Sonic Attack: Cuba Playing Us for Fools

By Alex Berezow, PhD — Dec 06, 2017
To make progress in this investigation of a suspected sonic attack against American diplomats, the U.S. will Cuba's cooperation. That seemed to be occurring, but no longer. This week Cuban scientists declared that there was no sonic attack at all. Instead, they blamed stress and mass hysteria.
Credit: Public Domain/Wikipedia

It has been a few months since news broke of a suspected "sonic attack" against American diplomats and their staff at the U.S. embassy in Havana, Cuba. Unfortunately, we seem to be nowhere closer to solving the mystery behind what happened.

In USA Today, Dr. Jamie Wells and I speculated that a chemical agent, perhaps some sort of organic solvent, could be responsible for the wide variety of symptoms reported by the victims, from hearing loss to brain damage.

A couple weeks later, an audio recording was released, bolstering the case that a sonic weapon really was to blame. However, while inaudible sounds can induce symptoms in humans that are consistent with what the embassy staff experienced, such as nausea and vertigo, it is uncommon for sound alone to cause brain damage. Yet, some staff showed signs of concussions, and new data reveal anomalies in the "white matter" of their brains.

To add yet another twist, last week, a sonic attack was reported at the U.S. embassy in Uzbekistan. According to the report, those affected were a USAID officer and his wife, though the U.S. State Department denies the story.

Cuba Playing Us for Fools

It's clear that, in order to make progress in this investigation, the U.S. will need the cooperation of the Cuban government. At the beginning of the ordeal, that seemed possible: Raúl Castro was being unusually cooperative.

But things have changed. Yesterday, a panel of Cuban scientists declared that there was no sonic attack; instead, they blamed stress and mass hysteria.


Stress certainly can trigger a wide range of symptoms. WebMD says that stress can cause agitation, headaches, nausea, body pain, insomnia, depression, anxiety, and even ringing in the ears. Notably absent from the list: hearing loss and brain damage.

The fact that the Cubans would issue such an insultingly stupid report means that they aren't taking America's concerns seriously. That also means that the Trump Administration was completely justified in its decision to downsize the U.S. embassy in Cuba and to expel some Cuban diplomats. The rapprochement is off.

Cuba's failure to cooperate is a shame. The U.S. isn't even holding them responsible for the attack. If there really was a sonic weapon, the most likely culprit is Russia. Maybe the Cubans will care if one of their own is the next victim.


Alex Berezow, PhD

Former Vice President of Scientific Communications

Dr. Alex Berezow is a PhD microbiologist, science writer, and public speaker who specializes in the debunking of junk science for the American Council on Science and Health. He is also a member of the USA Today Board of Contributors and a featured speaker for The Insight Bureau. Formerly, he was the founding editor of RealClearScience.

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