The new NSC position, dubbed the Anomalous Health Incidents Interagency Coordinator, would be responsible for organizing the U.S. investigations of and responses to the suspected directed-energy attacks. The individual would also oversee efforts to ensure that victims are afforded sufficient medical care.
“U.S. public servants injured by directed energy attacks should be treated with the same urgency as any other American injured in the line of duty,” Shaheen said in a statement. “They shouldn’t have to jump through bureaucratic hoops to access the care they need, which compounds the suffering they’ve already endured.”
Their legislative effort reflects widespread dissatisfaction on Capitol Hill over the inability of administrations past and present to figure out what has been causing the inexplicable health incidents.
When President Joe Biden came into office, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan appointed a senior official who was responsible for coordinating the federal response — a step administration officials say shows that the White House is taking the matter seriously. The Shaheen-Collins bill would codify that position into law.
“We look forward to working constructively with Senator Shaheen on her legislation to advance our shared aim of ensuring the safety and security of Americans serving around the world, discovering the cause of these anomalous health incidents, and helping affected individuals receive the care they need as quickly as possible,” an NSC spokesperson said.
Lawmakers from both parties have lamented over the years that the federal government was not taking the issue seriously enough, and revealed that victims faced bureaucratic hurdles that prevented them from receiving medical treatment. The red tape made it more difficult for various agencies to fully understand what had caused the symptoms.
Victims have experienced a range of symptoms including intense ringing and pressure in the ears, loss of hearing and cognitive abilities, and even permanent brain damage. While the intelligence community has little knowledge about the the origin of the attacks or the technology used, U.S. officials believe that Russia’s military-intelligence unit, the GRU, is responsible, POLITICO first reported.
The incidents have been reported in several countries around the world where U.S. personnel are posted. The suspected attacks have also occurred on U.S. soil, including in Miami, northern Virginia and even on White House grounds, where a National Security Council official was believed to have been attacked. More recently, Americans posted in Vienna — a hotspot for international spies — have been affected.
Biden spoke about the issue last week during a visit to the headquarters of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, reiterating that his administration will get to the bottom of it and support the victims.
Shaheen’s and Collins’ legislation would require all U.S. agencies and departments involved in the investigation and response to appoint a senior-level official to handle the Havana Syndrome cases. It would also require the government to create “workforce guidance” to help diplomats and spies overseas become more aware of potential attacks and guard against them.
Lawmakers have been pushing additional legislation in recent months to address the growing threat of directed-energy attacks. That includes a bill to boost medical care for victims and streamline the reporting process across the government. That legislation passed the Senate unanimously and is awaiting a vote in the House.
Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee unanimously approved the Intelligence Authorization Act for the next fiscal year, including provisions related to directed-energy attacks. The legislation creates a joint task force and a separate panel to evaluate the CIA’s response to the incidents. The CIA has come under heavy criticism for not taking the matter seriously enough in recent years; CIA Director William Burns has taken a different approach and has been heavily involved in the investigation.
The Intelligence Authorization Act also gives victims access to Walter Reed Medical Center, which has state-of-the-art brain injury facilities.