Members of Congress demand answers from State Department about ‘sonic’ attacks in Cuba

U.S. embassy in Havana
U.S. embassy in Havana AP

Five members of Congress, critical of the State Department’s handling of suspected “sonic” attacks on members of the American embassy in Havana, wrote a letter to the congressional watchdog office on Tuesday demanding answers about the incidents, which affected the health of at least 24 U.S. diplomats.

Three Florida Republican members of Congress — Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Díaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo — along with West Virginia Republican Alex X. Mooney and New Jersey Democrat Albio Sires, requested a chronology of the events and information about how the State Department reacted to them.

“To what extent did State follow its policies and procedures with respect to the attacks in Cuba? To what extent have you taken steps to identify lessons learned by reviewing the facts surrounding, and its response to the attacks?” they asked in the letter addressed to Gene L. Dodaro, head of the U.S. Office of the Comptroller General.

So far, the Trump administration says it has not found the culprits or the weapon used in the alleged attacks suffered by its diplomats in Havana. Citing privacy concerns for those affected, the State Department has offered few details about the events.

The U.S. lawmakers are also interested in knowing if private American citizens have been affected by similar attacks, and what steps the State Department has taken to assist these victims, if any, or to alert Americans in general.

The Associated Press has obtained a recording of what some U.S. embassy workers heard in Havana as they were attacked by what investigators initially believed was a sonic weapon.

In late September, the State Department issued an alert warning American travelers not to travel to Cuba because of the possibility of the attacks. The agency also said it had received complaints from American travelers who said they felt symptoms similar to those reported by diplomats — dizziness, disorientation, hearing loss and brain damage among others — but have not confirmed any cases.

The U.S. lawmakers’ letter also inquires about how the State Department is preparing its staff for future attacks of a similar nature, and whether an independent Accountability Review Board was convened to identify vulnerabilities in the State Department’s security programs.

The final question in the letter: “To what extent has State communicated with other U.S. missions around the world regarding these specific attacks and have any specific changes been implemented at other U.S. missions due to the threat of these attacks?”

Follow Nora Gámez Torres n Twitter: @ngameztorres