Frightening attacks on US personnel in Havana struck the heart of America's spy network in Cuba, with intelligence operatives among the first and most severely affected victims, the AP has learned. It wasn't until US spies, posted to the embassy under diplomatic cover, reported hearing bizarre sounds and experiencing even stranger physical effects that the United States realized something was wrong, individuals familiar with the situation said. While the attacks started within days of President Donald Trump's surprise election in November, the precise timeline remains unclear, including whether intelligence officers were the first victims hit or merely the first victims to report it. The US has called the situation "ongoing." To date, the Trump administration largely has described the 21 victims as US embassy personnel or "members of the diplomatic community."
That description suggested only bona fide diplomats and their family members were struck, with no logical motivation beyond disrupting US-Cuban relations. Behind the scenes, though, investigators immediately started searching for explanations in the darker, rougher world of spycraft and counterespionage, given that so many of the first reported cases involved intelligence workers posted to the US embassy. That revelation, confirmed to the AP by a half-dozen officials, adds yet another element of mystery to a year-long saga that the Trump administration says may not be over. Of the 21 confirmed cases, American spies suffered some of the most acute damage, including brain injury and hearing loss that has not healed, said several US officials. Click for more on the latest to surface, including details on whether all the symptoms are conclusively tied to attacks. (Read more Cuba stories.)