CIA To Investigate Havana Syndrome, Agent Who Hunted Bin Laden To Lead
By Jason Hall
July 22, 2021
A veteran officer who was instrumental in the successful hunt for Osama bin Laden has been selected to lead the CIA's task force on the mysterious Havana Syndrome and its spread to U.S. personnel.
An official familiar with the matter confirmed to NBC News that the intelligence veteran 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," amid the outbreak of a mysterious disease that has spread to numerous U.S. diplomats, intelligence officers and other personnel and their families worldwide.
The Wall Street Journal was the first outlet to report on the veteran officer's role leading the task force.
NBC News reports the intelligence officer, who is still undercover, is a 10-year counterterrorism veteran.
As of Tuesday (July 20), a total of 200 U.S. officials and family members were reported to have experienced possible symptom related to the mysterious illness, including about two dozen cases reported in Vienna alone.
The syndrome was initially reported at the U.S. Embassy in Havana in 2016 and cases have since been reported at U.S. posts in China, Russia, Central Asia and several European capitals.
New reports show that the illness incidents are ongoing, despite commitments from the Biden administration's top national security team to double down its investigation into previous related incidents.
The New Yorker initially reported on Vienna being "the new Havana syndrome hot spot" in relation to the rising cases last week.
Several of the government personnel impacted by the illness were airlifted back to the United States and have undergone treatment, the sources confirmed.
The State Department has established a team of medical experts that can respond to reports of possible events globally and created an interagency triage tool that standardizes the assessments of these incidents across the various agencies, the spokesperson said.
The department also implemented a pilot baseline program this summer in an effort "to collect pre-incident information on our employees in the event of a reported incident," a spokesperson told CNN, but the program is optional for U.S. diplomats, multiple diplomats confirmed.
The news comes amid several past incidents of mysterious illnesses to U.S. government officials in recent months.
In May, the U.S. launched an investigation into two reported cases of government officials contacting a mysterious illness near the White House in November 2020.
In April, multiple federal agencies, including the CIA, State Department and Defense Department, were reported to be investigating potential directed energy attacks in the United States.