The Sound and the Fury: Inside the Mystery of the Havana Embassy 2

One of the U.S. diplomats affected by the health incidents reportedly lived in this home in Havana. (Courtesy of NBC News)

More than a year after American diplomats began to suffer strange, concussion-like symptoms in Cuba, a U.S. investigation is no closer to determining how they were hurt or by whom, and the FBI and CIA are at odds over the case. A ProPublica investigation reveals the many layers to the mystery — and the political maneuvering that is reshaping U.S.-Cuba relations.

by Tim Golden and Sebastian Rotella

It was a cool night for Havana, with the temperature falling into the mid-70s, and the diplomat and his family were feeling very good about their assignment to Cuba. They were still settling into their new home, a comfortable, Spanish-style house in the lush enclave that had been called “el Country Club” before wealthy families abandoned it in the early years of the revolution. “We were just thrilled to be there,” the diplomat recalled. “The music, the rum, the cigars, the people — and a very important moment for diplomacy.”

Eight months earlier, in March 2016, President Barack Obama had swept into town to commemorate the two countries’ historic rapprochement, vowing to bury “the last remnant of the Cold War in the Americas.” Now, weeks after the election of Donald Trump, that entente was suddenly doubtful. Fidel Castro had just died, opening a new chapter in the Cuban saga. The diplomat could hardly have imagined a more fascinating time to arrive.

As the sun slid into the Florida Straits on that late-November evening, the diplomat folded back the living room doors that opened onto the family’s new tropical garden. The warm night air poured in, along with an almost overpowering din. “It was annoying to the point where you had to go in the house and close all the windows and doors and turn up the TV,” he recalled. “But I never particularly worried about it. I figured, ‘I’m in a strange country, and the insects here make loud noises.’”

A few nights later, the diplomat and his wife invited over the family of another American embassy official who lived next door. Around dusk, as they chatted on the patio, the same deafening sound rose from their yard again.

“I’m pretty sure those are cicadas,” the first diplomat said.

“Those are not cicadas,” his neighbor insisted. “Cicadas don’t sound like that. It’s too mechanical-sounding.”

The colleague had been hearing the same noises at home, sometimes for an hour or more at a stretch. After he complained to the embassy housing office, a couple of Cuban maintenance workers were dispatched to look around. They checked for electrical problems and scanned the yard for strange insects, but they left without finding anything out of place. In February, the nightly racket finally began to fade. Then it went away altogether.

Feature continues here:  Sound & Fury

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U.S. Diplomats, Families in Cuba Targeted Nearly 50 Times by Mysterious Sonic Attacks: Official 2

By KTLA 5

Some of the 21 US diplomats believed to have been impacted by mysterious acoustic attacks in Cuba were targeted multiple times, CNN has learned from a senior US official.

There were nearly 50 attacks in total, the official said.

The incidents have challenged the US government’s assessment that Cuba is a safe country for US diplomats and their families and threatened the future of the newly reopened embassy.

Despite the often-empty supermarkets and antagonistic relations with the communist-run government, Cuba for years offered US diplomats a rare benefit: It was safe.

Unlike in many other countries, in Cuba, US Embassy employees didn’t have to worry much about terrorist attacks, kidnapping or even petty crime. The Cuban government’s tight control over the island made Havana one of the safest cities in the world.

Diplomats — especially those Cuba suspected of being spies — might suffer harassment at the hands of the powerful state security apparatus, but there were established lines neither of the Cold War adversaries would cross.

But starting early this year, US diplomats heading to the island to begin their postings were quietly warned they could face a mysterious threat that was causing American Foreign Service officers to fall ill, some with long-lasting symptoms.

Investigators haven’t determined the cause of the incidents, but US officials told CNN they are convinced someone has targeted American diplomats in Havana with a sophisticated device never deployed before, at least not against US personnel.

Canadian diplomats have suffered similar health problems, according to US and Canadian officials.

Despite the often-empty supermarkets and antagonistic relations with the communist-run government, Cuba for years offered US diplomats a rare benefit: It was safe.

Unlike in many other countries, in Cuba, US Embassy employees didn’t have to worry much about terrorist attacks, kidnapping or even petty crime. The Cuban government’s tight control over the island made Havana one of the safest cities in the world.

Diplomats — especially those Cuba suspected of being spies — might suffer harassment at the hands of the powerful state security apparatus, but there were established lines neither of the Cold War adversaries would cross.

Feature continues here:  Sonic attacks