As a former police officer in southern Maine, “Adam” had long been accustomed to dangerous, high-pressure situations. But nothing could have prepared him for the effects of “Havana Syndrome” or his struggle to receive support from his government agency employer for the adverse health consequences that he has endured since.  

Adam was one of the first Americans to be affected by the Havana Syndrome, a mysterious illness that received its name because it first surfaced among dozens of U.S. government personnel in Havana, Cuba, in 2016. Since then, upwards of 200 intelligence community personnel, State Department employees, and others have reportedly been afflicted. Havana Syndrome is likely caused by a directed energy attack and is characterized by debilitating injuries that include severe headaches, visual and hearing problems, and cognitive difficulties. These horrific events are growing in number and have reportedly occurred both abroad and on U.S. soil, including near an entrance to the White House.

After hearing his harrowing story and those of other brave Americans, I authored the HAVANA Act – legislation that provides additional compensation for U.S. government employees, their dependents, and other designated individuals who suffer brain injuries in connection to their service to our country. It passed Congress unanimously and was signed into law last week.

To mark this important progress and raise awareness about these likely attacks, Adam gave me permission to share his experiences publicly for the first time. We have changed his name to comply with the recommended national security protocols.

After working as a police officer for nearly a decade, Adam desired to continue serving his country. He applied and was accepted by a U.S. government agency that stationed him in Havana in the fall of 2016. From the outset of his posting, it was evident that he was under close surveillance. Adam recalls heavy-handed tactics that were designed to provoke and intimidate him, which are not entirely unexpected for U.S. personnel operating in a hostile part of the world. Drawing on the mental reserve he developed as a Maine police officer, Adam resolutely refused to lose his composure, knowing that any sign of weakness would only embolden the assailants. That is why, when an intense, penetrating noise began filling his bedroom one evening, he assumed it was another form of harassment and was determined not to leave the room.

At first, Adam believed that someone was using an LRAD, a device that emits a powerful sound wave that is occasionally employed by ships to repel pirates, yet it was highly localized and inaudible to his neighbor. The noise continued unabated for half an hour, and he was unable to suppress it with his hands or a pillow. Eventually, the stabbing pain he felt in his eardrums became unbearable, and he started to black out. He managed to roll off the bed and crawl out of the room where the noise stopped, but he temporarily lost his hearing.


After this terrifying episode, Adam visited the embassy doctor, who conducted a thorough examination to check for signs of a stroke or another medical ailment that could possibly explain the strange incident. The doctor could not find a cause, but he did make a startling disclosure: He had heard a similar noise several weeks prior. Later on, Adam confided with another friend about what had happened, and he revealed that he and his wife had the same experience.

At this point, it was abundantly clear that these were not isolated incidents: They were part of a pattern that was having a devastating effect on U.S. government personnel. Over the next few months, Adam heard the same piercing noise several more times, and the attacks continued even when he tried moving to a different apartment. Throughout this ordeal, Adam alerted his supervisors, but given the novelty and unexplained nature of these cases, his warnings either went unheeded or were dismissed as psychosomatic.

Meanwhile, the repeated exposure took a physical toll. Adam would wake up in a pool of blood from his nose and ears. Memos that once took him 20 minutes to write now took hours and were incomprehensible to those that read them. He often felt off balance, and his vision blurred. Eventually, a summary of his medical history and a recording he took of the noise were elevated in his chain of command, and it was confirmed that the sound he kept hearing could cause serious injury or even death. Shortly thereafter, he was pulled out of Cuba and began receiving treatment for a traumatic brain injury.

Adam continued working and became an advocate for other victims from within his agency, creating an informal support network. He also advocated for his superiors to formally acknowledge and respond to Havana Syndrome.

Forced to battle the bureaucracy and grapple with his own mounting health challenges, Adam contemplated taking his own life. Moreover, he was facing significant expenses due to his symptoms, such as needing to hire outside help to assist him with daily tasks he could no longer accomplish on his own.

One evening, he lamented to his wife that the limitations of the federal workers’ compensation program meant he could only receive partial benefits because there was simply no precedent for providing assistance for this type of injury.


“Then you should change the system,” his wife encouraged him.

It was then that Adam contacted me and described the challenges he was enduring. I invited him to come to Washington, D.C., where he shared his compelling story with my colleagues on the Senate Intelligence Committee. I repeatedly discussed this issue with CIA Director Burns, and I have also raised it with Secretary of State Blinken. I also authored the HAVANA Act, which will provide financial support to U.S. government employees, their dependents and other designated individuals who suffer brain injuries in connection to their service to our country.

I am pleased to say that Adam has received the much-needed additional treatments for which he so strongly advocated. He still struggles with the lasting effects of the traumatic brain injury and was forced to medically retire; however, he has found a new purpose in helping newly affected personnel navigate their injuries and the system. Because of people like Adam and others who have spoken up about their injuries, the intelligence community has made great strides to better support personnel in the years since Havana Syndrome was first reported. CIA Director Burns, in particular, has been a breath of fresh air on this issue and has met personally with many of the victims, improved their access to medical treatment, and pledged to get to the bottom of the attacks.

Americans who have suffered from Havana Syndrome while serving our country should be treated the same way we would treat a soldier who suffered a traumatic brain injury on the battlefield. Now that the HAVANA Act is signed into law, Adam and others who have suffered from Havana Syndrome will finally receive the financial assistance that they deserve. As we continue our efforts to support victims, we must also redouble our whole-of-government approach to identify and stop the heartless adversary who is harming U.S. personnel.

— Special to the Telegram

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