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CIA Director's Entourage Hit by Havana Syndrome

Officer traveling with Williams J. Burns in India received medical attention back home
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 21, 2021 6:45 AM CDT
Havana Syndrome Strikes Within CIA Director's Entourage
In this April 14, 2021 file photo, CIA Director William Burns testifies during a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing about worldwide threats, on Capitol Hill in Washington.   (Saul Loeb/Pool via AP)

(Newser) – A CIA officer traveling in India with CIA Director Williams J. Burns reported symptoms consistent with Havana syndrome this month. It's unclear whether the officer was targeted because he was traveling with Burns, who's made it a top priority to investigate what the US government terms anomalous health incidents, or AHIs, which have affected Americans in numerous countries. But a targeted attack on Burns' entourage would represent a serious escalation and raise questions about how the perpetrator gained knowledge of the trip and its details, as Burns' schedule is "tightly held," per CNN.

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American officials have reported strange sensations—including nausea, dizziness, head pain, and more severe issues—since 2016, beginning at the US embassy in Cuba. Officials within the CIA, State Department, and Defense Department have been among those affected, with CIA officers representing nearly half of known cases, per the New York Times. CNN reports there are now more than 300 possible cases. A CNN source describes Burns as "fuming" at the latest incident, which came shortly after Vice President Kamala Harris' visit to Vietnam was briefly delayed due to reports of Havana syndrome cases.

CNN notes at least two US officials in Vietnam had to be medevaced. The officer affected in India received immediate medical attention upon their return to the US, the outlet adds. A CIA spokesperson notes the government is "pursuing multiple lines of effort" to investigate Havana syndrome, while "increas[ing] our understanding of the possible mechanisms that could be causing AHIs." Earlier this summer, Burns handpicked an undercover officer involved in the hunt for Osama bin Laden to head the CIA's task force investigating Havana syndrome. (Read more Havana syndrome stories.)

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