Lawmakers want US officials out of Cuba following bizarre attacks

On the heels of reports that U.S. diplomatic officials have been seriously injured in Cuba via mysterious attacks thought to be carried out by some sort of acoustic weapon, Republican lawmakers are calling on the Trump administration to close the nation’s diplomatic post in Havana.

Initial reports of the mysterious attacks came earlier this month via The Associated Press: 

American diplomats who served in Cuba have been diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injury following mysterious, unexplained attacks on their health, the union that represents U.S. diplomats said Friday, in the most detailed account to date of the growing list of symptoms.

In addition to mild TBI — commonly called a concussion— permanent hearing loss has been diagnosed among the 10 diplomats who have met with or spoken to the American Foreign Service Association. The union did not say how many of the 10 had been given either diagnosis, but said other symptoms had included brain swelling, severe headaches, loss of balance and “cognitive disruption.”

The union said in a statement that it “strongly encourages the Department of State and the U.S. Government to do everything possible to provide appropriate care for those affected, and to work to ensure that these incidents cease and are not repeated.”

What transpired in Havana in late 2016 and early 2017 has remained an elusive mystery as U.S. investigators continue looking for a device or other possible cause for what the State Department has described as attacks on diplomats’ health. Early indications from U.S. officials had pointed to a possible covert sonic device, although investigators have not said such a device has been found. The State Department has said it still can’t conclude who was responsible for the attacks.

The confirmation that diplomats suffered traumatic brain injury suggested the attacks caused more serious damage than the hearing-related complaints that were initially reported.

The exact nature of the weapon used remains unknown to U.S. officials.

In a Friday letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Richard Burr of North Carolina, John Cornyn of Texas, and James Lankford of Oklahoma, demanded that the U.S. cut diplomatic ties with Cuba unless the country helps American officials investigate the attacks.

“Our officials and their families have been the targets of unacceptable levels of harassment and ‘acoustic’ attacks that, in some cases, have caused permanent hearing damage and other significant injuries,” they wrote. “The safety of U.S. diplomatic personnel and their families posted overseas remains one of our high priorities and a shared responsibility of those nations that host U.S. diplomatic facilities.”

“Cuba’s neglect of its duty to protect our diplomats and their families cannot go unchallenged,” they added. “We appreciate your attention to this important national security matter and look forward to your timely response.”

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