Q Why is it in News ?
A A US intelligence officer traveling with CIA director William Burns has reported symptoms of Havana Syndrome.
Q What is Havana Syndrome?
- Havana Syndrome refers to a set of mental health symptoms that are said to be experienced by US intelligence and embassy officials in various countries.
- It typically involves symptoms such as hearing certain sounds without any outside noise being present, nausea, vertigo and headaches, memory loss and issues with balance.
- As the name suggests, it traces its roots to Cuba.
- In late 2016, US officials in embassy began experiencing sudden bursts of pressure in their brain followed by persistent headaches, feeling of disorientation and insomnia.
Q How severe is it?
- In 2018, at least three CIA officers working under diplomatic cover in Cuba had reported troubling sensations that seemed to leave serious injuries.
- Some officers are being compulsorily retired for their inability to coherently discharge his duty and another needing a hearing aid.
Q Has Havana Syndrome been reported anywhere else?
- Since the Cuban incident, American intelligence and foreign affairs officials posted in various countries have reported symptoms of the syndrome.
- In early 2018, similar accusations began to be made by US diplomats in China.
- The US media has reported around 130 such attacks across the world including at Moscow in Russia, Poland, Georgia, Taiwan, Colombia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Austria, among others.
Q What are the causes of Havana Syndrome?
- No one is entirely sure. But it is speculated to be a “sonic attack”.
- Medical examination of the victims began to suggest that the victims may have been subjected to high-powered microwaves that either damaged or interfered with the nervous system.
- It was said to have built a pressure inside the brain that generated the feeling of a sound being heard.
- Greater exposure to high-powered microwaves is said not only to interfere with the body’s sense of balance but also impact memory and cause permanent brain damage.
- It is suspected that beams of high-powered microwaves are sent through a special gadget that Americans have begun calling “microwave weapon”.
Q Who is doing this in India?
- Sources in the Indian security establishment say they are not aware of any such weapon being in the possession of an Indian agency.
- Even if there was one, it is unlikely the government would admit to having acquired such counter-espionage technology given the sensitive nature of intelligence work.