Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Mark Warner on Wednesday lamented the slow pace of the investigation into the cause and origins of the so-called Havana Syndrome afflicting American diplomats — but he warned that should a rival nation be found culpable, the U.S. response will “pose one of the most challenging policy choices” yet for the Biden administration.
“The fact that we still don’t know for sure who did it and how these attacks were carried out is very, very problematic, to say the least. We are, in a bipartisan way, absolutely on top of this,” Warner (D-Va.) told POLITICO Playbook in a virtual interview.
“I think that the administration, when they reach their conclusion, will lay that out,” he said, adding: “The challenge will be, when they lay it out — particularly if it’s a nation-state that originates this activity — what we do then is going to pose one of the most challenging policy choices for this administration to date.”
More than 200 American personnel, mostly diplomats and CIA officers, have reported symptoms consistent with the illness. POLITICO previously reported that Biden administration officials have told the congressional intelligence committees they believe the victims were hit with a directed-energy weapon wielded by a hostile foreign government, likely Russia — though the investigation is ongoing.
Warner also criticized the Trump administration Wednesday for its handling of the sharp increase in reported cases worldwide in the years following the initial cases reported in Havana, Cuba, in 2016.
“This is an area where the previous administration just whiffed,” he said. “I was very disappointed that, for example, at the CIA and at [the] State Department and at [the Defense Department], that employees — career employees who are victims of these attacks — weren’t treated seriously enough, literally for years.”
The State Department, in particular, has been accused of withholding critical information from Congress and denying proper medical care for the victims.
POLITICO reported earlier this week that the State Department was testing and failing American diplomats for directed energy exposure as early as 2018, more than two years before informing Congress. A current State official also shared documents with POLITICO detailing his claims that the department is retaliating against him for speaking out about the matter — including by revoking his administrative leave.