A “sonic weapon” that caused diplomats in Cuba to lose their hearing also caused brain injury

The Cuban embassy in Washington
The Cuban embassy in Washington
Image: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
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In late 2016, several American diplomats who had been stationed in Cuba were reportedly forced to cut their tours of duty short and return home after suddenly and inexplicably losing their hearing. Unnamed US officials conducted an investigation into the incidents, according to a report by the Associated Press, and found that an “advanced sonic weapon” was responsible. The sonic devices were planted in or around the diplomats’ homes and emitted inaudible sounds that apparently caused the hearing loss.

The nature and extent of the injuries were unclear when the attacks were first reported in early August, but a recent review of medical records by CBS News found that the injuries were not limited to hearing loss. Some diplomats also suffered mild traumatic brain injury, according to the records, and damage to their central nervous systems.

In addition to the sonic attacks, diplomats were also under heavy surveillance during their tours of duty, according to the CBS News report, and some had their homes broken into and their vehicles vandalized.

The US State Department hasn’t released a public statement about the incidents, but has confirmed that diplomats had “a variety of physical symptoms” and said the US responded by removing two Cuban diplomats from the country’s embassy in Washington last May. Officials in Canada said in early August that they were “aware of unusual symptoms affecting Canadian and US diplomatic personnel and their families in Havana,” a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada told the AP. “The government is actively working—including with US and Cuban authorities—to ascertain the cause.”

The Cuban government has denied the allegations, and said the expulsion of the Cuban diplomats was “unjustified and baseless.”