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CNN Special Reports
Immaculate Concussion, The Truth Behind Havana Syndrome. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired September 25, 2022 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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ANNOUNCER: The following is a CNN Special Report.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's about 5:15 in the morning, and I am on the first leg of my trip to Havana.
(Voice-over): I'd like to take you on a journey for a story that begins on an isolated island.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: A bizarre mystery involving American diplomats in Cuba.
GUPTA: And soon confounds the world.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Several State Department employees at the American embassy in Havana may have been subjected to what's called an acoustic attack.
GUPTA: I'll warn you this will require an open mind.
PATRICK OPPMAN, CNN HAVANA BUREAU CHIEF: It sounds like a tale straight out of a spy novel.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Mysterious sonic attacks, unexplained illnesses including head injuries all over the world. Who is the perpetrator and what's causing it? Microwave weapons.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Microwave.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Microwave attacks on U.S. intelligence officers.
JAMES GIORDANO, CHIEF OF NEURO ETHICS STUDIES PROGRAM, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: The reality is that these devices exist.
WILLIAM EVANINA, FORMER DIRECTOR, NCSC: Capability plus intent, the Russian government would have both. DR. MITCHELL VALDES-SOSA, DIRECTOR, CUBAN NEUROSCIENCES CENTER:
Anything is possible. It could have been little green men from mars, but why should I believe it?
GUPTA (on-camera): Do you have to see it to believe it?
GUPTA (voice-over): The way I see it, this bewildering mystery.
(On-camera): This is the cerebellum.
(Voice-over): Is a mystery of the brain.
DR. DOUGLAS SMITH, DIRECTOR, UPENN CENTER FOR BRAIN INJURY AND REPAIR: This suggests there is damage.
GUPTA: A mystery of engineering and physics.
(On-camera): How fast does that energy move? Speed of light?
JAMES LIN, PROFESSOR EMERITUS OF ENGINEERING, UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS CHICAGO: At the speed of light.
GUPTA (voice-over): A mystery that has baffled America's top scientists.
DR. TEENA SHETTY, CONCUSSION EXPERT: I can't explain it.
GUPTA: And devastated those who have been impacted.
MARC POLYMEROPOULOS, FORMER CIA SENIOR OFFICER: This is terrifying.
MARK LENZI, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SECURITY ENGINEERING OFFICER: Nothing could make a sound like what we heard.
ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: Severe pain on one occasion in the White House. This is scary. I don't understand what's going on.
GUPTA: Surrounded by a maze of unknowns, we will search for the truth in the science.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Calibration grid.
DR. MICHAEL HOFFER, PROFESSOR OF OTOLARYNGOLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI: These are organic responses meaning you can't fake them.
GUPTA: And eventually we just might find some answers.
(On-camera): You think the brain is the battlefield of the future?
GIORDANO: We're seeing that already.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something happened.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Something happened.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something happened in Havana.
GUPTA: Was this a successful attack, then?
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: This is obviously a very historic day with the U.S. embassy opening for the first time officially since 1961.
OPPMANN: It was a really hot day. There wasn't even a breeze to make the flag blow, and yet there was this incredible excitement. The U.S. diplomats who made that day happen they were so proud to open up an embassy.
JOHN KERRY, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: The time is now to reach out to one another as two peoples.
(Text translation): Those peoples who are no longer enemies or rivals, but neighbors.
OPPMANN: That was really when the Cold War started to end in Cuba, and all of a sudden there were just crowds of American tourists coming off cruise boats. Every day you're hearing about a different U.S. company coming in, having meetings. The celebrities filming their series here. It just felt like times were changing.
The U.S. was poised to have a huge amount of influence here, and so maybe it makes sense that another country would have wanted to interrupt that, would have wanted to sabotage that. It doesn't make sense, though, that the Cuban government would have allowed that to happen because there was this economic vitality that never existed here before and that finally there will be something approaching a normal relationship.
GUPTA: But seven years later relations between the United States and Cuba are anything but normal. Thanks to a series of unexplained health incidents starting in late 2016, which left dozens of American diplomats in Havana mysteriously ill just as a new American president was taking power.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: The State Department ordering all nonessential diplomats and families out of Cuba after a string of these so-called sonic attacks.
TAPPER: Now called Havana syndrome.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Havana syndrome.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: Some very bad things happened in Cuba.
GUPTA: The new administration labeled the incidents as attacks on American officials and responded by all but shutting down the U.S. embassy, and all formal diplomatic channels with Cuba. But the mystery of what happened only deepened.
(On-camera): How you doing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome to Cuba.
GUPTA (voice-over): A mystery so inexplicable that colleagues of mine urged me not to travel to Cuba, worried anyone could become a victim. Ultimately, it was a risk my team and I took to try to better understand what exactly happened to these injured Americans. What happened in Havana?
Armando Pruna (PH) made a living out of driving American tourists around the island in his vintage 1957 Chevy Bel Air. You see it there at the embassy the day of its reopening. But like many Cubans, after the embassy closed, American tourism came to a halt and his livelihood was crushed.
(On-camera): So when you look at the embassy now, what do you think?
ARMANDO PRUNA, TOUR GUIDE: For the people, it's terrible for the people.
GUPTA: What do people think about Havana syndrome? Do they believe that it's real, that something happened?
PRUNA: I don't speaking about this with the people because I don't know what happened.
GUPTA: Nobody talks about it?
PRUNA: Nothing. Anybody.
GUPTA: How much of an impact then when you look five years later did those unexplained health incidents happen?
OPPMANN: It was really the beginning of the end because right after that then President Trump issued some of the toughest sanctions we've seen. It feels like a different country and Cubans are now leaving in record numbers again, the economy of course because of the pandemic as well is in terrible, terrible shape.
GUPTA (voice-over): Patrick Oppmann is CNN's correspondent and bureau chief in Havana, and was among the first journalists to learn of the early reports of American diplomats falling ill inside their homes in Havana's Miramar neighborhood.
OPPMANN: Actually it also happened in hotels, and one of the hotels is right behind us. That's the Hotel Capri. You had two incidents that happened there in April 2017. The first was this American diplomat, he was living there for a little while. He heard strange sounds in the night, was in terrible pain, change in pressure in his ears, headaches. And it was accompanied by this really strange sound. And then after that, a couple of days after actually, an American doctor who is coming here for the reason of investigating these incidents, he said he felt the same things. GUPTA: That American doctor was Dr. Paul Andrews, a doctor for the
CIA's elusive Office of Medical Services. I should note that Andrews is not his real name. After having served in the intelligence community for more than a decade he's using a pseudonym for his own protection and he's speaking out on camera for the first time.
DR. PAUL ANDREWS, FORMER SENIOR MEDICAL OFFICER, CIA: Some of my family said to me why are you doing this? I felt that to help the others and to help people understand that this may be a significant threat that I needed to do this.
GUPTA (on-camera): Is it fair to say that you were really the first person to raise a red flag and say, look, we need to at least be digging deeper into what's happening here?
ANDREWS: I believe so. Having been at the National Counterterrorism Center, the mantra there was if something was even 1 percent possible, was a significant threat, you ran at the ground.
GUPTA (voice-over): In addition to being a medical doctor Andrews spent decades at various government agencies investigating potentially deadly and often classified health incidents. Training, which no doubt prepared him for the day he noticed concerning dispatches from injured American spies working in Havana under diplomatic cover.
ANDREWS: These were communiques from overseas, so I'm looking at a set of symptoms that are vague, that I don't really have a good understanding of, but the constellation of the imbalance or dizziness, the headaches, the nausea, yes, that can be any number of things. But why a cluster like this?
GUPTA: The very first injured officer from the Havana cluster was brought to CIA headquarters at Andrews' request where he examined the officer himself.
ANDREWS: This is not my specialty, but I saw enough abnormalities in his balance, in his hearing, in his eye movements that were abnormal when I examined him, and I didn't know what to make of them.
GUPTA: So days later Dr. Andrews brought patient zero to see a neuro otologist, a hearing and balance disorder specialist at the University of Miami, Dr. Michael Hoffer.
HOFFER: Pure organic responses meaning you can't fake it.
ANDREWS: So he went through a battery of hours of tests, some of which I observed. I understood that he had a significant injury.
GUPTA (on-camera): What's the level of concern now?
ANDREWS: Much higher. We very rapidly got visas to go to Havana.
GUPTA: You're pretty concerned that something happened to people down there at that point. ANDREWS: Yes.
GUPTA: So how concerned were you about your own safety?
ANDREWS: I was concerned a little bit. I was warned by some colleagues that something could happen. I felt this had to be done and I had to go. The problem is we didn't really know what we were even looking for.
GUPTA (voice-over): When Andrews and his two colleagues landed in Havana in April of 2017, the incidents were still classified. Patients were told to not even discuss this with their own families.
ANDREWS: We had a van from the embassy pick us up and take us to the hotel. I get into the room and I looked around. I hadn't seen this before. Between every set of rooms was a small door, was a service chase. It was unusual.
GUPTA (on-camera): Did you think there was somebody in that space?
ANDREWS: I don't know.
GUPTA (voice-over): This is that service chase, potentially large enough for a person to stand inside.
ANDREWS: I looked out a window. I was on a high floor and I saw nothing out there that concerned me. There was no other building at a height that would have a direct ability to shine something in my room and say, I think I went to bed probably around 11:30. I slept in my jeans and a T-shirt in case I had to evacuate quickly. At about 4:56, 4:57, I was awaken with severe pain in my right ear.
I had a lot of nausea and a terrible headache, and I've never suffered from headaches before. The amount of ringing in my ears was just astounding, and things were getting worse and worse and worse. And I started to hear the noise. And I'm really in disbelief.
GUPTA (on-camera): And you believe that that night there was some sort of injury or damage to either your inner ear, the nerves around your inner ear or your brain?
ANDREWS: Correct. Absolutely.
GUPTA (voice-over): That was five years ago. Spending time with him now, it is clearly evident that Dr. Andrews remains very debilitated. Dr. Hoffer is now Andrews' doctor as well.
(On-camera): You and I both, you know, study the brain. We understand that sometimes these symptoms can be hard to define precisely. They're vague. How do you then say, well, look, this is something more than these descriptions and something that is more objective?
HOFFER: Well, we test them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And this is just to make sure that your head still (INAUDIBLE). HOFFER: One is the rotational chair test where we put someone in a
chair and we use the goggles to film their eye movement. When the body is moved, the eyes move equal and opposite the body. You can't stop that, just happens naturally. And if that reflex is impaired, then that's an objectifying abnormality. More strikingly was the test of gravity function.
So in both ears there are two gravity organs, you know, called the utricle and the saccule. And these two organs control the fact that I know this is up and down and this is not up and down. And if they're significantly impaired, you're going to have balance disorders because you don't know what up and down is. You're going to be devoting 60 percent, 70 percent of your energy to staying upright. So it's going to take you longer to go through e-mails and you're going to figure where your keys are.
You're going to get fatigued. And we found impairment in 100 percent of these individuals. Not mild impairment, significant impairment.
GUPTA: All of them.
HOFFER: Yes, all of them, all 100 percent of them.
GUPTA (voice-over): All of the 25 American officials from Havana who were sent to Dr. Hoffer's office he says showed the same neuro dysfunction including Dr. Andrews.
ANDREWS: Headache, nausea.
GUPTA (on-camera): How do you know when these patients that they didn't have this problem prior?
HOFFER: It's a good question. So to think that these people, all 25 of them went down to Cuba with this dysfunction and functioned normally, and now all of a sudden feel something, it doesn't -- just logically doesn't make sense.
GUPTA: When you put it all together you're pretty convinced something happened to people there.
HOFFER: That much I definitely agree on. I'm not a forensic pathologist, so I don't know what, but something affected them. Something happened.
GUPTA (voice-over): New details on what happened, next.
GUPTA: Dr. Mitchell Valdes-Sosa is the director of the Cuban Neuro Sciences Center in Havana. As one of the country's most respected scientists he led the expert panel assembled by the Cuban government to investigate what happened to the dozens of American officials injured in Havana. VALDES-SOSA: The first thing we have to look is, is this really a new
syndrome? And if you look at the core symptoms, dizziness, insomnia, headaches, they're present in many disorders.
GUPTA (on-camera): Like you say there are lots of diseases that share those core symptoms, it doesn't mean that those diseases don't exist.
VALDES-SOSA: Of course not. As soon as they started reporting that American diplomats were feeling ill we started studying neighbors, employees, people surrounding them. The Cuban government opened the doors to the FAI, that's the first in a long time, come and investigate.
GUPTA (voice-over): The head of the Cuban Academy of Sciences, Dr. Luis Velazquez Perez, also participated in Cuba's investigation.
DR. LUIS VELAZQUEZ PEREZ, HEAD OF THE CUBAN ACADEMY OF SCIENCES (through translator): A whole series of evaluations were made with the participation of our academic group including physicists, doctors, neurologists, psychiatrists, psychologists.
VALDES-SOSA: And we found nothing, absolutely nothing. All the cases we studied turned out to have very mundane explanations. For example, there was a Canadian case. She was scuba diving and there was damage in the ear. One case just we saw a few months ago is simply a history of epilepsy.
GUPTA: The Cuban investigation concluded that all of the reported health incidents in Havana were explainable, not by some novel syndrome but instead by the Americans' pre-existing conditions and possibly other, quote, "psychogenic factors." A controversial conclusion, which suggests their illnesses were of psychological origin.
VALDES-SOSA: People started telling their symptoms, they amplify it, and this causes a reorganization of brain function, and it's real. But the cause is not necessarily what they believe. We've stated to the Academy of Sciences our desire to work together to clarify this.
GUPTA: The National Academies of Sciences declined to work on these cases with the Cubans. But Dr. David Relman, the Stanford professor and world renowned infectious disease scientist who led the American medical inquiry, says there was good reason for that.
RELMAN: In a perfect world we would have involved the Cubans. The problem is some of the information is personal health information. We have to also understand that not everybody in the world has the same interests as we do. It's not a question of trust. It's a question of being rigorous.
GUPTA: And like any rigorous medical investigation, it must start with the patients themselves, individuals the Cubans never had access to. But Dr. Relman and his team did. RELMAN: We saw evidence in specific individuals of clear disturbance
to brain function and even injury that we can't easily explain but has to be understood as something that is real. These were people who clearly had suffered and continued to suffer. It was our task to explore it and try to explain what might cause these cases.
We considered a number of possibilities, everything from a chemical exposure to an infection to external stimuli like electromagnetic energy. And we said, OK, there is precedent for microwave energy causing sound in the head that others don't hear. And that was one argument that said maybe let's walk down this path and see if we can fill out a possible story, a plausible story for microwave energy, and that's what we did.
GUPTA: In August of 2020 Dr. Relman submitted his panel's findings to the State Department with the surprising conclusion that the American symptoms were consistent with the effects of directed, pulsed radio frequency energy. The report did not rule out other possible mechanisms, but the findings gave weight to a new theory that these injuries may have been caused by a microwave weapon.
VALDES-SOSA: That's an extraordinary claim. I need extraordinary evidence. And the evidence is very weak. In fact, it's nonexistent.
GUPTA (on-camera): As the saying goes, you know, Doc, the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence. Just because you did not find things in those initial field reports, just because the patients had some variety of symptoms, if you talk to them and hear what they said, what they've experienced at least that original group of patients, it is -- it's pretty compelling.
VALDES-SOSA: It's true that the absence of, you know, evidence is not a demonstration that nothing happened, but you don't start hunting for a mysterious weapon in trying to find an attacker if there's no evidence of that.
GUPTA (voice-over): It is not uncommon for scientists to have different hypotheses when encountering uncertainty especially when politics are involved.
But the fact is what started in Havana didn't stay there. Mark Lenzi was working as a member of the State Department's diplomatic security services in Guangzhou, China when he and his family began experiencing inexplicable medical ailments.
LENZI: This attack that happened in Guangzhou, this was over a time span of three, four, five months. My wife and I heard these kind of clicking sounds. Nothing, Sanjay, could make a sound like what we heard.
Around November of 2017 my wife and I both had short-term memory loss. We're getting an increase in headaches. On a scale of 10 my headaches were, you know, 9.5. Like I couldn't have gone on too much longer with the intensity of the headaches. When we started noticing our kids and to have these really bad bloody noses, and I really started to say, hey, wait a minute, this is not right.
GUPTA: In 2017 Marc Polymeropoulos was a senior CIA officer on an official trip to Moscow when he says he was also attacked.
POLYMEROPOULOS: I woke up with an extreme case of vertigo. And it was, you know, incredibly disorienting. And I had a splitting headache and my ears were ringing. This was terrifying. There hasn't been a day since then where I've not had a headache morning to night, when I sleep, when I get up, it never goes away.
GUPTA: After China and Moscow over the past five plus years American officials have reported nearly 900 concerningly similar incidents across the globe.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: New cases have just surfaced in Vienna.
KEILAR: The American embassy in Colombia.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And cases reported in Tajikistan.
GUPTA: But the majority of those new cases, Dr. Relman says, can be explained by known medical and environmental conditions but not all of them.
The State Department sent many of those unexplained cases to the University of Pennsylvania where Dr. Douglas Smith leads the Center for Brain Injury and Repair.
SMITH: I assembled a team to independently look at these patients. I would say most people really doubted this, but a lot of the neurological symptoms that were examined were impressing our team members. And then sometime I think in October each one of the team members just said what they thought from their own specialty perspective and 100 percent really felt there was something there.
GUPTA (on-camera): So they were skeptical going into it, but every single one of them felt there was something there?
SMITH: Absolutely. My opinion and I think all the team member's opinions are that there's something there.
GUPTA (voice-over): Dr. Smith and his team put the patients through extensive testing including auditory, vestibular and ocular evaluation.
SMITH: It turns out that ocular motor function was one of the most notable issues of these patients, vestibular. So these are measurements, they're not like 100 percent but it's pretty clear to the practitioners that this is well out of the normal range of somebody that was not able to perform these simple type of tests.
GUPTA: They also utilized an advance type of neuro imaging called diffusion tensor imaging or DTI. This type of imaging is still primarily considered a research tool.
SMITH: The cerebellum is really important for your balance and coordination and a lot of body control including eye movements. And this bright blue tells us that there's a very big difference in the type of imaging findings we have between the group from Havana and our control group. This suggests there is damage.
GUPTA (on-camera): Just to my eye that looks like a lot. It's not subtle at all here.
SMITH: There's no evidence that those are pre-existing condition in these individuals, and we did see that the extent of these imaging changes seem to correspondent to the extent of the symptoms.
GUPTA (voice-over): Symptoms like headache, dizziness, brain fog. Symptoms most often associated with patients diagnosed with concussion.
SMITH: One of the first patients I spoke with actually came up with this term I thought it was kind of funny, she said immaculate concussion. There's a whole part of this that's a mystery to us. We just don't know what that exposure was, what could cause this.
SHETTY: If you take a patient who has a headache --
GUPTA (voice-over): Dr. Teena Shetty, a leading concussion expert, also treated Mark Lenzi. She says that Mark's symptoms were clearly consistent with mild traumatic brain injury.
SHETTY: His story was unusual and intriguing. What Mark exhibited to me was a constellation of neurological symptoms, which were typical of concussion. However, something was conspicuously absent. He did not have any clear history of a contact injury to the head or neck causing a whiplash mechanism which could have caused the concussion.
GUPTA (on-camera): Do you think that we might be describing a brand new phenomenon here, that it is possible that a concussion without concussion, the immaculate concussion as it's been called, do you think we may be seeing that here?
SHETTY: I'm not sure. I can't explain it.
GUPTA (voice-over): Other victims like CIA veteran Marc Polymeropoulos have struggled for years with the invisible nature of their injuries. And like Lenzi, for a diagnosis.
POLYMEROPOULOS: When I finally made it to Walter Reed, they diagnosed me with a mild traumatic brain injury. And for the first time I had something real. And that was the first time I had a doctor say to me that in essence I believe you. I had tears in my eyes because finally someone believes me. What they are saying is you're not making this up, it's not psychogenic.
GUPTA (on-camera): In medicine we often ask what was the mechanism of injury? The mechanism here is still unclear.
POLYMEROPOULOS: Right, right. GUPTA: But clearly something happened.
POLYMEROPOULOS: Right. I was hit -- I think I was hit by a direct energy attack.
GUPTA (voice-over): When we come back --
GIORDANO: These devices exist. The science and technology is real.
GUPTA: The likely mechanism behind Havana syndrome.
GIORDANO: That's fleeting.
GUPTA: James Giordano is a neuroscientists and ethicist, someone who studies how brain technology intersects with various aspects of society including national defense. In early 2017 he was contacted by State Department officials asking for his help to try and explain what happened in Havana.
GIORDANO: The process was what things could potentially do this, and from those things that are potential what would represent the most probable? What we deduced based upon that process of abduction was probably some form of directed energy, which we know produces these types of events.
GUPTA: Directed energy by its simplest definition includes technologies which produce a concentrated beam of electromagnetic energy. Now, remember, most of the energy along the electromagnetic spectrum is not visible to the human eye, and yet our lives depend on it, from our cellphones to the screen you're viewing right now. But like any technology, this type of energy can also be weaponized.
(On-camera): Were there examples of directed energy being developed to target people? Had you heard of that?
GIORDANO: Yes, sir. I mean, there had been some reports that are well- known, for example, from the intelligence and defense community of the use of directed energies being developed against American personnel in Moscow.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For months now there have been reports of high level microwave radiation penetrating the United States embassy in Moscow from Soviet electronic jamming equipment. And fears have been raised that the radiation might have affected the health of the embassy employees.
GIORDANO: This was occurring throughout the late '60s, early '70s.
GUPTA: This type of technology has existed for that long?
GIORDANO: Yes, sir.
GUPTA: That's kind of remarkable.
GIORDANO: What's important to understand there is technology has marched onward and so the increasing sophistication capability of the devices has, quote, "improved."
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The active denial system.
GUPTA (voice-over): One more recent example of a directed energy weapon was created right here in the United States, as seen in this Defense Department video.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Long-range, nonlethal crowd control, it's directed energy weapon.
GUPTA: In 2007 the Air Force research lab released the active denial system, a weapon designed to project invisible millimeter waves, which induce a nonlethal but painful burning sensation. Watch closely as the invisible energy is directed to easily disperse a crowd. It is well- known that the Chinese and Russian governments have developed similar weapons of their own.
GIORDANO: With regard to the microwave types of directed energy that may have been used in Havana and subsequently is that by working at more rapidly pulsed microwaves you're avoiding the thermal artifact and you're producing an electromagnetic effect that is disruptive to the various aspect of a person's physiology feeling a fullness in the head, difficulty concentrating, ringing in the ears, vertigo. So the technology level is there.
GUPTA: As a scientist myself I couldn't help but wonder, how would this actually work? How do microwaves interact with the brain to cause these symptoms? Specifically that signature sound many of the patients reported hearing.
LIN: So this is the whole process that you go through.
GUPTA: So to try and find out I went to Chicago to meet with one of the country's top microwave energy experts, Professor James Lin.
(On-camera): This microwave exposure, how fast does that energy move? Speed of light?
LIN: At the speed of light.
GUPTA (voice-over): Back in the 1970s Professor Lin became fascinated by a phenomenon first identified by scientist Alan Frey, known as the microwave auditory effect in which certain forms of microwave energy when absorbed by the brain induces a sound inside a person's head even if no external sound could be heard.
So Lin decided to test this theory on himself, which he believes makes him the first known American to experiment in a lab with pulsed microwaves, directed at his own brain.
(On-camera): It's not really known what this will really do to humans. You were willing to test it on yourself.
LIN: Right. So I want to make sure that we do it below the safety standards.
GUPTA: So you're sitting in a wooden chair in a very insulated room.
GUPTA: Somebody else outside the room is giving bursts of microwave energy that's directed at your brain.
GUPTA: What would you hear?
LIN: Hear essentially zip sound. Zip. You know, a very short zip.
LIN: Yes. Then if you begin to increase from 10, you know, 20 microseconds then you hear sort of like a click.
GUPTA: If you had a recording device in the room and you were recording, would it pick up anything?
LIN: No. So all of that takes place inside the head.
GUPTA: When you hear some of the symptoms people had at the moment they were so debilitated they couldn't even stand, they had to crawl out of the room, does that make sense?
LIN: That seems to be very severe. They must have used very intense exposures.
GUPTA: How hard would it be to do this?
LIN: It's not that difficult to do at all. All the equipment instrumentation are commercially available. You can literally buy them off the shelf.
GUPTA: So when you put this all together now, do you believe that these were intentional attacks?
LIN: I would say that if indeed it happened, it must be intentional.
GUPTA (voice-over): Back in Havana from their top investigators to their top scientists.
VALDES-SOSA: Anything is possible. It could have been little green men from mars. Why should I believe it?
GUPTA: The Cuban officials I spoke with were adamant there were no attacks of any kind on any Americans on their soil.
(On-camera): Do you have to see it to believe it?
VALDES-SOSA: Yes. A dozen or two dozen people means that somebody was accessing these people, right, with the permission of the Cuban government. There's no way it could have happened. What would the motivation be to be doing that to American diplomats and even less to Canadians?
GUPTA (voice-over): During my time in Havana I also had the chance to speak with Cuba's top diplomat, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parilla.
(On-camera): Had you ever heard of directed energy weapons before this?
BRUNO RODRIGUEZ PARILLA, CUBAN MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS (through translator): Not frankly. What I can tell you is that we thoroughly investigated afterwards and gave absolute guarantees that Cuba does not have those technologies, that Cuba does not have those weapons, that it has never and would never allow such weapons or such technologies to be used on our territory for any purpose.
GUPTA: Not necessarily even by the Cuban government but just being used at all, how can you be sure?
PARILLA (through translator): It is as if I were to ask you now in an abstract way if you can affirm that in the city of Atlanta there are no energy flows of this nature. I am sure that it would be very difficult for you to talk about the energy flows in Atlanta.
GUPTA: One of the theories, you know, is that a rogue actor, potentially Russia, may have been involved. Did you or someone within the Cuban government ever ask Russia directly, did they have anything to do with this?
PARILLA (through translator): I am aware of official statements by the government of the Russian Federation that categorically deny its involvement in events of this nature. That is what I can say.
GUPTA: So you believe that the Russian government had nothing to do with this?
PARILLA (through translator): No, no, no, no. It will not contribute to anything what I may or may not believe. A serious, responsible minister of foreign affairs should act not based on hypothetical personal assessments but based on data, official reports, and evidence.
GUPTA: How important is Cuba to a country like Russia?
EVANINA: It's critically important and I would say critically important to us, the United States.
GUPTA (voice-over): Bill Evanina was director of the U.S. National Counter Intelligence and Security Center at the time of the incidents in Havana. Prior to that he led the CIA's efforts to combat espionage against the United States. So if anyone knew what the Russians were up to in Cuba, it was likely him.
EVANINA: The Obama administration reopening the embassy in Havana, right? The Russian government was not happy with that. But the Russians knew the Chinese were facilitating new intelligence collection capabilities 90 miles from our shore in Cuba. So it was an opportunity for us to not only open that embassy but at the same time for us to put some boots on the ground to be able to collect intelligence what obviously as we're doing in Havana and around the island of Cuba.
We had seen over time that the Russian government and their intelligence service were not happy with our ability to put boots on the ground in Havana. So it was totally logical and made sense to not only mean for the community that there would be some type of attack occurring.
GUPTA (on-camera): You said, well, this makes sense. This is a culmination of something that's been much larger?
GUPTA: How do you start to investigate it from that point forward?
EVANINA: You would ask the community, let's go back a decade to see what countries were spending money on R&D money, research and development money, on a type of weapon that can do this, that can cause this type of damage?
GUPTA: What were the countries that sort of came to the list?
EVANINA: I think if you went to the depth of the CIA, there's going to be plenty of those, right? But I think at the end of the day you have to weigh capability plus intent, I would think the Russian government would have both. And my opinion is based on what I know that it was the Russian government behind this either solo or in cahoots with the Cuban government. And until I'm proven otherwise I'll continue to believe that.
GUPTA: I traveled to Cuba and I spent time talking to scientists and also the foreign minister, and something that kept sort of coming up was that, look, we didn't do it, meaning the Cubans, and it couldn't have happened under our nose. Russia couldn't just come in and do this without us knowing about it.
EVANINA: Nonsense. I mean, clearly not an intelligence official you spoke to, right? So a diplomatic type would have no idea what their -- what his own intelligence services are capable of in Cuba never mind an intelligence service in another country, right? So logical answer but just a little bit on the ignorant side.
GUPTA: Do you think Cuba knew? EVANINA: No, I don't. If I had to bet a dollar I would say no. But
deep in the classified realm of things there were some really good things looked at in terms of, OK, who -- if it's the Russians who would have done it? Who were their best and most efficient actors, and where were they at the time of occurrence?
GUPTA: Was there evidence of bad actors from Russia in Cuba at that time or just immediately before?
EVANINA: Anything around that would be strictly still classified.
GUPTA (voice-over): When we come back --
FARAH GRIFFIN: When it happened at the White House was when it really occurred to me this could be more of a threat.
FARAH GRIFFIN: I was working in the White House Communications Director Office, which is a small office off the West Wing, faces out over Lafayette Park. And I remember thinking, great, it's happening again.
GUPTA: Alyssa Farah Griffin has quickly become one of the best known faces in Republican politics. Having served in prominent communications roles at the White House and the Pentagon during the Trump administration. But behind the scenes starting in 2019 Alyssa found herself on the job privately struggling with concerning health episodes, which she is sharing now publicly for the first time.
FARAH GRIFFIN: I remember telling my mom, and this was my dream job, I said I don't think I can stay in this job because I cannot go to work and risk feeling like this and being in severe disorienting discomfort.
GUPTA: It first began in her highly secured office at the Pentagon where Farah Griffin says on multiple occasions she experienced a sudden onset of symptoms, much like the health incidents years earlier in Havana.
FARAH GRIFFIN: To describe it as deeply uncomfortable is an understatement. Severe sinus pressure as well as like pressure in my ears and then pain, and then kind of a steady often hearing a humming sound. I chalked up it initially for quite some time to an allergy, but as it consistently went on and my ability to do my job was impacted by it, I did eventually raise it up. Nobody said, oh, yes, this is Havana syndrome. Because it was unclear and it remains unclear, but there was something that was happening that was a medical issue that was altering my ability to do my job.
GUPTA: After receiving an otherwise clean bill of health from her personal doctor, in the spring of 2020 Farah Griffin left the Pentagon to take on a new role at the White House where she says one day to her surprise while sitting at her desk just feet away from the Oval Office, it happened again.
FARAH GRIFFIN: It hit me like a wave where I just immediately felt disoriented and dizzy and lasted about 30 minutes. It was striking. I remember I went home that night and said to my husband, I was like, this is scary, like, this happened again and I don't understand what's going on.
GUPTA (on-camera): That seems really, I mean, frightening to me as a citizen.
FARAH GRIFFIN: It's horrifying. I should say definitively, I don't in fact know if I was a victim of it. I know that my symptoms matched what was publicly reported, and when I raised it through my chain of command they said I should report it to the task force. My office, you know, overlooked Lafayette Park. There was an example that's been reported on the Ellipse like this is something where, yes, the president or the vice president could certainly be targets of it.
GUPTA: Were you worried about the vice president, the president, others potentially being attacked?
FARAH GRIFFIN: I was worried that we probably didn't take a lot of sort of next gen threats seriously enough, but when it happened at the White House was when it kind of really occurred to me this seems like more of a threat or an attack of some kind.
GUPTA: I think about a building like the White House. What would prevent something like that from happening in the highest homes of power in this country?
GIORDANO: Well, I mean the levels of protection at various government buildings here in the D.C. area is relatively high as you know.
GUPTA: You had snipers on the roof of the White House, you got those kinds of protections but are there protections against this sort of directed energy attack?
GIORDANO: You know, I really don't know.
It would surprise me if in fact someone physically in the White House had an attack of this nature. Could happen. Certainly could happen.
GUPTA: If people that have been following the story at all, Jim, they've heard from the FBI very early on that this is more likely to be a sociogenic sort of phenomenon. They heard from the CIA that there's no evidence of a foreign adversary, a foreign government being involved with this. How do you square those headlines with what we're talking about here?
GIORDANO: Well, I think it's important to understand is even if you read the CIA interim report and final report, that language did not explicitly rule out the possibility that something happened but they did make the statement, as I agree, that the majority of cases represents something else. I agree with that 100 percent. But there are also still about 100 cases in the verification validation pipeline. And then you have those two dozen individuals in Havana. Something happened to those two individuals in Havana.
GUPTA: I went to Cuba. And I spent time talking to scientists, and they wholeheartedly uniformly believe that there were no attacks, and they say there is no evidence at all that these happened.
GIORDANO: I solidly disagree with that.
GUPTA: Could they have done this in a country, and the country not know about it?
GIORDANO: Yes. I have no doubt. No doubt at all. The equipment could be assembled on site. The components could be brought into the country piecemeal.
GUPTA: How big would this weapon potentially be?
GIORDANO: The device itself would be about the size of this bench or perhaps a little smaller.
GUPTA: And how far away would it need to be or could it be to actually deliver this energy?
GIORDANO: Dozens of meters. The reality is that these devices exist. The science and technology is real, and they represent weaponizable entities.
GUPTA: This many years later now, Bill, is there anything that gives you pause? Was this a successful attack then?
EVANINA: Absolutely. Unequivocally in my space if the ultimate intent by Putin or the Russian government, whoever it was, was to take our human beings out of our embassy, they succeeded.
GUPTA: Will we ever be able to get the evidence that people are going to want here?
EVANINA: I think we are. I think three months ago I would have said never, but I think the events in Ukraine are going to facilitate us getting the answers. I think Putin has created a lot of enemies in his own circles.
GUPTA: You think somebody who has knowledge of this may come and blow the whistle on it?
EVANINA: That would be my help. As a former head of counterintelligence, that's the ultimate goal. You can't identify a spy without catching a spy, right, and eventually the truth will come out.
OPPMANN: Where U.S. diplomats live there are cameras everywhere, and so anybody who's going to be in that neighborhood is going to be recorded, is going to be noticed. And so that is always one of the great contradictions about this or the great mysteries, is if the Cuban government knew about it why let it go on? I'll never be able to really reconcile those two things because this has hurt them. They realize this has hurt them.
For the Cuban people the aftermath has been disastrous. Over 100,000 people waiting on visas, families separated. Small businesses here impacted in a really, really negative way. I think this will remain one of the great mysteries of the Cold War that we'll really never know what happened here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you ready?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm ready.
RELMAN: I do think that science will fill in a lot of these gaps, absolutely. We have identified an area of science and medicine that I think is very important that we really don't know a whole lot about. How does the human body interact with electromagnetic energy? We really need to understand that better. But no matter what you think has happened to these individuals, I can guarantee you that we're going to face problems like this going forward, and they're only going to increase.
GUPTA: You think the brain is the battlefield of the future?
GIORDANO: I wholly believe that, absolutely. And we're seeing that already. We've known the brain is a viable target certainly throughout antiquity and human history, and now we're getting far more sophisticated and capable being able to target the brain in a variety of ways because like anything else once the cat is out of the proverbial bag, it's just a question of who picks up the cat.
GRAPHICS: Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told CNN that allegations of Russia's involvement in these incidents are purely unfounded accusations that we do not accept. We have nothing to do with this.
GRAPHICS: Sources say the CIA has no definitive evidence to connect Russia, or any other nation state, to these disturbing incidents.