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Havana Syndrome attack on CIA officer in India – Know about causes & symptoms

Havana Syndrome attack on CIA officer in India – Know about causes & symptoms


  • GS 3 || Security || Tackling Security Threats || Intelligence Agencies

Why in news?

Havana Syndrome attack on CIA officer in India

Present Context:

  • US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director William Burns could lead an “egregious escalation” if it was found an adversarial power was involved in a fellow intelligence officer developing Havana Syndrome while the two were in India earlier this month, the country’s media has reported.
  • This is the first case of the phenomenon being reported on record in India and could have long-term diplomatic implications.

National Academies of Sciences (NAS) report on the ‘Havana syndrome’:

  • In the year 2020, The National Academy of Sciences research, titled “An assessment of disease in US government employees and their families at abroad embassies,” looked into four possible causes for the symptoms: infection, chemicals, psychological issues, and microwave energy.
  • According to the report, “directed” microwave radiation is the “possible” reason.
  • Report’s Highlighted Issues
    • “Vestibular processing and cognitive issues, as well as insomnia and headache” were among the more chronic problems experienced by Havana employees.
  • The study also raises the prospect of future instances and suggests that the State Department build a response mechanism in the event of such occurrences.
  • The National Academies of Sciences (NAS) is a government-funded, non-profit organization based in the United States of America.

What are ‘Microwave Weapons’?


  • Microwave weapons” are supposed to be a type of direct energy weapons, which aim for highly focused energy in the form of sonic, laser, or microwaves, at a target.
  • These weapons are based on the principle that microwave radiation of a certain kind can cause a buzzing sensation in the head, due to a phenomenon known as the thermo elastic effect.
  • Such a weaponized microwave beam may cause a very slight expansion of the brain and produce a sound-like pressure, which strictly speaking is not sound but can be traumatic.

Microwave-weapons-wielding countries:

  • China originally displayed its “microwave weapon,” known as Poly WB-1, at an air show in 2014, according to a story in “The Daily Mail.”
  • The US has also created a microwave-style weapon prototype known as the “Active Denial System.”

In the past, there have been instances of usage:

  • The United States deployed such a weapon in Afghanistan, but it was quickly removed after it was never used on human targets.
  • Employees at the US embassy in Havana, Cuba, were allegedly targeted with a covert sonic weapon in the second half of 2017, according to reports.
  • Staff at the US consulate in Guangzhou, China, later protested in 2018 about a probable similar incident in 2017.


  • Concerns have been raised about whether they can harm the eyes or have a long-term carcinogenic effect.
  • These weapons are thought to have been developed by a number of countries to attack both humans and electronic systems.
  • It has both short- and long-term impacts, and it does so without causing bodily harm.

India’s directed energy weapons plans:

  • The ambitious Directed Energy Weapon (DEWs) project of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is taking a huge step forward in making India a strong military force by harnessing the power of lasers and microwaves.
  • DEWs employ high-energy lasers and microwaves, and this technology is regarded as a crucial new military know-how on which all major powers are now working.
  • Short, medium, and long-term targets will be set by the DRDO, with the ultimate goal of developing multiple DEW variations with up to 100 kilowatts of power in partnership with the domestic sector.

All about Havana syndrome:

What is Havana Syndrome?

  • This sickness is a collection of unexplained medical symptoms that began in 2016 among US State Department workers stationed in Cuba. In 2018, the State Department reported similar incidents in China.
  • Symptoms: Symptoms of the condition include headaches, dizziness, exhaustion, anxiety, nausea, cognitive impairments, and variable degrees of memory loss.
  • Causes of Havana Syndromes:
    • Initially, it was thought that the illness was caused by a sonic or acoustic weapon attack. However, a thorough investigation by a U.S. scientific team later revealed that exposure to a sort of focused energy is the main cause. Microwave radiation was identified as the primary cause in a different medical assessment undertaken in 2018.

Mains oriented question:

What is Havana Syndrome? What are its causes? (150 words)