Among those closely watching the outcome of the summit between President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin is former CIA officer Marc Polymeropoulos, who believes the Russians attacked him with a secret weapon that uses high-energy waves to affect the brain.
“In December of 2017, I woke up in the middle of the night in a Moscow hotel just two blocks from the U.S. embassy,” Polymeropoulos said in an interview on the Law&Crime Network program Brian Ross Investigates. “And I woke up with an incredible case of vertigo, tinnitus, which is ringing in the ears, and a splitting headache.”
At the time, he was a senior CIA official overseeing operations in Russia after years of serving in war zones from Iraq to Afghanistan.
Polymeropoulos is one of some 130 American spies, diplomats and military personnel who have reported suffering from similar neurological symptoms of what’s being called the “Havana Syndrome” – a mysterious medical ailment first identified in Cuba in 2016, but reported by the Americans in six different countries, including the United States.
“This incident in Moscow is the most terrifying experience of my life,” he said.
There is no indication that Havana Syndrome attacks were raised as an issue at this week’s summit in Geneva, but Polymeropoulos believes the United States needs to press the Russians for answers to whether they are behind the attacks.
“I believe I was targeted because of my trip [to Russia],” Polymeropoulos shared in an interview with Brian Ross. “The Russians certainly knew who I was and at that time, we were embarking on what we call the great pushback against the Russians after their interference in the U.S. elections in 2016, as well as what they were doing in Europe.”
In a 2020 report, The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine identified the most likely root of the illness to be a rare form of pulsed radio frequency energy. According to the report, the afflicted U.S. officials were likely hit by a directed energy weapon, and Russian state actors have become recognized by many experts as the most plausible perpetrators of such attacks.
Some believe that the energy waves may have been emitted from Russian spyware due to a mishandled intelligence collection system. “That certainly is a possibility,” Polymeropoulus said of this conjecture. “I would never discount anything.”
In the three years that followed his initial set of symptoms, Polymeropoulos has continued to endure relentless neurological symptoms – from daily headaches to severe difficulty concentrating. He has found his life upended by the condition, whose effects have even forced him to step down from his coveted position at the CIA prematurely, during a time in which he had “a lot more left in the tank.”
“I didn’t want to retire at 50 years old,” Polymeropoulos told Brian Ross Investigates. “But the fact of the matter is, I couldn’t go to work for a full day. Just like now, I have about two or three hours a day where I can really concentrate until the headaches, which I’ve had every day for three years, get too severe and I have to rest.”
Despite the striking and exacting effects of the Havana Syndrome, Polymeropoulos and other victims have, for years, been met with expressions of doubt surrounding the validity of their experiences: “At the beginning, a lot of us were not believed by our parent organizations, whether it was the State Department, or Department of Defense, or the CIA,” Polymeropoulos said.
“But I think we’ve moved past that now,” he added. “You know, the victims are not making this up. There’s just too many of us. It’s happened too many times.”
Just last week, the U.S. Senate unanimously approved a bill designed to support U.S. public servants suffering from the Havana Syndrome. This act – dubbed the Helping American Victims Afflicted by Neurological Attacks (HAVANA) Act – would, if enacted, provide financial aid to officials affected by the neurological condition.
“Far too many ‘Havana Syndrome’ victims have had to battle the bureaucracy to receive care for their debilitating injuries,” said Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), who helped direct efforts to introduce the bill, in a recent statement. “American personnel who have undergone these attacks while serving our country should be treated the same way we would treat a soldier who suffered a traumatic injury on the battlefield.”
[image Courtesy of Marc Polymeropoulos]
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