rigmarole from the cold war revived by no talent bums

Did covert spy gear cause Pindosi and Canadian diplomats in Cuba to lose their hearing?
Tracy Wilkinson, LA Times, Aug 10 2017

It is a mysterious episode seemingly actually ripped from the pages of a Cold War spy novel. In recent months, several Pindo and Canadian diplomats posted in Havana have reported experiencing unusual medical symptoms, including impaired hearing, sometimes so severe that they had to return home. News of the ailments surfaced this week when the State Dept announced that it had expelled two Cuban diplomats from Washington because of an “incident” in Havana that harmed Pindo personnel there. That came despite vastly improved relations between Faschingstein and Havana since restoration of diplomatic relations under Obama. On Thursday, the Canadian government added its voice. Canadian officials “are aware of unusual symptoms affecting Canadian and Pindosi diplomatic personnel and their families in Havana,” the Canadian global affairs ministry said in a statement. It said Canada was working with Pindosdi and Cuban authorities to “ascertain the cause.” Pindo State Dept spokeswoman Heather Nauert would not provide details except to say the episode had caused medical but non-life-threatening problems for an unspecified number of Pindop Embassy personnel based in Havana. AP reported from Havana that the injuries may have been caused by covert sonic equipment that Cuban intelligence officers had secretly installed in the embassies or residences of staff. AP said at least one of the Pindo diplomatic personnel suffered permanent hearing loss. The Cuban government denied involvement in the incidents, saying in a statement Wednesday night:

Cuba has never permitted, nor will permit, that Cuban territory be used for any action against accredited diplomatic officials or their families, with no exception.

Nauert said Thursday that Cuban authorities were cooperating in the investigation, which also involves the FBI. Some reports have suggested that a third country might be responsible, although Cuba would still be held accountable because of its duty to protect diplomatic personnel under the Vienna Conventions. Spying on foreign embassy staffs would not be unusual in Havana, or many other capitals for that matter. Using surveillance devices to harm diplomats would be new, however, although the cause is still not confirmed. Nauert said:

We don’t have any definitive answers about the source or the cause.

She said two Cuban diplomats were expelled from Washington in retaliation in late May.The incidents date to late last year, she said. The diplomatic mission in Havana was only elevated to embassy status in 2015. Before then it was a low-level facility with a skeleton crew. Pres Trump announced in June that he was curtailing some of the Obama-era opening with Cuba. However, he has yet to order any concrete steps.

Hearing loss of Pindo diplomats in Cuba blamed on covert device
Matthew Lee, Michael Weissenstein, AP, Aug 10 2017

FASCHINGSTEIN — The two-year-old diplomatic relationship with Cuba was roiled Wednesday by what boxtops say was a string of bizarre incidents that left a group of Pindosi diplomats in Havana with severe hearing loss attributed to a covert sonic device. In the fall of 2016, a series of Pindo diplomats began suffering unexplained losses of hearing, according to officials with knowledge of the investigation into the case. Several of the diplomats were recent arrivals at the embassy, which reopened in 2015. Some of the diplomats’ symptoms were so severe that they were forced to cancel their tours early and return to Pindostan. After months of investigation, boxtops concluded that the diplomats had been exposed to an advanced device that operated outside the range of audible sound and had been deployed either inside or outside their residences. It was not immediately clear if the device was a weapon used in a deliberate attack, or had some other purpose. The Cuban government said in a lengthy statement late Wednesday:

Cuba has never permitted, nor will permit, that Cuban territory be used for any action against accredited diplomatic officials or their families, with no exception.

The statement from the Cuban Foreign Ministry said it had been informed of the incidents on Feb 17 and had launched an “exhaustive, high-priority, urgent investigation at the behest of the highest level of the Cuban government.” It said the decision to expel two Cuban diplomats was “unjustified and baseless.” It said it had created an expert committee to analyze the incidents and had reinforced security around the embassy and diplomatic residences. It said:

Cuba is universally considered a safe destination for visitors and foreign diplomats, including Pindo citizens.

Boxtops told AP that about five diplomats, several with spouses, had been affected and that no children had been involved. The FBI and Diplomatic Security Service are investigating. Investigators are looking into the possibilities that the incidents were carried out by a third country such as Russia, possibly operating without the knowledge of Cuba’s formal chain of command. State Dept spox Heather Nauert said that Pindostan retaliated by expelling two Cuban diplomats from their embassy in Washington on May 23. She did not say how many Pindo diplomats were affected or confirm they had suffered hearing loss, saying only that they had “a variety of physical symptoms.” She said investigators do not yet have a definitive explanation for the incidents, but stressed they take them “very seriously,” as shown by the Cuban diplomats’ expulsions. She said:

We requested their departure as a reciprocal measure since some Pindo personnel’s assignments in Havana had to be curtailed due to these incidents. Under the Vienna Convention, Cuba has an obligation to take measures to protect diplomats.

The use of sonic devices to intentionally harm diplomats would be unprecedented.

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