Diplomats send letter to State Department leaders saying people with ‘Havana syndrome’ not receiving proper care

WASHINGTON – Group of US diplomats and other government personnel suffering from symptoms consistent with ‘Havana Syndrome’ express frustration at Biden administration’s early response and warn injured workers still see themselves refuse appropriate care.

In letter to State Department leadership obtained by NBC News, staff members say that in recent months, the government has continued to “reject scientific evidence regarding injuries and the need for treatment” and “invalidate our injuries and experiences,” alleging that military and military officials intelligence injured by the same unexplained phenomenon are treated more seriously.

“After four years of challenges, we were hopeful that the new administration would welcome a partnership with us to ensure that those affected receive the care and treatment they need and ensure appropriate care for new cases,” the members wrote. Staff. “Unfortunately, our experience so far has not met our renewed expectations.”

The letter adds to growing pressure on the Congressional Biden administration to take better care of affected American workers and explains how they suffered brain damage – still largely a mystery more than four years after the government began investigating what he initially called “targeted attacks.” Like the Trump administration, the Biden administration has not found a definitive cause or culprit.

The letter was sent Tuesday to Brian McKeon, Assistant Secretary of State, and was accompanied by a list of 11 recommendations for how staff members say the administration could better ensure the safety and medical care of its workers. Copies have been distributed to their offices of several US senators who this month signed a bipartisan bill to provide financial support to those suffering from the mysterious incidents.

The letter was sent on behalf of 21 U.S. government employees and their spouses who are believed to be potential or confirmed Havana Syndrome cases with injuries overseas, including in Cuba and China. In March, the group asked Amb. Pamela Spratlen, the official overseeing the State Department’s response, to attend a formal meeting to address their concerns, but write they are still waiting.

“The continued refusal of senior management in the department to meet and hear directly from their injured staff is disheartening,” write the staff.

NBC News does not release the names of the signatories, many of whom have not been publicly identified, but has confirmed the authenticity of the letter with several of those who signed it.

“Department leadership is aware of the letter and looks forward to discussing its contents with all parties concerned,” a State Department spokesperson said by email. “We have no higher priority than the safety and security of American personnel, their families, and other American citizens.”

In their list of 11 requests to the administration, staff members are asking that assessments and medical care for all newly or potentially injured workers be centralized at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where some recent injuries have been treated. In the first years after the incidents, the government sent workers to the University of Miami and then to the University of Pennsylvania, creating an inconsistent mishmash of treatments and testing regimens, and in recent years, workers continued to say they have to fight to be treated. at Walter Reed.

“It was incredibly frustrating,” said Marc Polymeropoulos, a former veteran CIA officer who says he was shot in a hotel room in Moscow in 2017. Polymeropoulos, who did not sign the letter, said that ‘he had finally made the extraordinary decision to speak out. publicly to seek treatment at the military hospital. “It got to the point where my health deteriorated that I had no choice but to go public and advocate for health care at Walter Reed.”

Staff members are also urging the administration to increase diagnostic and treatment options for children affected by Havana Syndrome, provide long-term monitoring of injured workers for 10 to 20 years, and perform blood tests. based on diplomats before they are sent overseas – something the Government of Canada is now doing following unexplained incidents.

They also want the State Department to work more closely with the Pentagon and other agencies on the development of “identification devices” for potential incidents, and to provide affected employees with some form of official recognition of their credentials. injuries, such as a letter or an award from the secretary. .

Although many diplomats whose State Department confirmed to have been injured in Cuba received letters from FBI victims or other State Department documents, injured workers later in other countries struggled to convince the government to prove their injuries, leading to what they described as exhausting. struggles to obtain worker’s compensation or other benefits and care.

No longer seen as limited to Cuba and China, the incidents have escalated with new reports of injuries in Russia, Western Europe and even the United States, with recent suspicious incidents occurring near the Home White.

Last month, the Republican and Democratic leaders of the elite Senate Intelligence Committee issued a joint statement calling the incidents “debilitating attacks” and warning that “this tendency to attack our fellow citizens in the service of our government seems increase”.

In 2018, NBC News first reported that U.S. intelligence agencies viewed Russia as the prime suspect, a suspicion that remains strong within the U.S. government despite a lack of definitive evidence. Russia and Cuba have both categorically denied their involvement.

A classic car drives past the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba on January 11, 2021.Yander Zamora / Agence Anadolu via Getty Images file

Last year, a study commissioned by the State Department at the National Academies of Sciences found that the injuries were compatible with directed microwave energy, reinforcing the prospect long suspected that a futuristic microwave weapon is being deployed.

A number of Canadian diplomats and their families also suffered similar brain injuries in Havana, which led to Ottawa reducing its diplomatic presence in Cuba. Earlier this month, NBC News reported that a group of Canadian diplomats sent their government a letter accusing it of withholding information on new cases of brain damage resulting from ‘Havana syndrome’ that the Canadian government has not publicly disclosed.

Responding to the new letter from staff members on Tuesday, the State Department said Secretary of State Antony Blinken was receiving regular updates on the situation and had “made it clear that it was a priority for him.” A spokesperson said the investigation into “what happened to our staff and their families” was ongoing.

Brenda Breslauer contributed.

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