With the total number of Americans affected by a potential 'sonic attack' in Cuba now reaching 21, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the Trump administration is considering closing down the U.S. Embassy in Havana following unexplained incidents harming the health of American diplomats.
As one former CIA official says: "It's just mystery after mystery after mystery."
“On Thursday it emerged that the “attack” – which Cuba denies – was in one case a blaring, grinding noise which jolted an American diplomat from his bed in The Capri, a Havana hotel popular with tourists.
The diplomat, according to AP, moved just a few feet, and there was silence. He climbed back into bed – and then the agonising sound hit him again.
"None of this has a reasonable explanation," said Fulton Armstrong, a former CIA official who served in Havana long before America re-opened an embassy there.
"It's just mystery after mystery after mystery."
According to the Telegraph, the Cuban authorities earlier this month allowed teams from the FBI and Royal Canadian Mounted Police to investigate, but no evidence has been found – at least, nothing that’s been shared with the public. However, at least one source who spoke with the Telegraph thinks the Cubans are innocent.
"Had they thought the Cuban government was deliberately attacking American diplomats, that would have had a much more negative effect," said Mark Feierstein, who oversaw Barack Obama’s defrosting of Cold War-era relations while he sat on the national security council.
"We haven't seen that yet."
There may be a good reason the government has been reticent about the issue: US intelligence agencies don’t know what’s going on.
According to the Telegraph, the symptoms of the attacks have confounded the FBI, which is perhaps why, as Bloomberg reports, Tillerson says "we have it under evaluation" and that shuttering the embassy is "under review."
Rex Tillerson says closing down the Cuba embassy after mysterious attacks on Americans is "under review," adds, "it's a very serious issue." pic.twitter.com/LCQvsrJvgG— Tom Namako (@TomNamako) September 17, 2017
He says the issue is "very serious" regarding the harm some individuals have suffered.
Tillerson added that the State Department has brought home some of the people affected. At least 21 Americans have been medically confirmed to have suffered harm in Havana. Tillerson previously called it "health attacks" but the State Department now prefers to call them "incidents." The cause and culprit haven't been determined.