The CIA inspector general has completed a review that has criticized the agency’s handling of the initial cases of a mysterious affliction known colloquially as “Havana Syndrome,” US officials said Friday.
The review, which was delivered to both CIA Director Bill Burns and Congress this month, found fault with how the agency dealt with early cases during the Trump administration, according to a source familiar with the report. Victims have long claimed that in the months and years following the first reported incidents, in Havana, Cuba, some senior CIA officials were skeptical that the injuries were real. The report found that as a result, some of those officers reporting symptoms did not get the immediate care they required.
The CIA declined to comment on those findings. CIA Press Secretary Susan Buikema-Miller said in a statement that the review found “that the challenge of simultaneously understanding and effectively responding to the myriad challenges associated with [these incidents] complicated the Agency’s response.”
Burns overhauled the agency’s handling of the incidents when he became director at the onset of the Biden administration, removing the chief medical officer that some victims had criticized as too skeptical of the injuries and boosting the number of full-time medical personnel at the CIA who are focused on these issues.
But the report still comes as dozens of CIA officers have gone to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees over the past year to raise concerns that a CIA task force established by Burns to investigate what might be causing these strange episodes has been soft-pedaling its investigation.
In a January interim report, the CIA determined that a majority of reported cases could be explained by known means. But about two dozen cases remain unexplained, which the government vaguely refers to as “anomalous health incidents.” Victims have struggled with brain trauma, vertigo and other symptoms — some severely enough to force retirement.
But the intelligence community has also yet to produce evidence that a foreign nation is causing the illnesses — even as the CIA and the State Department have begun issuing compensation payments — frustrating some victims.
The CIA began disbursing compensation for some victims earlier this year, sources say, after Congress in 2021 passed legislation mandating payments for CIA and other government victims.
“At CIA, we have no more profound obligation than to take care of our people,” Buikema-Miller, the CIA spokesman, said. “As we learn from the past and look to the future, we have expanded access to care and resources significantly over the past year and a half; our steadfast dedication to this issue is unwavering.”
The report, which covers the period from 2016 to 2020, remains classified.