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WSJ News Exclusive | Havana Syndrome Task Force to Be Led by Veteran of Hunt for Bin Laden

A veteran of the CIA’s hunt for Osama bin Laden will lead a team investigating the mysterious “Havana syndrome,” people familiar with the matter said

7/24/2021 7:00:00 PM

A veteran of the CIA’s hunt for Osama bin Laden will lead a team investigating the mysterious “Havana syndrome,” people familiar with the matter said

The choice of the Central Intelligence Agency officer is part of what officials describe as a quickening effort to determine the source of the apparent attacks, which have proved elusive.

were the most likely culprit for the symptoms experienced by U.S. officials, which include dizziness, severe headaches, nausea and cognitive difficulties.Mr. Burns, who became CIA director in March, has said that identifying the source of the attacks and getting treatment for affected agency personnel are among his top priorities. Some current and former intelligence officials suspect Russia is behind the attacks, but that remains unproven and Moscow has denied involvement.

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CIA Director William Burns at the U.S. Capitol in May; Mr. Burns has said identifying the source of attacks on U.S. personnel is a priority.Photo:jim lo scalzo/EPA/ShutterstockThe task force, which was formed last December, is composed of specialists from across the agency and includes intelligence analysts, clandestine officers who collect human intelligence, clinicians and human resource specialists, a U.S. official familiar with the issue said.

The new chief of the task force is a veteran of the agency’s Counterterrorism Center and, this official said, spent more than a decade on intelligence analysis and targeting, focused on bin Laden and his al Qaeda network.After a nearly decadelong hunt, bin Laden, sponsor of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, was tracked to a compound in Pakistan and killed by U.S. Navy SEALS in May 2011. headtopics.com

“Bin Laden, you could argue, was different—we knew what the target was,” the official said, whereas it remains a mystery who is behind the unexplained health incidents and what precise method is being used.Newsletter Sign-upScoops, analysis and insights driving Washington from the WSJ's D.C. bureau.

PREVIEWSUBSCRIBEThe CIA officer takes over from Cynthia Rapp, who held several senior positions at the spy agency, including deputy director for analysis. Ms. Rapp, the officials said, delayed retirement to help form the task force focused on what agency officials often call anomalous health incidents.

The incidents also have been reported in China, Russia, Austria and in Washington, D.C.In addition to finding the cause of the apparent attacks, the task force is a central place where agency employees can go to report a suspected incident, the officials said. Mr. Burns “is personally engaged with personnel affected by anomalous health incidents and is highly committed to their care and to determining the cause of these incidents,” a CIA spokesperson said.

Marc Polymeropoulos, a veteran CIA clandestine officer who was forced to retire from the agency after experiencing severe symptoms that began on a trip to Moscow, has been critical of the CIA’s early handling of the issue, but lauded Mr. Burns’ approach. headtopics.com

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“There’s been a sea change in the agency’s view towards these anomalous health incidents since Director Burns took over,” said Mr. Polymeropoulos, author of a recently published book on leadership based on his time in Afghanistan and other hot spots. “He’s dedicating appropriate resources and top-notch personnel.”

Mr. Burns, a former senior U.S. diplomat, also made leadership changes recently in the agency’s health division, the Office of Medical Services, to increase its focus on the unexplained health incidents, officials said. Read more: The Wall Street Journal »

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U.S. gov't knows exactly what HavanaSyndrome is (organ damage caused by hpm-high power microwave directed energy weapons). They're playing dumb because they don't want to admit the USA has--& uses--these weapons domestically. Perhaps it should be called 'Pentagon Syndrome.'🤔 Would you like to create a second source of income for yourself from the comfort of your home? It won’t interfere with your job or whatever you do. DM me for more details

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CIA inspector general reviewing handling of 'Havana Syndrome' casesThe CIA inspector general is carrying out a review into the agency's handling of officers sickened by the mysterious 'Havana Syndrome,' CNN has learned, a revelation that comes as cases are mushrooming across the globe. DARPA It could just be guilt...

CIA reviewing how it handled officers' reports of Havana SyndromeCIA’s internal watchdog is conducting review of how the agency first handled reports that some of its officers suffered neurological symptoms now known as Havana Syndrome, amid concerns the matter was not taken sufficiently seriously at the highest levels. Is this group hysteria?