CIA reviewing how it handled initial reports of Havana Syndrome symptoms from officers
WASHINGTON — The CIA’s internal watchdog is conducting a review of how the agency first handled reports that some of its officers suffered the neurological symptoms now known as Havana Syndrome, amid concerns the matter was not taken sufficiently seriously at the highest levels, three sources familiar with the matter told NBC News.
The CIA’s Office of Inspector General is interviewing people who have experienced symptoms and officials involved in the handling of the issue, the sources say.
The House Intelligence Committee is also conducting its own “deep dive” into the issue, a committee official with direct knowledge said.
“The anomalous health incidents afflicting our personnel around the world are of grave concern,” the committee official said. “There is no higher priority than ensuring the health and safety of those individuals who serve our nation.”
“On a bipartisan basis, the House Intelligence Committee has been speaking with individuals with firsthand knowledge of how these health incidents are being handled and how they were handled in the past,” the official said. “Through that work, we have significant concerns with how some individuals were unable to access needed benefits and medical care. The committee remains focused on ensuring that the government takes all necessary actions to address these issues.”
Some former officers, including Marc Polymeropoulos — who suffered an apparent brain injury during a trip to Moscow in 2017 — have accused the CIA’s management and medical officials during the Trump administration of failing to properly address the growing number of officers who believe they were targeted by what some experts think was a directed energy device or weapon.
Polymeropoulos told NBC News that the approach taken by CIA Director William Burns “has been a complete and most welcome sea change from the previous administration. He has shown compassion for victims, revamped the CIA’s health care response and dedicated additional resources to finding out who is responsible.”
Former CIA Director Gina Haspel did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The IG review was first reported by CNN.
The CIA recently appointed a new leader of its task force on Havana Syndrome, a veteran officer who was instrumental in the successful hunt for Osama bin Laden, an official familiar with the matter previously told NBC News.
NBC News reported Tuesday that as many as 200 U.S. officials or family members have reported possible symptoms. About two dozen cases were reported in Vienna alone.