Another day, another mostly anonymously sourced story about unidentified assailants supposedly assaulting U.S. government employees around the globe. This time, according to CNN, U.S. federal agencies are looking into something closer to home: symptoms suffered by a White House employee in Virginia and National Security Council staffer near the south lawn of the White House.
To recap, speculation about foreign spies or their proxy agents aiming mysterious energy weapons at U.S. personnel began in 2017, when U.S. diplomats (some of whom were later confirmed to show signs of traumatic brain injuries) reported hearing bizarre noises before falling ill. At that time, the primary theory going around was some kind of sonic weapon. Other U.S. diplomatic staffers and spies across the globe, including in the UK, Russia, and China, then began reporting similar experiences. The State Department bungled the initial investigation and failed to collect key evidence at the same time it was conveniently looking for an excuse to revert to a hawkish U.S. stance on Cuba.
Although a government report later concluded the most likely cause was instead some sort of “directed, pulsed radiofrequency energy” (i.e. a microwave weapon), that conclusion was primarily based on a lack of evidence for other causes and received strong pushback from many others in the scientific community. No hard evidence of any kind for the technology has ever been publicly presented by the U.S. government. Reports citing government officials who suspect Russian intelligence to be involved have largely been anonymous and buoyed primarily by rumours the Russian government may have resumed Soviet-era research into experimental weapons.
Last week, anonymous national security officials told Politico that the Pentagon had briefed members of Congress about similar attacks on U.S. troops in Syria — although by this time the story had morphed into the targeted individuals experiencing “flu-like symptoms” and it was conveniently unclear “how many troops were injured, or the extent of their injuries.” One troop was later confirmed to just have food poisoning.
This brings us back to these mysterious directed energy weapons that no one has ever confirmed existed suddenly popping up in D.C. — for a super-secret spy technology that the U.S. government is having so much difficulty getting its hands on, it’s sure making the rounds! CNN cited two specific incidents. One in 2019 involved a White House staffer that, according to GQ, was walking her dog in the Virginia suburbs before her dog began acting strangely and she felt “high-pitched ringing in her ears, an intense headache, and a tingling on the side of her face.” She had previously reported a similar experience in a hotel room in London in 2019 that caused a feeling of “intense pressure” in her head but stopped when she left the room. There’s no mention in the GQ report that this person was confirmed to have suffered any injuries.
CNN provided very few details on the second incident allegedly outside the White House, except that it “occurred near the Ellipse, the large oval lawn on the south side of the White House” in November 2020 and “sickened one National Security Council official, according to multiple current and former US officials and sources familiar with the matter.” But the CNN report does detail bureaucratic infighting between various federal departments and agencies, with former acting defence secretary Chris Miller portraying the Pentagon as the only one trying to force the others to take the matter seriously:
“I knew CIA and Department of State were not taking this sh*t seriously and we wanted to shame them into it by establishing our task force,” Chris Miller, who was acting defence secretary at the time, told CNN last week.
Pentagon leaders set up the task force to track reports of such symptoms hitting Defence Department personnel overseas, an effort that Miller said was intended in part as a “bureaucratic power play” to force CIA and State to take the problem more seriously in their own personnel.
Miller said that he was particularly convinced because one of the victims was an officer with “extensive combat experience” who explained the incident in a “more military-style I can understand.” With all due respect to those involved, this is not particularly convincing without further evidence:
Miller said he began to see reports of these mysterious symptoms as a higher priority in December, after interviewing an alleged victim with extensive combat experience.
“When this officer came in and I knew his background and he explained in an extraordinarily detailed but more military style that I could understand, I was like this is actually for real,” Miller said. “This kid had been in combat a bunch and he knew.”
It also contains further details on the “Syria episode,” which allegedly happened after a Russian helicopter flew over a U.S. base. In fact, medical personnel quickly determined that the episode was entirely due to bad food and had started before the chopper’s approach:
In one incident that was investigated, Marines on a remote base in Syria developed flu-like symptoms shortly after a Russian helicopter flew over the base — raising immediate concerns that it could be one of these strange attacks. But “it was quickly traced, where they had bad food and where no one else on the base had the same symptoms,” said one former US official with knowledge of the incident. It was also determined by a defence physician that the symptoms had begun prior to the Russia patrol, a defence official told CNN.
Meanwhile, CNN reported that their sources said they still don’t even have enough information to conclude Russia was involved, with one former official “involved in the investigation at the time” saying maybe it was China instead.
Again, it’s possible that some type of mysterious weapon is being used to zap U.S. diplomatic, intelligence, and military personnel across the globe. But that would require this unknown technology shipped all over the place, for years, for seemingly completely random purposes with little strategic effect (other than the disruption of U.S. relations with Cuba that the Trump admin wanted anyways and a Russian conspiracy angle palatable to liberals wary of Vladimir Putin’s global reach after the 2016 election debacle). Creating and covertly powering such a portable weapon would also require engineering advances that the scientific community seems to largely remain in the dark about. This foreign adversary would also have chosen to do this instead of any number of simpler ways to be arseholes (the GQ report, for example, mentions in passing an alleged 2019 incident in which Russian spies slipped date-rape drugs into an undercover CIA officer’s drink at a diplomatic function).
Meanwhile, other explanations have been proposed including mass psychogenic illness, diagnosis of pre-existing conditions wrongly attributed to a common cause, or separate explanations for each incident including a mix of physical factors, such as exposure to dangerous pesticides or malfunctioning and/or hazardous hidden surveillance devices or the sound of invasive crickets in Cuba. This can all simultaneously be true with the experiences and health effects suffered by the U.S. government staff being totally genuine. They could have real injuries that simply weren’t caused by a directed-energy weapon. Or, for example, anxiety attacks can be absolutely terrifying and cause physical symptoms like chest pain, nausea, difficulty breathing, and numbness or tingling that are easily mistaken as due to a life-threatening cause because it is virtually indistinguishable to the person experiencing them.
Because so much of the sourcing has been anonymous, it’s unclear how many U.S. government officials involved in investigating the incidents are strong adherents of the directed energy weapon theory. One might speculate that those individuals have tunnel vision after having focused on the theory for years, or might be embarrassed if shown to be wrong. They may also be understandably reluctant to take a stance seemingly at odds with many of the diplomats and intelligence personnel reporting health effects.
In any case, no one in the U.S. government has yet to offer any convincing evidence that directed-energy weapons are to blame, let alone actually seize or even provide a physical description of one, even as they attribute an increasingly broad range of incidents to them. Until these anonymous security folks do deliver the goods, maybe they could just politely pipe down.