Silent Attack – Weaponizing Sound: How A ‘Silent’ Sonic Weapon Might Work — And Cause Hearing Loss Without Any Of The People Involved Noticing A Painful, Audible Sound
Tia Chose, who writes for the website, Live Science.com, had an article posted on the August 14, 2017 edition/website Seeker.com, explaining how U.S. diplomats in Cuba may have had their hearing abilities severely damaged, as well as suffering persistent painful headaches, exhaustion, and other unexplained mysterious illnesses/symptoms in the fall of 2016. Numerous media outlets reported last week that as many as eight or nine U.S. diplomats stationed in Havana, Cuba had their tours cut short after suffering severe hearing loss, while others, who chose to remain, suffered less debilitating symptoms. Some Canadian diplomats stationed in Cuba, also suffered similar debilitating symptoms. CBS News, among many other news outlets, reported on their website, August 10, 2017, that “after months of investigation, U.S. officials concluded that the American diplomats had been exposed to an advanced [covert surveillance] device that operated outside the range of audible [human] sound; and had been [deliberately/secretly] deployed — either inside, or outside their residences. It was not immediately clear,” CBS News noted, “whether the device was a weapon used in a deliberate attack, or had some other [surveillance] purpose.”
Ms. Chose decided to do some informed speculation as to what was responsible for the debilitating symptoms that our diplomats and Canada’s suffered. “While the mysterious story has a lot of holes,” she wrote, “one possibility is that the worker[/s] were exposed to infrasound, or low-frequency sound waves that are below the audible [human] hearing rang,” said Dr. Charles Liberman, Director of the Eaton-Peabody Laboratory at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston.
What We Know
Ms. Chose writes that “the strange symptoms emerged in the fall of 2016 when several employees at the U.S. Embassy in Havana began complaining of [unexplained] physical symptoms. Many of the individuals,” she notes, “were new to the embassy, and some had to return to the United States because of the severity of the [their] symptoms — the details of which have yet to be disclosed.” FBI and U.S. State Department Diplomatic Security Service investigators have apparently “concluded that the symptoms could be attributed to a device that operated outside the audible hearing range; and was used somewhere — possibly in their house [homes],” according to a report by Time Magazine.
Although the U.S. has not officially/publicly blamed Cuba, and/or, Russia for the planting of these devices, the U.S. State Department announced on May 23, 2017, that two senior U.S.-based Cuban diplomats were being expelled and being forced to leave the United States.
I refer you to Ms. Chose’s full article, available on Seeker.com. Ms. Chose notes that “sound induced hearing loss, requires that the mechanical part of the ear — that senses audible sound — be overloaded.” Dr. Liberman told Ms. Chose that if “you over-stimulate the part of the ear that’s mechanically tuned to those frequencies,” then loss of hearing can, and does occur. “If people in the embassy didn’t hear anything, that suggests the weapon [device] probably didn’t operate in the normal range; or else, it would have caused pain and been distracting,” he added.
Infrasound is “the type of low-frequency sound given off by windmills, or wind generators — with the beating of the blades — and is below the human hearing range,” Mr. Chose wrote. And, Dr. Liberman told Ms. Chose that in many instances, people who have been living near windmills for a period of time, have been complaining of severe “headaches, dizziness and nausea.” And, in 2014 Ms. Chose notes, a study published in the journal, Royal Society Open Science, “found that low-frequency sounds below the audible range could disrupt little whistles made by the ear, called spontaneous optoacoustic emissions, in response to noise;” but, it remains unclear how this phenomena affects audible hearing. With respect to what may have occurred to Western diplomats in Havana, Dr. Liberman speculated that “one possibility is that the infrasound stimulated the part of the ear not dedicated to hearing — the vestibular system controls that balance. In that instance, [the] symptoms wouldn’t appear immediately. You could imagine them being very slow onset, and very persistent. It might take days before you notice any funny symptoms,” or notice something doesn’t feel right, he said.
Ms. Chose goes on to explain why high-frequency ultrasound is a “less likely possibility, because high-frequency sound dissipates quickly with distance; and, in tissue such as the ear.” And, a sonic weapon or device is also not likely, since its covert use would be difficult to disguise.
The Use Of Covet Sonic/Listening Devices By Both Russian & Cuban Intelligence Has A Very Long History
Entire books have been dedicated to the covert use of listening/sonic listening devices by both the Russian and Cuban intelligence services, among others, and I refer you to any number of search engines to review the panoply of research material available to satiate you curiosity. But, Katlin Lavinder, writing for the national security publication, The Cipher Brief, had an interesting article, August 13, 2017, “The Sound And The Fury: Sonic Weapons In Cuba,” that sheds light on the employment of these kind of devices and techniques by Russian and Cuban intelligence. Ms. Lavinder interviewed H. Keith Melton, and intelligence historian and author of the book, “CIA Special Weapons And Equipment,” and, a Founding Member of the Board of Directors for the International Spy Museum in Washington D.C.
Mr. Helton told Ms. Lavinder that “there is a [historical] pattern (by former Soviet states, and Cuba) of harassing [U.S. and Western] diplomats,” in-part, “to destabilize them; and make it difficult for them to conduct their lives,” [and activities] while they are stationed in those countries. Regarding the history and use of acoustic devices [for intelligence purposes], “we have to go back to 1945,” Mr. Helton said. “On July 4, 1945, the Soviet government presented the U.S. Ambassador in Moscow a carved wooden seal of the United States that he ultimately hung over his desk. In what we call a passive cavity resonator,” Mr. Helton explained, Soviet intelligence had implanted “a sophisticated listening device that did not have any internal power. The way they powered it was to send a radar-like signal, a microwave signal, from across the street in Moscow. The Soviets would flood the room with it; and then, get a reflection that they could demodulate and recover speech from.” U.S. counterintelligence did not discover the device until 1952, he added.
When asked by Ms. Lavinder, “How likely do you think it is — that this incident in Cuba, was orchestrated by a third party like the Russians?,” Mr. Helton responded, “I can’t imagine that the Russians would orchestrate something like this without the willing support of the Cuban intelligence services. They operate hand-in-glove. I think the question is: is there such a weapon? The body can be very fragile, especially to sounds outside the envelope that we use in our normal hearing.”
“Given your engineering background, can you think of any device that would cause the loss of hearing, without being audible to the human ear?” Ms. Lavinder asks.
Mr. Helton remarked that “anything is possible. The question,” he remarked was, “is it probable? I haven’t seen any medical evidence that would give a reason to believe that something like that is possible. It would be on the cutting edge.”
When asked if this could have been a Cuban intelligence operation — without Russian support — Mr. Helton did not say; but, noted the long history of Cuban intelligence operations aimed at the United States.
The bottom line to what is publicly known at this point is that something unknown caused a number of U.S. and Canadian diplomats stationed in Cuba to become ill in the past year — including in some cases — severe hearing loss, persistent severe headaches, nausea, and exhaustion or physical weakness. The fact that the U.S. has retaliated and expelled two senior Cuban diplomats from Washington leads one to believe that the FBI and State Department Diplomatic Security investigators have ruled out anything other than some kind of sophisticated sonic, or listening device aimed at the U.S. and Canadian diplomatic facilities in Havana, Cuba. Given the enmity between Vladimir Putin and the U.S., it certainly would not be surprising if there was Russian involvement — to a degree — if this proves to be a deliberate intelligence operation perpetrated by Cuban intelligence. After all, Russia has seized the Crimea, in violation of a U.S. treaty between the U.S. and Ukraine; Moscow interfered in our 2016 presidential election; Russia has stepped up its air, and seaborne intelligence reconnaissance over the continental U.S.; and, Russia is building at least four military bases in the Arctic — and, the ‘price’ that Moscow has paid for these transgressions is trivial, when compared to their return on investment. So, I guess I would disagree with Mr. Helton that such a joint Russian/Cuban covert intelligence operation in Cuba would be considered too risky by Moscow. So far, the price Putin has had to pay for his bad behavior, hasn’t come close to equaling the ‘crime.’
Finally, this is one more example of how our American civilian personnel employed by the Federal government; and, stationed overseas, more often than not, quietly endure job hazards that are sometimes dangerous, and injurious – and do so, with little to no fanfare, and little to no follow-up support when they get back home. V/R, RCP