A 10-year counterterrorism veteran who was involved in the hunt for Osama bin Laden will head the CIA's task force on the Havana Syndrome, a mysterious condition that affected up to 200 US officials or their family members around the world, according to reports. The National Security Council is coordinating two administration task forces to find the cause of the incidents, in which personnel often detect sound, pressure, or heat, accompanied by headaches, hearing loss, dizziness, and brain injury. The CIA task force—to include intelligence analysts, clandestine officers, clinicians, human resource specialists, as well as outside experts—will be led by an undercover officer who was "intimately involved in the hunt for Bin Laden and will bring that same intensity and rigor to the hunt for the source of the unexplained health incidents," an official tells NBC News.
The officer was "handpicked" by CIA Director William J. Burns, who's made protecting US personnel a top priority, per the Washington Post. Incidents have spread to Washington, DC, China, Russia, and numerous European capitals, since cases were first reported at the US Embassy in Havana in 2016. A reported 20 officials in Vienna, Austria, have reported symptoms since January. The Austrian Foreign Ministry says it's working with US authorities to investigate those cases, per Reuters. In December, a panel of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine suggested possible attacks using microwaves or other forms of directed energy, but an official tells NBC that "there is still no smoking gun." Officials will be able to report any new incidents directly to the task force, per the Wall Street Journal, which was first to report on the CIA officer's appointment. (Read more Havana syndrome stories.)