U.S. Investigating Diplomats’ Hearing Loss in Cuba

WASHINGTON — A senior federal law enforcement official told NBC News on Thursday that several U.S agencies are investigating allegations that the Cubans directed some kind of ultrasound energy at American diplomats that left several with damaged hearing.

The official said the State Department’s office of Diplomatic Security is leading the investigation. The FBI has one person in Havana, a legal attache with the American embassy, who can help. The FBI may be asked to provide technical assistance in the probe.

One State Department official confirmed reports that the “incidents” involved symptoms of hearing loss. And a Cuban government official told NBC News that the Americans had complained of an acoustic “incident.”

The State Department has also left open the possibility of a third country being involved. Iran, North Korea and Russia all have a significant diplomatic presence in Cuba.

“We don’t have any definitive answers about the source or the cause of what we consider to be incidents,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters Wednesday.

She said that there are a “variety of physical symptoms in these American citizens who work for the U.S. government. We take those incidents very seriously, and there is an investigation currently under way.”

Cuban officials have denied directing any actions against the diplomats and have launched their own investigation.

“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. “It reiterates its willingness to cooperate in the clarification of this situation.”

The U.S. first learned of the health issues toward the end of 2016, more than a year after the U.S. reopened its embassy in Havana.

Nauert said the Americans working in Cuba had returned stateside for “medical reasons.”




Image: An exterior view of the U.S. Embassy is seen in Havana, Cuba

An exterior view of the U.S. Embassy is seen in Havana, Cuba, June 19, 2017.