Tillerson Digs In on Cuba as FBI Finds No Evidence of Attacks

Secretary of state refuses to send diplomats back, will likely form a review board
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 9, 2018 9:30 AM CST
In this Jan. 5, 2018, photo, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks. The United States would be "putting people intentionally in harm's way" if it sent diplomats back to Cuba, Tillerson said, even as...   (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
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(Newser) – The United States would be "putting people intentionally in harm's way" if it sent diplomats back to Cuba, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tells the AP, even as a new FBI report casts doubt on the theory that Americans were hit by "sonic attacks." Following months of investigation, an interim Jan. 4 report says the probe uncovered no evidence that sound waves could have damaged the Americans' health. Tillerson said he's not convinced that what he calls the "deliberate attacks" are over. He defended his September decision to order most US personnel and their relatives to leave Cuba and said he won't reverse course until Cuba's government assures they'll be safe. "I'd be intentionally putting them back in harm's way. Why in the world would I do that when I have no means whatsoever to protect them?" Tillerson said. "I will push back on anybody who wants to force me to do that."

By law, Tillerson must form an "accountability review board" after any serious injury to diplomats overseas. Tillerson has signed off on the new board, US officials said, though the Miami Herald reports only that a decision has been made. The State Department wouldn't comment, saying Congress must first be notified. That could come Tuesday, when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds a hearing on the "attacks on US diplomats in Cuba." The CIA, whose spies were affected, has chafed at the lack of FBI progress, while some lawmakers question whether the FBI agrees with the State Department that anyone was attacked. Tillerson's comments and the FBI report illustrate how befuddled the US still seems about the Havana mystery more than a year later. The FBI report, which hasn't been released, is the clearest sign to date of the US ruling out the sonic weapon theory.

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