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The Guardian

Havana Syndrome: Case of NSA Officer Hints at Microwave Attacks Since 1990s

When Mike Beck developed a rare form of American Parkinson’s intelligence found he was the victim of a high tech weapon Havana Syndrome illustrating the use of suspected microwave radio waves Composite: Guardian Design / Getty When the first reports surfaced of a mysterious turmoil that was afflicting dozens of American diplomats in Cuba, Mike Beck’s reaction was one of gratitude and relief. Beck, a retired National Security Agency counter-intelligence officer, was at home in Maryland browsing the news of the day on his computer when he spotted the story and remembers yelling at his wife. “I was excited because I thought, well, it’s coming out now that it’s not a mirage,” Beck said. “I felt bad for the victims but I thought, ‘Now I’m not one of the only ones anymore. I am one of the many. Beck had been forced to retire in late 2016 due to a rare early, non-trembling form of Parkinson’s disease, and he had evidence, provided by the NSA and CIA, that he could have been victim of a deliberate attack with a microwave weapon. After years of lonely struggle, he now feels justified. Last December, the National Academy of Sciences released a report finding that the dozens of CIA and State Department officials affected by “Havana Syndrome” in Cuba, China and elsewhere were most likely suffering from “Effects of Directed Pulsed Radio Frequency Energy”. After years of downplaying reports and failing to provide adequate medical care to victims, Washington is now clearly alarmed by the implications of the attacks. The Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee issued a bipartisan statement on Friday, saying: “This tendency to attack our fellow citizens in the service of our government seems to be increasing.” The statement came the day after the White House said it was investigating “unexplained health incidents” after reporting that two of its own officials had been targeted in the Washington area. The CIA and the State Department have launched task forces to investigate, and it was reported last week that the Pentagon had launched its own investigation into suspected microwave attacks on US troops in the Middle East. Earlier this month, the Senior Director for the Western Hemisphere at the National Security Council, Juan Gonzalez, expressed concern over the continuing risk to US diplomats from microwave weapons in Cuba, in an interview with the CNN’s Spanish language service. The reality is that this has been a problem with the intelligence community for decades Mark Zaid But what’s so striking about Beck’s case is that his origins date back two decades earlier – and that he produced official confirmation over eight years ago that such weapons were developed by America’s Adversaries. This raises more questions as to why the CIA and the State Department were so reluctant to believe their own officers could have been targeted by such weapons when cases emerged in Cuba, then China in 2018 and elsewhere. in the world. “The reality is that this has been a problem for the intelligence community for decades,” said Mark Zaid, an attorney representing both Beck syndrome and Havana victims. A 2014 declassified NSA statement for Beck’s workers’ compensation case stated: “The National Security Agency confirms that there is intelligence information from 2012 associating the hostile country in which Mr. Beck is located. is made in the late 1990s, with a high microwave system weapon have the ability to weaken, intimidate or kill an enemy, over time, and without leaving any evidence. “Intelligence information from 2012 indicated that this weapon is designed to bathe a target’s living quarters in microwaves, causing numerous physical effects, including a damaged nervous system.” Beck is still not allowed to name the hostile country he visited in 1996, but said he and a colleague, Charles “Chuck” Gubete, went to make sure that a US diplomatic building under construction did not. was not bugged. “It was a delicate assignment,” Beck told The Guardian. “So we knew what we were getting into from the perspective of the hostile country being a critical threat environment.” Upon arrival, he and Gubete were detained at the airport and then accommodated in adjoining rooms at a budget hotel after their release. On their second day on the project, they extended their sweep to a nearby building and came across what he calls “a technical threat to the fairness that we were there to protect.” A worker looks at a huge concrete Cuban flag built in front of the US Embassy in Havana last month. Photograph: Yamil Lage / AFP / Getty Images They reported the device to their superiors and left it there. The next day they received a message from a local translator working with the Americans that the authorities in the host country, in Beck’s words, “had seen what we were doing and it was not a good thing.” The next day Beck said, “I woke up and I was really, really groggy. I couldn’t wake up regularly. It was not a normal event. I drank several cups of coffee and it did nothing to get me going. The symptoms disappeared when Beck and Gubete returned to the United States. But 10 years later, while Beck was in the UK on secondment to General Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the British counterpart to the NSA, he suddenly fell with crippling symptoms. “The right side of my body started to freeze. I was limping and couldn’t move my arm, ”he said. He was referred to a neurologist who diagnosed Parkinson’s disease. At the time, Beck was 45 years old. I thought it was no coincidence that we both had the same variant of Parkinson’s disease at the same time Mike Beck Soon after he was visiting NSA headquarters and ran into Gubete. Beck was shocked at what he saw. “He walked like an old man,” he recalls. “He was slumped and walked really awkwardly. I walked up to him and said, “What’s going on?” Within days, Gubete, 55 at the time, was diagnosed with the same form of Parkinson’s disease as Beck. “I worked in counterintelligence for the predominance of my career,” Beck said. “I thought it was no accident that we both had the same variant of Parkinson’s disease at the same time. It is not a coincidence. The cause of their common plight was a total mystery to Beck until 2012, when he saw communications from US intelligence on a microwave weapon with potentially debilitating neurological effects developed by the country he and Gubete visited together. He was able to get some of that information declassified for his complaint to the Labor Ministry in 2014 – but by then it was too late for Gubete. He had died at home, of a suspected heart attack the year before. Mike Beck. Photograph: Handout Even with the intelligence declassified, NSA executives continued to oppose Beck’s statement, so he organized a briefing by CIA experts who came to NSA headquarters in the spring 2016. “Their opinion was based on information they had – and that the NSA did not have access to – and they supported my claim that I had been attacked in the hostile country with a microwave weapon Beck recalls. “They said it was obvious that this medical condition was due to a stroke.” On August 24, 2016, according to Beck and his lawyer, Zaid, NSA security and counterintelligence chief Kemp Ensor, emailed NSA chief of staff Liz Brooks, supporting the story. by Beck. The NSA did not respond to a request for comment. There are still many unanswered questions about the Beck case. Gubete had a family history of Parkinson’s disease and any causal effect between microwave radiation and the disease is unknown and differs from more recent cases. But it is clear from the Beck case that when the wave of Havana Syndrome injuries began in 2016, U.S. intelligence agencies knew a lot more than they admitted. My head was spinning, unbelievable nausea, I felt like I had to go to the bathroom and throw up. It was just a terrifying moment Marc Polymeropoulos It took a three-year campaign by the CIA and State Department employees targeted by the attacks to get their illnesses taken seriously, to receive proper treatment, and to get them mysterious attacks are properly investigated. “That it took me three years to get treatment is shameful, from an ethical and moral point of view,” said Marc Polymeropoulos, a former senior officer in the CIA’s underground service. “You make a pact when you join the Central Intelligence Agency – especially on the operations side, the silent service. They’ve asked me to do some really unusual and risky things over the years, in really bad places, but you’ve always had a pact with your leaders that if you got stuck they would back you up, ”he said. he declares. Polymeropoulos was visiting Moscow in 2017, as deputy chief of operations for the CIA’s Europe and Eurasia Mission Center, when he experienced crippling symptoms of an attack. “I was woken up in the middle of the night with an incredible case of vertigo,” he said. “My head was spinning, unbelievable nausea, I felt like I had to go to the bathroom and throw up. It was just a terrifying moment for me. I had tinnitus ringing in my ears, and the dizziness was really what was incredibly debilitating and I really wasn’t sure what was going on. I couldn’t get up. I was falling. “Since this incident I have had a headache 24/7 for three years and there is also a mental health issue,” Polymeropoulos said. “I was able to work for two hours every morning, but then I was spent. Even having a conversation like this, I would be exhausted after that. The US Embassy in Moscow in 2012. Photograph: Kirill Kudryavtsev / AFP / Getty Images It is convinced that Russia is behind the attacks and is also certain that Russia is the anonymous country in the Beck case. In 1996, the United States was in the process of demolishing the two upper floors of its embassy in Moscow because the building was filled with eavesdropping devices. Four new floors were constructed in an effort to create a secure environment. New CIA Director William Burns assured Congress earlier this month he was taking the issue seriously and that he had appointed a senior officer in. ur leading a working group “making sure people get the care they deserve and need, and also making sure we get the bottom of this”. Polymeropoulos, who is currently being treated at Walter Reed Military Hospital and is pushing for other CIA victims to receive similar treatment, said he was cautiously optimistic. “Under Bill Burns, there seems to be a drastic change. We need to see actions now, not just words. But I have hope, ”he said. Meanwhile, a quarter of a century after his ill-fated trip to a hostile nation, Michael Beck is still fighting for workers’ compensation. The Ministry of Labor rejected his request, but the one-year appeal window is still open. “I’m not suing anyone,” he said. “I’m just looking for what’s right.”



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