“We are extremely alarmed that reports of these incidents continue to grow,” Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, and several other committee members wrote in a letter addressed to Blinken. "It is clear that this threat continues to target U.S. diplomats and related personnel, and reflects a significant, unmitigated threat to our national security.”
American diplomats and officials worldwide have suffered brain injuries with no obvious cause, a mystery named after Havana, the city where it was first detected , that was most recently reported in Colombia.
CIA Director Bill Burns’ team reportedly endured an attack during a recent trip to India — a range of operations stoking suspicions that Russia or China is targeting Americans.
“It is pretty clear that this is either a device or a weapon that uses pulsed radio frequencies or directed microwave energy,” Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “And it is very real. But, unfortunately, we still do not know who the adversary who is wielding this device or weapon is.”
New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Foreign Relations Committee Democrat who helped spearhead the letter to Blinken, noted that Russia has the technological ability to carry out such attacks.
“We know there are several states that have this kind of technology. And each of us, I would guess, have our own suspicions about who's responsible,” she said in a joint appearance with Collins. "Russia certainly is one of the countries that . . .[has] had the technology, probably longer than anybody, maybe even longer than the United States. And so figuring out who else has it and whether they have the global reach to be able to do these kinds of attacks is another piece of what we have got to look into.”
That assessment has not easily taken root with the government, as officials who reported the unexplained injuries have struggled to persuade their colleagues that an injury had occurred at all. The reported targeting of the CIA director’s team drove the crisis home for one of President Biden’s top spy chiefs, however, the lawmakers suggested that Blinken has devoted less attention to the problem.
“We continue to hear concerns that the department is not sufficiently communicating with or responding to diplomats who have been injured from these attacks,” Menendez, Shaheen, and nine other senators wrote Wednesday to Blinken. “We are also concerned that the Department is insufficiently engaged in interagency efforts to find the cause of these attacks, identify those responsible, and develop a plan to hold them accountable.”
Several senators urged Blinken to appoint a new task force leader who would report “directly” to him.