U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has appointed senior deputy Jonathan Moore to lead the State Department’s task force on the mysterious Havana Syndrome that has sickened U.S. diplomatic and other personnel overseas.
Blinken’s announcement Friday came amid criticism from a bipartisan group of U.S. senators who contend the Biden administration is not taking the illness seriously enough.
Moore replaces Pamela Spratlen, a diplomat who had previously retired before Blinken called her back into service, and who faced criticism from some victims.
Blinken also announced the appointment of retired ambassador Margaret Uyehara to head efforts to care for State Department employees.
“This is an urgent priority for President Biden, for me, for our entire government and we will do absolutely everything we can, leaving no stone unturned,” Blinken said at a State Department briefing.
The syndrome first came to the public’s attention in 2016 when dozens of diplomats at the U.S. Embassy in Havana fell ill with what is now known as “Havana Syndrome,” an ailment that causes symptoms such as migraines, dizziness and memory lapses, all consistent with being exposed to directed energy.
Since then, some 200 American diplomats, officials and family members abroad are believed to have been sickened by the syndrome. U.S. intelligence and defense agencies are investigating the cases, about half of which involve intelligence personnel. U.S. officials have not determined the syndrome’s cause or whether an adversary is responsible.
“We’re working tirelessly with partners across the government to identify what is causing these incidents and to learn who is responsible,” Blinken said.
In the face of congressional criticism, U.S. President Joe Biden signed into a law on October 7 a bill that provides financial assistance and improved health care to those suffering from the ailment. The new law also provides funding for more intelligence gathering and analysis to determine the cause of the syndrome.
Some information in this report came from the Associated Press and Reuters.