Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he has “no doubt” that American diplomats have become afflicted and significantly impacted by the mysterious Havana Syndrome in an interview Thursday with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
“There is no doubt in my mind that people have been directly and powerfully affected,” Blinken said. “We are working overtime across the entire government to get to the bottom of what happened, who’s responsible.”
The cause of Havana Syndrome is unknown, with victims reporting “headaches, loss of balance and hearing, ringing and pressure in the ears, and sometimes long-term brain damage,” according to Politico. At least one diplomat was evacuated from their post in Geneva, Switzerland, to the U.S. for treatment over the summer of 2021 after four cases were documented in two European cities, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
As many as 200 U.S. officials have been struck with the illness while serving abroad, the WSJ reported. Blinken emphasized that he has met with State Department employees around the world and listened to how their symptoms have disrupted their lives.
He said the U.S. still does not know who is causing the illness but has raised the topic with Russia. A 2018 scientific review commissioned by the State Department assessed that insects were the “most likely” cause of the condition, rather than targeted attacks by Russian spies, BuzzFeed News reported.
“We’ve got virtually the entire government working on this at the President’s instructions,” Blinken said. “We’re not there yet, but we will get there. We will figure this out.”
President Joe Biden signed a bill in October 2021 intended to provide support to diplomats and government officials who developed brain injuries as a result of Havana Syndrome.
“Civil servants, intelligence officers, diplomats, and military personnel all around the world have been affected by anomalous health incidents,” Biden said in a statement at the time. “Some are struggling with debilitating brain injuries that have curtailed their careers of service to our nation.”