The blaring, grinding noise jolted the American diplomat from his bed in a Havana hotel. He moved just a few feet, and there was silence. He climbed back into bed. Inexplicably, the agonizing sound hit him again. It was as if he'd walked through some invisible wall cutting straight through his room. Soon came the hearing loss and the speech problems, symptoms both similar and altogether different from others among at least 21 US victims in an astonishing international mystery still unfolding in Cuba. The top US diplomat has called them "health attacks." New details learned by the AP indicate at least some of the incidents were confined to specific rooms or even parts of rooms with laserlike specificity, baffling US officials who say the facts and the physics don't add up.
Suspicion initially focused on a sonic weapon, and on the Cubans. Yet the diagnosis of mild brain injury, considered unlikely to result from sound, has confounded the FBI, the State Department, and US intelligence agencies involved in the investigation. Aside from their homes, officials said Americans were attacked in at least one hotel, a fact not previously disclosed. In several episodes recounted by US officials, victims knew it was happening in real time. Some felt vibrations and heard sounds. Some victims awoke with ringing in their ears and fumbled for their alarm clocks, only to discover the ringing stopped when they moved away from their beds. Yet others heard nothing and felt nothing; their symptoms came later. The AP's extensive look at the mystery attacks, the symptoms of which one expert says are "not possible" to explain at this point, is worth a read. (Read more Cuba stories.)