CIA Director William Burns delivered a secret warning to Russian intelligence services that they will face “consequences” if they are responsible for the mysterious health incidents known as “Havana Syndrome” that have afflicted American spies, diplomats, FBI agents and others spies around the world, said three sources familiar with the matter.
The warning was first reported by the Washington Post.
Burns raised the issue during a visit to Moscow earlier this month, the sources said, while he was speaking to top officials of Russia’s Federal Security Service, the FSB, and the country’s Foreign Intelligence Service, the SVR.
The sources said he told the Russian spies that harming U.S. personnel and their family would break the unwritten rules of acceptable behavior for a professional intelligence service. If it was determined that the Russians were responsible, he said, there would be repercussions.
Victims suffering from Havana Syndrome have reported hearing a loud sound and feeling pressure in their heads and then experiencing dizziness, unsteady gait and visual disturbances. Many say they have suffered long-standing debilitating effects.
NBC News reported in 2018 that U.S. intelligence officials considered Russia a leading suspect in what some of them assessed to have been deliberate attacks on diplomats and CIA officers overseas. But in the nearly three years since then, the spy agencies have not uncovered enough evidence to pinpoint the cause or the culprit of the health incidents. U.S. officials cannot say for sure that they were the result of human activity.
Many U.S. officials remain convinced that Russia is behind the incidents, which Burns has privately called “attacks,” according to current and former officials. Russia has consistently denied responsibility.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine said in a report last year that some of the observed brain injuries were consistent with the effects of directed microwave energy, which the report said Russia has long studied.
A team of medical and scientific experts who studied the symptoms of as many as 40 State Department and other government employees concluded that nothing like them had previously been documented in medical literature, the National Academies of Sciences report said.