Rep. Eric Swalwell on Wednesday pressed Intelligence Community leaders to acknowledge that the unexplained health incidents known as “Havana syndrome” are the result of targeted attacks, highlighting a growing consensus in Congress that the episodes are being perpetuated by a nefarious actor.
The Democrat from California also called for an effort to hunt down those behind the suspected attacks, on par with the Intelligence Community’s effort to hunt down Osama bin Laden.
The lawmaker’s remarks came during a House Intelligence Committee hearing on diversity in the Intelligence Community.
“The most urgent and important issue facing the workforce today are the terrorizing attacks that are happening globally, which are referred to as ‘anomalous health incidents,’” Mr. Swalwell said.
He asked CIA Director William J. Burns, “Considering that we are not doing this to our people, they are not doing this to themselves, public reports suggest they are happening in an escalating fashion worldwide, can we stop calling them incidents and call them attacks?”
Mr. Burns didn’t answer directly, but agreed that “real harm is being done to real people and we take each report very seriously.”
Senior leaders in the Biden administration have ramped up efforts to treat those with the mysterious symptoms, which a National Academy of Sciences report from December said, “are consistent with the effects of directed, pulsed radiofrequency energy.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Mr. Burns have both made firm commitments to determining the cause, and ensuring victims are cared for.
Congress, too, has stepped up its efforts, passing legislation that President Biden signed into law this month to provide financial assistance to victims.
But as for definitively pinning down the source and who may be responsible, the U.S. officially remains baffled. Senior officials commonly refer to the episodes as “anomalous health incidents,” rather than referring to them as attacks, to the chagrin of some in Congress.
Mr. Swalwell also asked Mr. Burns if he had a message for the individuals or country behind the suspected attacks “as to what we will do when we find out who is doing this.”
In response, Mr. Burns again stopped short of confirming Mr. Swalwell’s assessment that the incidents were the result of an attack, but reaffirmed his commitment to investigating the incidents.
“It took about ten years to find and hunt down Osama bin Laden with … a workforce that was dedicated to it,” Mr. Swalwell said. “ I hope the same effort is being made to find out who does this.”
“And when we do find out who does this, I think you’ll find bipartisan support that this is going to be a response that is beyond, if it’s a foreign country, just closing down a couple consulates,” he said. “That it is going to have to be a very, very severe response.”
• Joseph Clark can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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