Remember the stories over the past year or so about mysterious attacks at U.S. embassies harming diplomatic staff and their families? William J. Broad's story in the New York Times today reports that doctors and scientists are now coming to the conclusion that microwave weapon strikes capable of causing "sonic delusions" and brain damage are to blame.
The strange attacks were first reported in late 2016, and affected over three dozen American diplomats and family members in Cuba and China. They were blamed at one point on 'bad engineering,' and caused a diplomatic rift between Havana and Washington.
The notion that our brains can perceive certain microwaves as sound isn't new, nor is the idea of using them in weapons. 'Directed Energy Weapons' have long been a thing. Russia uses them against drones. The United States military has developed sonic weapons and used them on protesing Americans, but microwave attacks?
Strikes with microwaves, some experts now argue, more plausibly explain reports of painful sounds, ills and traumas than do other possible culprits — sonic attacks, viral infections and contagious anxiety.
In particular, a growing number of analysts cite an eerie phenomenon known as the Frey effect, named after Allan H. Frey, an American scientist. Long ago, he found that microwaves can trick the brain into perceiving what seem to be ordinary sounds.
The false sensations, the experts say, may account for a defining symptom of the diplomatic incidents — the perception of loud noises, including ringing, buzzing and grinding. Initially, experts cited those symptoms as evidence of stealthy attacks with sonic weapons.
Members of Jason, a secretive group of elite scientists that helps the federal government assess new threats to national security, say it has been scrutinizing the diplomatic mystery this summer and weighing possible explanations, including microwaves.
The microwave idea teems with unanswered questions. Who fired the beams? The Russian government? The Cuban government? A rogue Cuban faction sympathetic to Moscow? And, if so, where did the attackers get the unconventional arms?
At his home outside Washington, Mr. Frey, the scientist who uncovered the neural phenomenon, said federal investigators have questioned him on the diplomatic riddle and that microwave radiation is considered a possible cause.
Mr. Frey, now 83, has traveled widely and long served as a contractor and a consultant to a number of federal agencies. He speculated that Cubans aligned with Russia, the nation's longtime ally, might have launched microwave strikes in attempts to undermine developing ties between Cuba and the United States.
"It's a possibility," he said at his kitchen table. "In dictatorships, you often have factions that think nothing of going against the general policy if it suits their needs. I think that's a perfectly viable explanation."
The State Department responded to the New York Times, and said its investigation hadn't yet determined the attacks' cause or source. F.B.I. declined to comment.
You've got to read the entire piece.
Here's an archival U.S. military video on a then-new 'directed energy weapon' with awesome capabilities. This one's a laser gun, but imagine something hidden in the walls or on the roof of the building where you work, operating on the same basic principle, beaming energy into your brain to harm or kill you.