All these add up to an assault on Americans abroad — and now on U.S. soil — that has eluded detection and is running unabated. Although experts have suggested the cause may be a device emitting “directed, pulsed radio frequency energy,” or microwaves, nothing is known for certain, nor is it known who is carrying out the attacks, although the intelligence community considers Russia the leading suspect.
The attacks have caused real suffering. Starting with a 2016 assault on U.S. officials in Havana, those afflicted have reported at first perceiving certain sounds or intense pressure in the head, coming from a distinct direction, followed by hearing loss, dizziness, tinnitus, visual difficulties, headaches and fatigue, as well as cognitive, balance and sleep disorders. The scope of those injured has grown beyond Cuba and China to include a White House staffer hit while walking her dog in Arlington; two CIA officials hit on a trip to Australia and Taiwan, one of whom was among the agency’s top five officials; and another CIA officer hit on a visit to Moscow.
The Senate committee’s statement and the CBS report suggest the number of people targeted is even larger and growing still. The New York Times reports the total is now more than 130. A certain amount of confidentiality and privacy is justified for those injured. But it is worrisome that the U.S. government has been unable to figure out the cause and the perpetrators for five years.
The Trump administration failed miserably to make this a priority. A 2018 State Department Accountability Review Board report found “serious deficiencies in the Department’s response in areas of accountability, interagency coordination, and communication, at all levels” that “contributed to the confusion surrounding the events, and delayed effective, coordinated action.”
President Biden’s Cabinet members have promised to do better. As of now, less than four months into the new administration, there is one task force working on it at the Pentagon and another at the CIA; another is being “reinvigorated” at the State Department; and another studies past intelligence reports at the National Security Council. With new cases increasing, the Biden administration must reject business as usual. More task forces at different agencies with different agendas does not necessarily add up to answers.
It is time for Mr. Biden to put heads together and put all these people in one place — the intelligence officials, diplomats, military, research scientists, clinicians and medical experts — sharing all the data, including classified, with a single urgent mission: Figure out what is happening, take action to stop it and hold the perpetrators to account.