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Mysterious Ailments Are Said
to Be More Widespread
Among U.S. Personnel
The Biden administration has begun more aggressively investigating episodes that left spies, diplomats, soldiers and others with brain injuries.
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The U.S. Embassy in Havana. The mysterious symptoms that struck diplomats in Cuba and China were first reported in 2016. Meridith Kohut for The New York Times
By Julian E. Barnes, Edward Wong and Eric Schmitt
May 12, 2021, p.m. ET
WASHINGTON - Mysterious episodes that caused brain injuries in spies, diplomats, soldiers and other U.S. personnel overseas starting five years ago now number more than
130 people, far more than previously known, according to current and former officials.
The number of cases within the C.1.A., the
State Department, the Defense Department and elsewhere spurred broad concern in the
Biden administration. The initial publicly confirmed cases were concentrated in China and Cuba and numbered about 60, not including a group of injured C.I.A. officers whose total is not public.
The new total adds cases from Europe and elsewhere in Asia and reflects efforts by the administration to more thoroughly review other incidents amid concern over a spate of them in recent months.
Since December, at least three C.I.A. officers have reported serious health effects from episodes overseas. One occurred within the past two weeks, and all have required the officers to undergo outpatient treatment at
Walter Reed National Military Medical Center or other facilities.
And in one case in 2019 that has not previously been reported, a military officer serving overseas pulled his vehicle into an intersection, then was overcome by nausea and headaches, according to four current and former officials briefed on the events. His 2- year-old son, sitting in the back seat, began crying. After the officer pulled away from the intersection, his nausea stopped, and the child stopped crying.
Both received medical attention from the government, though it is not clear whether they suffered long-term debilitating effects.
Officials suspect the officer may have been targeted. The episode upset officials in both the Trump and Biden administrations, prompting them to investigate further.