“We learned a lot,” an intelligence official familiar with the panel’s work told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity under terms set by the office of the director of national intelligence. “While we don’t have a specific mechanism for each case, what we do know is that if you report quickly and get medical attention quickly, most people are fine.”
The discovery largely confirms a National Academies of Science report from the end of 2020 which concluded that “pulsed and directed radiofrequency energy” was “the most plausible mechanism to explain these cases” – but also refrained from making a firm decision.
The so-called expert panel is made up of medical, scientific and engineering specialists who have access to classified information about the incidents. Officials stressed that his work focused only on uncovering the potential mechanism behind what the government calls “abnormal health incidents” and did not examine who, if anyone, might be responsible.
“Authentic and convincing” cases
The scientific panel stressed that the cases it studied were “authentic and convincing”, noting that some incidents affected several people in the same space and that clinical samples from a few victims showed signs of “cellular damage to the system nervous”.
An executive summary of the panel’s work provided new details on how the government classifies the cases as possible.
Although officials declined to say how many cases the panel reviewed as part of its investigation, they said they studied cases that met four “core characteristics”: the acute onset of sound or pressure, sometimes in only one ear or on one side of the head; simultaneous symptoms of dizziness, loss of balance and ear pain; “a strong sense of locality or directionality”; and the absence of known environmental or medical conditions that could have caused the other symptoms.
Victims said they were struck by this confluence of symptoms in embassies and personal residences around the world, and in at least one case, at an open-air red light in a foreign country.
Pulsed electromagnetic energy, “particularly in the radio frequency range,” and ultrasound arrays could plausibly cause all four main symptoms, the panel found. Both could be from “a concealable source”. But ultrasound cannot penetrate walls, the panel found, “restricting its applicability to scenarios in which the source is close to the target.”
Radio frequency energy sources, on the other hand, are known to exist, “could generate the required stimulus, are concealable, and have moderate power requirements,” the group said. “Using non-standard antennas and techniques, signals could be propagated with little loss through air for tens to hundreds of meters, and with some loss, through most building materials.”
But intelligence officials familiar with the panel’s work stressed that significant information gaps remained, preventing them from drawing firmer conclusions.
“It’s frustrating but we’re just as persistent in helping to understand and elucidate what’s going on,” an official said.
Part of the challenge, according to this person, is that not only do cases vary, but the combination of the four core features is unique in the medical literature.
“When we focus on the basic features, it’s just a unique combination that we don’t have a lot of experience with in the medical and clinical fields,” the official said.
And for ethical reasons, studies on the impact of radiofrequency energy or ultrasound on the human body are limited. The expert panel was limited to accounts from people who had been exposed to either “inadvertently” and were willing to describe their symptoms.
“There is a lack of systematic research on the effects of relevant electromagnetic signals on humans,” the report’s summary states.
State Department Report
A report commissioned by the State Department by a separate group of outside scientists, completed late last year, also began circulating on Wednesday.
The JASON Advisory Group reviewed approximately 200 cases, ultimately concluding that approximately 15% of the reported incidents they investigated cannot be explained. The majority of cases correspond to symptoms caused by pathophysiological or environmental factors, the panel found, broadly confirming the CIA’s assessment. The report concluded that no single mechanism they studied can explain all of the incidents.
“JASON finds natural and believable explanations for these incidents in all but 20-30 out of approximately 200 cases, because either the incidents and symptoms fall within the realm of everyday common occurrences, or the symptoms can be explained in a way that does not is unrelated to the perceived incidents,” the report read.
Taken together, the three sets of findings clearly show that most reported incidents can be explained. But studies so far do not present a clear picture of what is behind the incidents that remain a mystery.
Federal officials stressed that the results did not signal the conclusion of the US government’s efforts to shed light on the mysterious health incidents.
“While this study is a valuable part of the Department’s efforts to understand AHI, it does not represent a conclusion to that effort: it is not a definitive answer. In collaboration with our interagency colleagues, we are continuing our scientific research on the causes of AHI,” Brian McKeon, the State Department’s assistant secretary for management and resources, wrote to Manpower on Wednesday.
McKeon also said the results “do not call into question that our colleagues are reporting real experiences and suffering from real symptoms.”
Victory for victim advocates
In a victory for victim advocates, the expert panel ruled out one cause for these four characteristics: so-called psychosocial factors. Some victims have long complained that the CIA in the past did not take their reported symptoms seriously, dismissing cases as a psychosomatic episode or mass hysteria.
These four core characteristics cannot be explained by psychosocial factors “alone”, according to the report – although an intelligence official explained that in some cases a victim’s symptoms could be “aggravated” by a reaction of stress or other psychosocial response. .
The panel also ruled out “ionizing radiation, chemical and biological agents, infrasound, audible sound, ultrasound traveling great distances, and massive heating by electromagnetic energy.”
The panel made seven recommendations, including the development of better biomarkers that are “more specific and sensitive for diagnosis and triage” of cases. He also recommended using “detectors” and getting “finding aids”. The details of these recommendations have been heavily redacted in the panel’s executive summary.
Finally, officials urged medical authorities to act quickly whenever a case is reported, stressing that people who were treated immediately after an event have improved.
“I think something the employee can do to help themselves is to report quickly and get medical attention,” the intelligence officer said.
Neither the State Department nor the intelligence community report provided any new clues as to whether a foreign adversary might be behind the unexplained incidents.
“[I]It is not possible to conclude at this time that the events examined by JASON are the result of intentional attacks that cause physical harm,” the state report states. “However, it is also not possible to exclude mechanisms which do not cause any physical harm, but which could constitute harassment and lead to health problems and functional disorders, for example by unpleasant sounds or sensations pressure.”
Officials stressed that the intelligence community will continue to investigate.
“We continue to pursue complementary efforts to get to the bottom of anomalous health incidents – and to provide access to world-class care for those affected,” said Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and CIA Director Bill Burns in a joint statement. “We are making progress in both areas.”