PIn recent years, several countries have developed tabletop microwave weapons capable of causing the mysterious wave of “Havana syndrome” brain injuries in US diplomats and spies, according to leading US experts in the field.
A US company also produced the prototype of such a weapon for the Marine Corps in 2004. The weapon, codenamed jellyfish, was intended to be small enough to fit in a car and cause a “temporary disability effect”, but “with a low probability of death or permanent injury.”
There is no evidence that the research was carried beyond the prototype phase, and a report on that stage was removed from a US Navy website. Scientists with knowledge of the project said that ethical considerations that prevent human experimentation contributed to the project being shelved, but said such consideration had not hindered American adversaries, including Russia and possibly China.
“The state of that science has been for the most part, if not abandoned, practically left fallow in the United States, but it has not been fallow elsewhere,” said James Giordano, professor of neurology and ethics at the Medical Center. from Georgetown University.
Giordano, who is also a principal investigator in biotechnology, biosafety and ethics at the United States Naval War College, was hired as an advisor by the government in late 2016 after some two dozen American diplomats began to fall ill in Havana. He later participated in an assessment for the United States Special Forces Command on which countries were developing the technology and what they had accomplished.
“It became clear that Russia and its satellites took up some of the work that was carried out in the former Soviet Union,” Giordano said, adding that China had also developed directed energy devices to test the structure of various materials, with technology that could adapt to weapons. A second major wave of brain injuries among US diplomats and intelligence officials took place in China in 2018.
Giordano cannot give details on which country had developed which type of device, but said the new weapons used microwave frequencies, capable of disrupting brain function without any burning sensation.
“This was important, and quite frightening, for us, because it represented a state of advancement and sophistication of this type of instrument that until now had not been thought to be achieved,” he said.
If an American adversary has succeeded in miniaturizing the directed energy technology needed to inflict tissue damage at a distance, it makes such weapons a more plausible explanation for the Havana syndrome.
More than 130 US officials, from the State Department, the CIA and the National Security Council (NSC), have suffered symptoms, including dizziness, loss of balance, nausea and headaches, first identified in Cuba. The impact on some of the victims has been debilitating and long-lasting.
Some of the more recent incidents have involved NSC officials experiencing crippling symptoms in broad daylight in Washington. The state department, the CIA and the Pentagon have launched investigations, but have not yet reached conclusions. TO Report of the National Academy of Sciences in December, he discovered that the Havana syndrome lesions were likely caused by “directed pulsed radio frequency energy.”
Skeptics of the microwave weapon theory have pointed to decades of American efforts to build such a device during the cold war and since then, without any confirmed success. They have also argued that a weapon capable of inflicting brain damage from a distance would be too unwieldy to use in urban areas.
However, James Lin, the US’s leading authority on the biological impact of microwave energy, said that it would not take a large apparatus to focus the energy in a small area, heating it a minimal amount and causing “a thermoelastic pressure waveIt travels through the brain and damages soft tissues.
Initially, the target would experience the pressure wave as a sound. Many of the US diplomats, spies, soldiers and officials whose symptoms are being studied as part of the Havana Syndrome investigation reported hearing strange sounds early in the attacks.
“You can certainly put a system together in a couple of large suitcases that will allow you to put it in a truck or SUV,” said Lin, a professor emeritus in the department of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Illinois. “It’s not something that you need to have a huge amount of space or equipment to do it.”
The Microwave Weapons Project for the US Marine Corps, First Reported in Cabling, was first developed by a company called WaveBand Corporation. Codenamed Medusa, a made-up acronym for Mob Excess Deterrent Using Silent Audio, the weapon used the same technology as suggested by Professor Lin, the “microwave audio effect,” which created rapid pulses of microwaves that heated lightly the soft tissues of the brain, causing a shock wave within the skull.
WaveBand received $ 100,000 for the prototype, which according to the contract specifications it would be “portable, require little power, have a controllable coverage radius, could change from group to individual coverage, cause a temporary disabling effect, have a low probability of death or permanent injury, cause no property damage, and have a low probability of affect friendly staff ”.
TO naval document in 2004 (which has since been removed from the Navy’s Small Business Innovation Research site) said the hardware had been designed and built. “Power measurements were taken and the required pulse parameters were confirmed,” he said. The document added: “Experimental evidence of MAE [microwave auditory effect] It was observed.”
Former WaveBand Chairman and CEO Lev Sadovnik said he was limited in what he was allowed to say about the project, but said the immediate effects of MAE were disorientation and the shock of hearing sounds.
Sadovnik said that a device capable of causing symptoms of Havana syndrome could be relatively portable.
“It’s quite conceivable that you could hide it in a car or truck, but it wouldn’t work over long distances,” he said. “You can do it through a wall, say, if you’re in an adjoining hotel room.”
Sadovnik said that the Medusa prototype was not powerful enough to cause lasting damage, nor would that be allowed. But he said Russia was more advanced in understanding the human impact of microwave weapons, in part because it did not face the same ethical constraints.
“We have very strict limitations here, of course, in human and animal testing,” he said. “The Russians do not adhere to these standards.”
Giordano said that the different political and ethical norms in Russia and China create “unique opportunities to promote bioscientific and technological development in ways that would be unsustainable in the United States and the programs of our NATO allies.”
Although many American officials and victims believe that Russia is behind the attacks, there is so far no convincing evidence that Moscow is responsible. In some cases, Russian military intelligence vehicles (GRU) They are reported to have been close to the scene of an apparent attack.. But it would not be unusual for the GRU to follow US officials.
The Russians certainly had a long history of using microwave technology against US diplomatic missions. The embassy in Moscow was found to be bathed in microwave radiation in the 1960s and early 1970s, although the intent behind this was never clear. That episode erupted into a scandal when it emerged that the United States government had hidden the event from its own diplomats.
At the same time, the United States was spending enormous amounts of money trying to develop its own directed energy weapons, both laser and microwave based. Mark Zaid, an attorney representing some of the Havana syndrome victims, has a CIA informational slide dating from the 1960s or 1970s that shows a building being microwaved from an adjoining structure. Zaid said the slide was among the personal effects left by a deceased agency official.
“The military love the rays of death. Everyone loves death rays, and lasers had some of the characteristics of death rays, so people were excited about that, ”recalled Cheryl Rofer, who worked on the auditory weapons research. and laser in the 1970s at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.
That auditory investigation eventually led to the long-range acoustic device, or “Sound cannon”, used by some police forces against protesters last summer. But it doesn’t lead to any “death ray.”
“Thinking of something and building it are two different things,” Rofer said. And the experience of seeing billions spent over decades with little to show has left her skeptical about the new claims of microwave weapon development.
“The military has a lot of money hanging around and they will try a lot of different things, and some of it is good and some of it is not so good.”
Giordano said, however, that while development had stalled in the United States, American adversaries had continued it. The initial two dozen cases in Havana, he said, represented a field test of the team.
He said that while the United States focuses on expensive weapons for traditional warfare, Russia, China and others are “very interested in and dedicated to developing non-kinetic tools that can be harnessed below the threshold of what would formally be considered acts of law. war”. , to participate in massive disruption processes ”.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism