Canadian officials warned staff bound for Cuba to stay silent on ‘Havana syndrome’.

Global News

Breaking news &current latest Canadian news headlines;national weather forecasts &predictions, local news videos, money and financial news;sports stats and scores.

https://globalnews.ca/

In this April 17, 2018 file photo, a man walks beside Canada's embassy in Havana, Cuba.

In this April 17, 2018 file photo, a man walks beside Canada's embassy in Havana, Cuba.

(AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File)

There have been no new reports of Canadian diplomats coming down with mysterious symptoms of what’s become known as “Havana Syndrome” in nearly two years — and no answers for those affected.

That’s despite new reports from the New York Times and GQ Magazine that American intelligence sources are pointing the finger at Russia for dozens of cases of U.S. diplomats and spies experiencing symptoms similar to those reported by the Canadians.

But Canadian investigators say they still have no idea what caused the spate of illnesses — originally described by government officials as “attacks” — and are not providing any updates on the state of the investigation, which documents obtained by Global News under access to information laws initially described as “criminal” in nature.

The mystery began in late 2016 and early 2017 when American diplomatic staff at the embassy in Havana, Cuba, began reporting unusual symptoms similar to those from a concussion: hearing loss, memory loss, tinnitus, nose bleeds, vision problems and vertigo, among others.

Canadian diplomatic staff and their families began reporting symptoms in early 2017 and into the following year, with more than 40 Canadian and American diplomats and their families impacted.

But nearly four years after the onset of the mystery, there are no official answers and the Canadian government is fighting 15 of those Canadians impacted in court, arguing the plaintiffs have made “exaggerated” claims.

Global News filed multiple access to information requests for internal emails and official correspondence from Global Affairs Canada about the matter in September 2017, when media reports began emerging of mysterious symptoms affecting diplomats in Cuba.

Three years later, the federal government last month finally released nearly 700 pages of heavily redacted government emails, memos and briefing material prepared over the course of the early scramble to figure out what was going on, including records of meetings with American authorities including the Central Intelligence Agency that included CSIS and the CSE.

While the records offer little insight into the state of an investigation that officials confirm remains ongoing, they paint a picture of officials scrambling to keep the situation under wraps and appear to corroborate claims currently in court that officials were working to keep early reports of symptoms quiet.

Embassy staff told briefings ‘must not be disclosed’

Fifteen of the Canadian diplomatic staff and dependents who say they suffered the effects of what’s become known as “Havana syndrome” have alleged in a $28-million lawsuit in Federal Court that the government “badly mishandled” the situation and told them not to talk about it with anyone.

The documents released last month appear to verify that account.

READ MORE: Canadian officials wondered if Cuba staff imagined symptoms from mysterious attacks

One of the diplomats spoke with Global News under the condition that the anonymity order and pseudonym authorized by the court for the plaintiffs in the case be maintained.

Diplomat Allen, as the individual is described in the court case, said he first told the Canadian ambassador in Cuba on April 11, 2017, that an American diplomat had warned him the previous day of mysterious symptoms impacting staff at the U.S. embassy in Havana.

“Do not tell any other Canadians. We cannot tell any other Canadians — we don’t want to start mass hysteria,” Diplomat Allen cited the ambassador as responding.

Even months later as American media reports broke of the symptoms impacting U.S. diplomats, he said Canadian diplomatic staff were still being told not to talk about the matter.

“We were told, ‘I believe it was a matter of national security.’ … We were told to keep it quiet.”

Tweet This

Several undated versions of a draft document entitled “briefing employees being posted to Havana” were released to Global News. These memos outline proposed points to be made during pre-departure meetings with Canadian diplomatic staff heading for postings at the embassy.

Subsequent emails describe plans to brief outgoing diplomats on June 27 and June 29, 2017 — months after Diplomat Allen says he first reported the information from the American diplomat to the Canadian ambassador in Cuba, and nearly a month after he says his own family was impacted on June 1.

Documents previously reported by Global News and obtained under an earlier access to information request show Global Affairs Canada officials were suggesting the symptoms being reported by Canadian diplomats in May 2017 were nothing more than “extreme stress.”

One of the points in the briefing material advises staff to tell outgoing diplomats that some at the embassy in Havana have reported dizziness, headaches, ringing in the ears and “not feeling quite yourself” and says Canadian officials have no idea what could be the cause.

It also states that “of the(redacted)households tested so far, none have been found to have any medical consequences related to their exposure that necessitate a medical leave from Havana.”

Trending Stories

The material also included points stressing the need to keep the information secret.

“While you may discuss it with an accompanying spouse, due to the sensitivity of the situation, it must not be disclosed or discussed with anyone else.”

Tweet This

Another advises outgoing staff, “you all have top secret clearance — and understand the responsibilities and obligations that come with that clearance. This information can not be shared.”

Diplomat Allen said the list of symptoms outgoing diplomats were briefed on didn’t come close to what was happening and left out key details — including that his own children had suffered symptoms during and after the June 1 incident when they heard a “screeching, metallic” noise in their home.

He recalled how one woman, who had been posted to the embassy that summer with a young child, approached him several weeks after arriving to ask what his family had experienced.

“She said, ‘They never said anything about kids being affected.'”

That individual and her child are now plaintiffs in the case.

The records released under access to information laws show officials in Ottawa deliberating back and forth over what information to include in the briefing for outgoing staff on June 27.

The material is heavily redacted but show briefing material describes “a rather bizarre situation” in which diplomats were experiencing “headaches, nosebleeds, dizziness and ringing in the ears.”

Other drafts make mention of households reporting “short term memory loss,” but none of the released material makes mention of the symptoms — which officials described as “consistent with exposure to sound” — as also impacting the children of Canadian diplomats working at the embassy.

“I would propose to find a middle ground(i.e.: share factual information using cautious language,” cautioned one official in a June 27 email chain that discussed how to brief outgoing diplomats.

READ MORE: Mosquito fumigation might be behind diplomats’ mystery illness in Cuba: study

“They downplayed everything,” said Diplomat Allen, who said he and his family are still suffering from a range of strange symptoms: his wife and son have developed vision problems;and he suffers from unexplained nausea and dizziness that months of physiotherapy haven’t fixed.

One of his sons began blacking out for no identifiable reason while in Cuba, he said, and suffered another fainting episode in 2019 that saw him taken to hospital.

When Diplomat Allen called the doctor handling the case from Global Affairs Canada, he said the doctor told him, “Don’t tell them about Cuba.”

Canadian officials, diplomats still seeking answers

What caused the mysterious symptoms experienced by Canadian and American diplomats remains a mystery to this day, though several recent American media reports citing intelligence sources suggest the focus is increasingly tightening on Russia.

Theories abound: some studies have posited the symptoms match those of exposure to pesticides used to fumigate against the Zika virus, or that the sounds described by diplomats that precipitated symptoms could match those of local insects vibrating at a high frequency.

More troubling theories focus on unknown sonic or electromagnetic weapons targeting diplomats and spies, citing similar symptoms in American diplomats posted to China and CIA officials on U.S. soil.

Even the language used to describe the matter has become a case of shifting goalposts.

READ MORE: Cuba mystery deepens as U.S. diplomats’ brain scans show differences

Canadian officials in May and June 2017 were discussing the symptoms in Canadian diplomats as related to “suspected acoustic attacks” or “sonic attacks.”

That language shifted by September 2017 following a bilateral meeting between Canadian officials and U.S. counterparts from the Department of State, the FBI and the CIA.

In that meeting — the second bilateral since June of the same year — Canadian officials appear to have emphasized that despite a lack of new information on the matter, stating: “Canada is not using the term ‘attacks’ or other such nomenclature.”

“Canada speaks to Cuba with a distinct voice and that it is in the interest of all three parties for Canada to maintain its unique role,” say memos summarizing that September meeting.

READ MORE: Cuba slams U.S. for calling mysterious illness affecting American, Canadian diplomats an ‘attack’

But three years after that meeting, it appears the situation is much the same: there is little new information and no further clarity — at least, publicly — about why Canadian and American diplomats continue to suffer symptoms from a mysterious spate of incidents that officials worked to keep quiet.

“The Government of Canada continues to search for potential causes of unusual health symptoms,” said John Babcock, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada. “While we are exploring all avenues, no definitive cause of the health incidents has been identified to date.”

He also would not say whether staff being posted to the embassy in the two years since reports of new symptoms stopped in December 2018 are still being briefed on the potential risks of the posting.

The diplomats involved in the lawsuit were among 26 Canadian diplomats and family members with symptoms following postings in Cuba who took part in a study with Dalhousie University researchers.

Results published last fall documented “multiple functional and structural impairments” found in the brains of 23 of the diplomats and their family members, noting that while one possible explanation could be overexposure to insecticides, “other causes cannot be ruled out.”

Diplomat Allen said the lack of answers, coupled with the arguments made by federal lawyers that the plaintiffs are exaggerating their symptoms, is a barrier to moving on.

“I just hope you understand the level of frustration in dealing with the government. Yes, we were sent to Dalhousie as a group for research study and yes, it conclusively found that there is something wrong with all of our brains. But there was no treatment,” he said.

“It was just basically, ‘Yes, there’s something wrong with you. Now go away.'”

Global Affairs Canada changed the risk designation for the embassy in Havana in April 2018, making it an unaccompanied posting. That means diplomats cannot bring spouses or dependents with them.

Despite there being no new cases reported since December 2018, that designation remains in place.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

UA.NEWS У МОЗ хочуть на законодавчому рівні відстежувати хворих на коронавірус. UA.NEWS МОЗ України готує зміни до законодавства, щоб ввести в дію додаток із відстеження хворих COVID-19. Ефективність його роботи показали країни Азії. Міністр охорони здоров’я України Максим Степанов в ефірі програми «Свобода слова» на телеканалі ICTV зазначив, для того, щоб запрацював додаток, необхідно підготувати серйозну правову базу. «Ми будемо готувати ці зміни і обговорювати з вами, […] The post У МОЗ хочуть на законодавчому рівні відстежувати хворих на коронавірус appeared first on UA.NEWS.
Главком Молодик «замінував» автозаправну станцію під Києвом. Главком Чоловік напідпитку заради розваги повідомив до поліції про замінування
Цензор.НЕТ Кредиту МВФ цього року не буде. глави ОП Єрмака Милованов. Цензор.НЕТ Радник керівника Офісу Президента Тимофій Милованов заявив, що цього року Україна не встигає отримати транш Міжнародного валютного фонду, але може досягти домовленості на робочому рівні, що дозволить взяти інші запозичення.
Дзеркало Тижня Гюндуз Мамедов: «Саме Україна має шанс покарати РФ за воєнні злочини». Дзеркало Тижня Частина I. Про злочини агресора, його поплічників і невідворотність покарання.
УНІАН У майбутньому через месенджер ви зможете контролювати «розумний» будинок, здійснювати банківські операції та навіть викликати таксі. УНІАН
Related news

David Dinkins, first Black mayor of New York City, dies at 93.

Dinkins was doomed to a single term by a soaring murder rate, stubborn unemployment and other issues, losing his re-election bid to Rudy Giuliani in 1993.

Britain considering pulling judges from Hong Kong’s highest court, minister says.

The move would be Britain's latest response to what it considers China's breaches of its international obligations in the territory.

5 19

International Travelers To Be Vaccinated Against Covid, Says Qantas Chief.

International travelers will need to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to fly with Australia's Qantas, the company has said, the first major airline to suggest that such rules could become common across...

4 3

Oxford Vaccine Shot That Works Better In Smaller Doses Raises Questions.

The news reached Sarah Gilbert Saturday evening that the Covid-19 vaccine she's developed with AstraZeneca Plc appeared to work. But the University of Oxford professor had expected a key number: Was...

5 2

China's «Space Dream» : A Long March To The Moon

China's launch this week of an unmanned spacecraft aimed at bringing back lunar rocks -- the first attempt by any nation to retrieve samples from the Moon in four decades -- underlines just how far...

5

‘Jeopardy!’ champion Ken Jennings named 1st interim host after death of Alex Trebek.

Producers announced Monday that Jennings, who won 74 games in a row and claimed the show's ``Greatest of All Time'' title in a competition last year, will host episodes that air in January.

4 51

Elon Musk Overtakes «Sparring Partner» Bill Gates As Second-Richest.

Elon Musks year of dizzying ascents hit a new apex Monday as the Tesla Inc. co-founder passed Bill Gates to become the worlds second-richest person.

4 3

Biden Transition Formally Begins As Trump Says He Will Cooperate.

The General Services Administration acknowledged Joe Biden as the apparent winner of the presidential election on Monday, following weeks of inaction, and President Donald Trump called on his agencies...

4 1

«No Idea» : Canada Police On How They Got Huawei Executive's Home Code.

An officer revealed Monday Canadian police obtained the security code to Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou's Vancouver house -- not merely passcodes to her electronic devices, which defense lawyers allege...

5 1

Ghislaine Maxwell quarantining after prison staffer tests positive for coronavirus.

Ghislaine Maxwell, the one-time girlfriend of Jeffrey Epstein, is in quarantine at a New York City federal lockup after a staff member there tested positive for the coronavirus, prosecutors said Monday.

4 202