Cuba quietly reveals names of sonic attack victims — but some are wrong, U.S. says

A U.S. flag flies at the U.S. embassy in Havana in 2015.
A U.S. flag flies at the U.S. embassy in Havana in 2015. AP

For a half hour on prime time Thursday night, the Cuban government took to state-owned television to defend itself against U.S. accusations that American diplomats suffered from a mysterious sonic attack.

In doing so, Cuba also appears to have engaged in a bit of sly retaliation: Briefly, the government published the names on screen of nine purported attack victims, whose names the U.S. has kept secret.

A one-page memo from Cuba’s powerful Ministry of the Interior dated April 4 asked a Havana health clinic that treats foreign patients to provide summarized medical histories for American citizens who might have reported auditory or neurological symptoms from “sound levels that could affect their health.” The request to Clínica Internacional Cira García also listed the names of the nine potential victims.

The State Department said Friday it could not vouch for the document’s veracity or confirm that any of the names even belong to U.S. government personnel — though other government records available online show at least some of them are diplomats, and some of them are posted to the U.S. embassy in Havana.

But a U.S. official with knowledge of the situation also engaged in a bit of sly retaliation: Not all of the people named were attack victims, the official said, without offering an explanation as to why they would be included in the list at all.

“Who knows why the Cubans do what they do?” the official said.

At no point during the “Alleged Sonic Attacks” special does the Cuban government refer to the names or highlight their publication. But releasing the document marks the first time either government has revealed any of the alleged victims’ names.

“We are aware of the video posted on the official YouTube channel of the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” the State Department said in a statement Friday. “We are unable to verify the authenticity or content of the documents shown in the video. As we have previously said, due to privacy concerns, we will not comment on the identities of official USG personnel.

“We have reminded the Cuban government of its obligation under the Vienna Convention to ensure the safety of our diplomatic personnel. We are continuing our investigation into the attacks, and want to continue to cooperate with the Cubans in this regard. Videos such as the one aired last night only serve to distract from the effort to resolve the health attacks.”

A Cuban government spokeswoman in Washington did not respond to an emailed request for comment Friday. Neither did any of the nine people listed in the Cuban document whose phone numbers were tried by the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

The Trump administration says it has confirmed that 24 U.S. officials or their relatives suffered from a number of ailments, in some cases after being subjected to loud, piercing noises. Though the U.S. hasn’t accused Cuba of being behind the attack, it has blamed Cuba of failing to protect diplomats.

As retribution, the U.S. recalled 60 percent of its Havana embassy personnel, expelled Cuban diplomats in Washington and stopped issuing visas for Cubans. The U.S. also issued a warning for Americans traveling to the island, bringing relations between the two countries to a low point following the renewed diplomatic ties by former President Barack Obama.

The Cuban government claimed in the TV special that the U.S. hampered its investigation into the alleged attack by not providing victims’ medical records. Cuba doesn’t have a weapon capable of producing a sonic attack, according to the video, and using such a weapon on Cuban soil would in any case be illegal.

“There is no evidence corroborating the occurrence of acoustic attacks,” the program concluded.

As an alternative theory, Cuba posited that suspicious sounds recorded by the U.S. could have come from another, far less peculiar — and far more unlikely — source: Crickets.