns raised by victims.
Based on current evidence, the wider intelligence community is on the CIA's preliminary assessment, the senior CIA official told POLITICO, adding that there are "different levels of trust within different agencies."
A source from the intelligence community warned separately that the CIA's preliminary finding "does not reflect the unanimous consensus of the intelligence community." President Joe Biden has not yet been briefed on the current assessment.
The source added that the intelligence community's "expert panel" on the issue is underway and that the CIA result was primarily a "narrowing" of cases and potential causes.
CIA Director William Burns is behind the current finding, but made it clear that the investigation is continuing with an indefinite timeline.
"Although we have achieved some significant preliminary results, we are not done," Burns said in a statement. "We will continue the mission of investigating these incidents and providing access to world-class care to those who need it. Although the underlying causes may be different, our officers are suffering from real symptoms. Our commitment to care is unwavering."
But victims of the Havana syndrome, who have long been denounced or ignored by their superiors at various U.S. government agencies, criticized the CIA for releasing the report while the investigation is ongoing, calling it a "disturbing restriction" that leaves them "no closer on an answer. "
"The decision to release the report now and with this particular set of 'results' seems like a breach of faith and an undermining of the Congress and the President's intention to stand with us and reach a broad government consensus on what lies behind this. ., ”Reads a statement sent by their lawyers.
"This report was neither cleared nor coordinated through the cross-cutting agency and should stand as the assessment of one agency (CIA) alone," the statement added. "We have reason to believe that the preliminary report does not even represent the full CIA consensus, instead reflects the views of a subgroup of officials most interested in resolution and closure."
The victims also called on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, which have jurisdiction over the CIA, to aggressively review the CIA report and the circumstances surrounding its release.