United States to Further Probe 'Health Attacks' Against Diplomats in Cuba

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Jeff Flake of Arizona, a Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, said the USA had found no evidence of an attack on its diplomats in Cuba, according to the Associated Press.

"There are some people with symptoms happening that are unexplained", Sen.

Palmieri stressed that the Trump administration has been pressuring the Cuban government to find and reprimand the culprit or culprits behind the attacks.

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who publicly cast doubt on the "sonic attack" theory over the weekend, was present at the hearing but left for an immigration meeting at the White House before it was his time to question officials. "We shouldn't be using that word". The State Department's medical director, Charles Rosenfarb, says embassy employees started reporting various symptoms from hearing lost to vertigo.

State Department officials testified that it was "incomprehensible" Cuba's Communist government would not have been aware of what happened or who was responsible, though they stopped short of assigning direct blame to Havana.

In late September 2017, the US ordered most of its own personnel out of Havana.

The chairman of the Senate committee that summoned the officials, Senator Marco Rubio, did not hide his frustration.

Both the State Department officials and Rubio agreed that Cuba, with its powerful surveillance state, must have either been behind the attacks itself or at least know who was.

The incidents prompted Tillerson to withdraw most US diplomatic personnel from Cuba in September.

The FBI is already looking into what may have caused US personnel in Havana to experience symptoms ranging from hearing loss to nausea to severe headaches. The FBI has not released its report on the injuries, made after repeated inspections of the diplomats' residences.

Trump Under Scrutiny for ‘S--hole Countries’ Comments
Trump Under Scrutiny for ‘S--hole Countries’ Comments

Asked whether it was possible that the Cuban government would have been unaware of any attacks, he said: "I find it very hard to believe that".

FBI agents investigated the incidents in Cuba but so far have not determined what caused the illnesses.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson believes the United States would "intentionally" be putting its people at risk by sending diplomats back to Cuba following a series of alleged "sonic attacks".

Palmieri replied that Tillerson has chose to convene an Accountability Review Board and that a congressional notification will be sent shortly. The agency only began to take it seriously when more serious symptoms emerged, sending affected diplomats to an acoustic injuries expert at the University of Miami medical center in February.

But Todd Brown, assistant director of diplomatic security at the State Department, told the Senate panel that he had not yet ruled out an "acoustic element".

Information for this article was contributed by Josh Lederman of The Associated Press.

Rubio is one of the harshest critics of the Cuban government in Congress.

Brown said the State Department's conclusion has been that these were hostile acts toward American diplomats, "a form of harassment attributable to the government". "It's as simple as that".

Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico noted that Canada, which reported at least one diplomat with similar injuries in 2016, has not withdrawn its staff from Havana, and did not kick out any Cuban diplomats, pressing officials on whether Tillerson's decision had benefited the USA or Cuba.

Cuban diplomat Josefina Vidal Ferreiro rejected the charges in a statement released late on Tuesday. "There is a transition going on in terms of leadership", Flake told CNN. "We don't like our diplomats being targeted". "We ought to be here in full force, but go to the US Embassy and there's just a skeletal staff".

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