Here we go again with the anonymously sourced claims Russia is trying to fry the innards of U.S. government personnel abroad, using energy guns secretly manufactured using updated Soviet blueprints.
According to Politico, anonymous officials said the Pentagon has briefed members of Congress on “intelligence surrounding suspected directed-energy attacks against U.S. troops,” with the outlet citing at least four national security officials “directly involved in the probe.” In one of the incidents, several troops in Syria (where hundreds of U.S. soldiers are stationed in another forever war) “developed flu-like symptoms.” Politico also wrote that said officials attribute these directed-energy beams to being sourced from nefarious Russian operatives. “Two former national security officials involved” in the inquiry, quite possibly ones that departed office along with Donald Trump, claimed the incidents drew extreme concern across the U.S. Department of Defence:
The briefings included information about injuries sustained by U.S. troops in Syria, the people said. The investigation includes one incident in Syria in the fall of 2020 in which several troops developed flu-like symptoms, two people familiar with the Pentagon probe said… The incidents of suspected directed-energy attacks by Russia on Americans abroad became so concerning that the Pentagon’s office of special operations and low-intensity conflict began investigating last year, according to two former national security officials involved in the effort. It’s unclear exactly how many troops were injured, or the extent of their injuries.
So it’s rather odd that the head of U.S. Central Command, General Frank McKenzie, immediately told the Senate that he had never heard of any such Russian energy beams zapping U.S. troops, whether for the purposes of fevers and coughs or otherwise:
After this article was published, Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, told lawmakers during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that he has seen “no evidence” of such attacks against U.S. troops in the Middle East.
The commanding officer of all U.S. forces in the Middle East would presumably be at least a little interested in knowing his soldiers were being shot at with sci-fi weapons. Senators Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) all declined to comment directly on the issue to Politico and suggested there was insufficient information to reach conclusions at this time.
Previous reports that dozens of U.S. State Department and CIA personnel in Cuba (and later China and elsewhere) have been assaulted with some kind of hitherto unknown energy weapon in various incidents dating back to 2016 have pointed to medical findings such as evidence of traumatic brain injuries. In the Cuba case, where speculation originally centered on a sonic weapon, some of those affected also had reported hearing bizarre noises. However, other possible explanations have included exposure to dangerous pesticides or chemicals, mass psychogenic illness, or that the diagnoses were real, but being incorrectly attributed to a malicious cause rather than random medical happenstance. A team of researchers concluded in 2019 that a recording of the mysterious sound heard by one embassy worker likely captured the chirping of an infamously loud species of cricket reverberating off walls.
Note that the influenza-like symptoms attributed to the weapons allegedly affecting troops in Syria don’t appear to match the accounts from Cuba, which instead involved symptoms like hearing and memory loss, headaches, and nausea.
The U.S. National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine released a report finding that “distinctive and acute signs, symptoms, and observations reported by [State Department] employees are consistent with the effects of directed, pulsed radiofrequency (RF) energy,” i.e. a microwave attack. Yet the authors said the report was nowhere near conclusive. The theory was slammed by bioengineering and neurology experts consulted by BuzzFeed, who argued the finding seemed primarily based on a lack of strong evidence for other explanations and pointed out various implausible elements, such as the high power requirements and bulkiness of microwave transmitters and the complexity of such an endeavour when there are far easier ways to covertly harass embassy staffers. Old Dominion University bioengineer Andrei Pakhomov, a Russian emigre, told BuzzFeed he knew “all the people” in Russia qualified to advance defunct Soviet-era research on microwave weapons, and they were “all retired or out of science.”
Meanwhile, reports of the Cuban incident came at a very convenient time for partisans. The Trump admin and GOP legislators like Rubio were looking for excuses to reverse progress made on U.S.-Cuba relations under Barack Obama’s tenure, and this situation qualified, despite Cuban security and intelligence officials reportedly going to unusual lengths to deny any involvement. The Russian operative theory, for which no evidence beyond speculation has ever been publicly presented, also dovetailed nicely with an obsession in the liberal media with Russian interference in U.S. politics and supposed ties to Trump (some of which is well evidenced, and some of which has been exaggerated).
In other words, there were incentives on all sides to push the mysterious Russian weapon angle. A State Department report released earlier this year concluded that former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the CIA bungled the initial investigation through a combination of poor communication, bureaucratic incompetence, delays, and excessive secrecy. In the end, a focused inquiry into the causes of the “anomalous event never emerged.” To put it another way, it’s possible that the sonic/directed-energy weapon theory emerged as a leading contender specifically because the ham-fisted U.S. response failed to notice evidence of anything else.
The report from Politico also contains mysterious references to officials not being “always” able to track the supposed directed-energy devices involved due to how small they are, bringing to mind the questions of just how the Pentagon determined the size of or is tracking something no one has publicly confirmed even exists. It also clarifies that in at least one instance, a Marine believed to have been zapped with a directed energy weapon actually just ate something that really didn’t agree with him:
Another major challenge is that officials can’t always track the devices, which can be small and portable, the people said.
A former national security official told POLITICO that, in one instance, officials suspected that directed energy had injured a Marine in Syria; but a Pentagon investigation later concluded that the Marine’s symptoms were the result of food poisoning.
Similarly, according to Politico, “It’s unclear exactly how many troops were injured, or the extent of their injuries.” Very convincing.
Look, none of this is impossible. But until someone presents a smoking gun, there’s ample reason to maintain a healthy scepticism the directed-energy one exists.