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Newsline: Top U.S. diplomat casts doubt on ‘Havana syndrome’ claims

A top State Department official, countering claims that have circulated widely among members of Congress and the news media, says in a new interview there is no evidence that any external actors caused the “Havana syndrome” health incidents reported in recent years by over 1,100 U.S. diplomats and spies. The comments by Brian Nichols, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, are especially striking given they come at a time the CIA and the State Department have begun making arrangements to compensate — with payments of up to $189,000 — current and former U.S. officials suffering from unexplained brain injuries under a law, the HAVANA Act, passed by Congress last year and signed by President Biden. But even as those payments go out, a Yahoo News investigation has found there is mounting skepticism among senior officials about a key underlying premise of the new law: that the symptoms associated with Havana syndrome — which the government formally refers to as Anomalous Health Incidents (AHI) — can be linked in any way to hostile attacks by a foreign power. “We have not identified any outside causality in any Anomalous Health Incidents,” said Nichols in an exclusive interview for a new three-part series for Yahoo News’ “Conspiracyland” podcast, “The Strange Story of Havana Syndrome.” (https://news.yahoo.com/top-us-officials-cast-fresh-doubt-on-sensational-havana-syndrome-claims-090025560.html) The remarks by Nichols — who oversees Cuba policy at the State Department — echo, but in some respects go beyond, recent comments by CIA Director William Burns that the agency has not found any foreign actors, including Russia, to be responsible for a “sustained global campaign on the scale of what has been reported” to harm U.S. officials and that “a majority” of Havana syndrome cases could be attributed to alternative environmental and medical factors.

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