The State Department revealed a fresh diplomatic dispute between the U.S. and Cuba Wednesday when it acknowledged that it believes American diplomats serving in Cuba were subject to an “acoustic attack” in fall 2016 using a covert sonic weapon that left the Americans with severe hearing loss. The U.S. embassy in Havana only reopened in 2015 as part of former President Obama’s détente with its Caribbean neighbor. American diplomats operating in Cuba are known to be subject to surveillance and harassment, but the latest revelation is a substantial escalation.
From the Associated Press:
In the fall of 2016, a series of U.S. diplomats began suffering unexplained losses of hearing, according to officials with knowledge of the investigation into the case… After months of investigation, U.S. officials concluded that the diplomats had been attacked with an advanced sonic weapon that operated outside the range of audible sound and had been deployed either inside or outside their residences… U.S. officials told The Associated Press that about five diplomats, several with spouses, had been affected and that no children had been involved.
“The employees affected were not at the same place at the same time, but suffered a variety of physical symptoms since late 2016, which resembled concussions,” CNN reports. Along with probing possible Cuban responsibility, investigators are also exploring the possibility that the attack was carried out by a third country, like Russia, operating without the Cuban government’s knowledge.
“Cuba has never, nor would it ever, allow that the Cuban territory be used for any action against accredited diplomatic agents or their families,” the Cuban foreign ministry said in a statement Wednesday. The Cuban government said it launched an investigation when it was made aware of the incident in February. The State Department says the U.S. responded by expelling two Cuban diplomats from Washington in May.