For Mark Lenzi, it all started with unbearably intense headaches and loud noises from the ceiling. It was as if the upstairs neighbors were constantly dropping heavy metal items on the floor.
Lenzi, a diplomatic security officer at the US consulate in Guangzhou, China, soon realized that his wife was also experiencing headaches. Husband and wife started to drink boxes of medicine to get rid of the pain. As time passed, Lenzi realized that her children were waking up with nosebleeds this time. Then things got worse.
“My most disturbing symptom of late 2017 and early 2018 was short-term memory loss,” Lenzi told VICE World News.
Lenzi’s story has come to the fore again with the podcast series “Havana Syndrome”, which has been on the air recently.
Lenzi did not know what had caused the disturbances in their family. However, after the headaches started, he learned that his next-door neighbor, who works at the consulate like him, was hastily evacuated to the USA due to health problems.
Lenzi, who called to find this person’s contact information and ask what his illness was, was shocked by the answer he received. The woman said, “I was diagnosed with brain damage. It’s the same thing that happened in Cuba.”
Havana Syndrome was first reported in 2016 by US agents and diplomats stationed in Havana, the Cuban capital. That’s why it got this name. Doctors who treated the first cases were unable to make a diagnosis that explained all the symptoms. For this reason, there were also those who directly called the events “The Thing”.
Moreover, the woman also stated that she advised the managers of the consulate in Guangzhou to evacuate the apartment they live in immediately and said, “Please leave that apartment and move to another place as soon as possible.”
Lenzi was evacuated from China with his family and 10-12 people in 2018 and was treated in the USA.
This was the first appearance of the mysterious disease known as Havana Syndrome outside the Cuban capital. But it would not be the last.
The complaints of those who say they have Havana Syndrome vary. Some say they hear a sound that looks like two metals rubbing against each other. Some liken the sound they hear to a swarm of cicadas. According to what is said, an intense pressure is felt in the head and ears after the sound. This pressure causes headaches, nausea and dizziness. When the person experiencing the aforementioned oddities tries to move to “escape from the target”, the sound he hears and the pressure he feels suddenly stops. However, physical symptoms can persist for days, and in some cases even years.
EVENTS COME IN CASE OF CONSEQUENCE
In December 2017, a senior CIA official experienced a sudden unexplained headache and nausea in his hotel room in Moscow, Russia.
Two White House staff members, who were in London for official contacts this time in mid-2019, suffered a discomfort in a hotel a few blocks from Buckingham Palace, where they felt intense pressure on their heads.
The following year, a US Department of Defense employee reported feeling a sudden acute pain in his skull while driving in an undisclosed “Russian influence” country. The employee’s child was also sitting in the back seat at the time, and the moment his parent felt the pain, he too began to scream in pain.
These cases, linked to Havana Syndrome, were increasing day by day, but the Washington administration was hesitant to devote resources to solving the mystery. Speaking to VICE, Lenzi talked to his superiors at the State Department after returning to the US from Guangzhou, “Why did you continue to make us sit in this apartment when you knew your neighbor was sick?” She said she asked him but got no answer.
The first comprehensive report on Havana Syndrome came from journalists Adam Entous and Jon Lee Anderson, who are also hosts of VICE’s “Havana Syndrome” podcast. The news titled “The Mystery of Havana Syndrome”, published in the New Yorker in November 2018, contained important details about the events and shed light on the first cases in Cuba. However, despite all these years, some questions still remain unanswered. “What is Havana Syndrome? Is it real or imagined? If so, what or who is the cause? Why hasn’t the US government been able to solve this mystery all this time?” Explanations on such questions still cannot go beyond speculation.
Shortly after that meeting, Lenzi sent an angry email to some 200 colleagues, as well as officials in Washington and Beijing, accusing the executives of “trying to cover up”. “Due to privacy concerns and security reasons, we are unable to comment on certain individuals or events,” the US State Department told VICE.
US consulate in Guangzhou
IT WAS SAID THAT THE DISEASE WAS NOT REAL
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was not the only institution that treated people with these ailments with suspicion and even ignored what happened. “From the first minute, I’ve had colleagues who said, ‘This is crazy. They’re whining like girls. Let them be men. It’s just stress,'” a CIA doctor, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak, told VICE.
The doctor in question was assigned to investigate cases in Havana since late 2016, and he himself experienced the same symptoms on one of the days he visited the city.
The doctor stated that after he announced that he had Havana Syndrome, all his colleagues in the CIA turned their backs on him, accusing him and other patients of pretending, losing his mind and being weak, and added:
“The CIA’s stance mirrored the infamous ‘deny everything, accept nothing, make counter-charges’ motto of intelligence. They plotted character assassinations to undermine the reputation of doctors, patients, and everyone else.” (CIA officials declined to respond to VICE’s requests for comment.)
A RACE SINCE THE COLD WAR YEARS
The CIA was reluctant to respond to a potential Havana Syndrome threat, but other government agencies were different. For example, in a report published by the National Academy of Sciences in December 2020, 4 years after the first cases appeared, it was stated that the cause of Havana Syndrome could be “guided pulse radiofrequency energy”. The report also reminded that Russia has been conducting research on such energy weapons for years.
Many scientists and former US officials VICE reporters spoke to said that Russia has been working on using microwaves for tracking and weapons production for many years. Jack Matlock, the former US Ambassador to Russia, said, “We created several insulated rooms in the embassy in Moscow in the 1950s. The purpose of these rooms was to prevent the information inside from being released through light, sound or microwaves.”
Weapons experts, on the other hand, stated that not only Russia but also the USA spent millions of dollars to produce and develop guided energy weapons. Experts emphasized that this is a branch of the arms race that took place during the Cold War.
“I think the military has never given up on their desire to have some kind of death ray,” said a longtime laser weapons researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
“EPIDDEN” EXTENDED TO VIENNA
The news of Adam Entous, which was published in the New Yorker magazine in July 2021, caused a great stir. According to the news, about 25 intelligence officers and diplomats working in Vienna, the capital of Austria, reported that they experienced symptoms similar to Havana Syndrome. This was the largest case of Havana Syndrome ever seen outside of Cuba. It was also remarkable that the incident took place in Vienna, where agents have been roaming, so to speak, since the Cold War.
In response to this “epidemic” of Havana Syndrome in Vienna, the CIA fired the director of its office in the country. The reason was that he himself did not take the matter seriously enough. CIA officials declined to comment on what was going on in Austria. However, former CIA employees who spoke to VICE stated that the agency did not do enough to support them.
However, another interesting detail emerged as part of the “Havana Syndrome” podcast. Accordingly, the CIA, which for months underestimated and ignored the experiences of its employees in Havana, suddenly changed its attitude and decided to secretly reward the employees with the syndrome.
According to VICE, the unnamed employee “sacrificed his duty despite being targeted by unknown forces and subjected to unprecedented devastating attacks.”
THE FLOW OF HISTORY CHANGED IN 2013 AND…
Jon Lee Anderson stated that they went deep into the intelligence world in their research while preparing the podcast and that they may have found the key to unravel the secret of Havana Syndrome.
Stating that they visited many points such as Havana, London and Vienna during this process, Anderson said, “It is right next to the Oval Office. Havana Syndrome “We followed the footsteps of the national security official who said he was still alive,” he said.
According to investigative journalists, everything started in 2013 when Ben Rhodes, who wrote the speeches of then-US President Barack Obama, decided to change the course of history. Rhodes wanted to negotiate with Cuba and to melt the ice between the two countries. In December 2014, he finally got his wish. On this date, Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced the resumption of bilateral relations after 50 years with a joint statement.
The most rejoicing of this was the US intelligence agencies. “When there is close contact, new intelligence opportunities arise,” John Brennan, then CIA Director, told VICE. In other words, the doors of Cuba, which was very difficult for foreign agents to enter, were opened to the Americans.
THEY LOOKED LIKE A BRAIN CONCRETE
Speaking on the podcast, a former CIA official named Tony said, while he was undercover in Havana, Cuba Stating that his intelligence constantly monitors his house, monitors his every move and even enters the house, he said, “They would use your toilet, cut your internet cables, empty your water tanks. They would burst your tires and damage your car.”
In December 2016, Tony experienced an incident that he believed was done by the Cubans to annoy him. “I suddenly heard a very loud noise in my bedroom. Then I felt a very, very severe earache” Tony said, getting out of bed to get rid of the noise and pressure. Very soon he began to experience headaches, nosebleeds and dizziness.
When similar incidents happened one after another to other CIA agents and employees at the US Embassy, the US administration began to suspect the Cubans. Washington asked Havana about it. The answer came from the highest position, from Castro: “We are not interested.”
US Embassy in Havana
Tony and others experiencing discomfort USAThey returned to their country in August 2017 and were treated secretly at the University of Pennsylvania.
On examinations, it was concluded that the symptoms of the patients were not psychogenic but real. Those with the syndrome appeared to have suffered some type of traumatic injury similar to a concussion. But what could cause a concussion without leaving any physical evidence behind? This question still has not been answered today.
Tony, on the other hand, stated that his health situation deteriorated rapidly after this incident. “Physically, psychologically and emotionally I was having the best time of my life. I was in a very strong position and very enthusiastic about doing my job. Within 6 months, I turned into a zombie, almost dehumanized.” used his statements.
VICE’s “We Set Out To Solve the Mystery of Havana Syndrome. Here’s What We Found.” and “‘Deny Everything’: Why the US Hasn’t Solved the Mystery of Havana Syndrome”.