U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday named two top officials to head the task force that will assess the mysterious Havana syndrome, which has sickened hundreds of Americans, including diplomats, overseas.
As reported by The Hill, Blinken nominated Jonathan Moore, a member of the Senior Foreign Service and former ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, to head the State Department’s Health Incident Task Force.
Meanwhile, former Ambassador to Montenegro Margaret Uyehara, who has spent more than three decades in the Foreign Service, will be the new “Senior Care Coordinator.”
The Anomalous Health Incidents (AHI) that affected more than 200 Americans visiting abroad, about half of which involved intelligence personnel, have also been referred to as Havana Syndrome, named after the place where the first case was recorded.
The strange anomaly first came to light in 2016, when U.S. Embassy personnel in Cuba reported physical symptoms after experiencing an auditory phenomenon. Symptoms they described were migraines, dizziness, hearing loss, among others.
Since that time, similar cases have been reported among staff serving on all continents except Antarctica.
President Biden last month signed a bill into law to provide support for victims of the bizarre phenomenon.
Blinken’s announcements come after the State Department was widely criticized, both by lawmakers and victims of Havana syndrome themselves, for insufficient responses on these anomalous ailments and for the delay in announcing the new head of the AHI Task Force.
The appointment of the officials came several weeks after Ambassador Pamela Spratlen, who oversaw the State Department’s handling of the incidents for six months, left the post.
As reported by NBC News in September, U.S. diplomats had a tense meeting with Blinken to express their displeasure at the Biden administration’s disbelief about the ailments suffered by victims of the bizarre syndrome, more than four years after the incidents began.
In the recent announcement, the Secretary of State said, “We need to do everything possible for our people, to care for them, to protect them, to get to the bottom of what happened.”
Blinken also said the State Department was using “new technology” to assess the possible causes of these incidents thoroughly.
According to researchers from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, after studying victims of Havana syndrome, said the phenomenon is consistent with what happens to a person when they receive targeted pulsed radiofrequency energy.”
Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, welcomed Blinken’s announcement and said it’s “… a positive step forward for U.S. personnel and their family members who for years have suffered from serious health effects due to directed energy attacks.”
Shaheen added, “While we cannot necessarily see their injuries, they are real and deserve the same attention and urgency as wounds that are visible.”