Foreign Policy

Scientists: The Diplomatic “Sonic Attacks” in Cuba Weren’t Sonic At All

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

We'll have to stop referring to the still-unexplained attacks on American diplomats in Cuba as "sonic attacks" because they apparently did not involve sound waves.

Victims of the mysterious attacks all say they heard loud noises, leading to early reports that referred to these incidents as "sonic attacks," but a group of scientists who study threats to national security for the federal government say the perception of sound was a side effect.

According to the New York Times, scientists who've been studying the attacks for the past year now believe the sounds and the various physical side effects the victims have suffered from were the result of some form of weaponized microwaves.

The medical team that examined 21 affected diplomats from Cuba made no mention of microwaves in its detailed report published in JAMA in March. But Douglas H. Smith, the study’s lead author and director of the Center for Brain Injury and Repair at the University of Pennsylvania, said in a recent interview that microwaves were now considered a main suspect and that the team was increasingly sure the diplomats had suffered brain injury. [...]

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.

Some of the victims told investigators that they heard sounds even when they covered their ears, but covering their ears didn't help because they weren't actually hearing a sound. Targeted microwaves tricked their brains into thinking they heard sound. The scientists say even a deaf person would have felt as though they could hear something.

In addition to tricking the victims' brains, the scientist say targeted microwaves could also cause the concussion-like symptoms reported by the victims such as dizziness and nausea. It could even cause long-term or permanent brain damage.

The New York Times goes into greater detail about the historical development of weapons and systems that use microwaves, including work by the Soviet Union and by our own Department of Defense which amusingly contracted former Russians to work on it.

Whatever the case may be and regardless of who carried out the attacks, they appear to have been successful.

If the goal of attacking American diplomats in Cuba was to sour diplomatic relations, it worked. The Trump regime and any other hypothetical Republican administration would have been inclined to withdraw from Cuba after President Obama moved toward normalizing our relations, but these attacks gave Trump the perfect excuse.

The State Department still hasn't pointed a finger at the Cuban government or any other perpetrator, but that obviously didn't stop Trump from rolling back another major accomplishment of President Obama.

I wonder if the attackers knew this would prompt Trump to roll back relations or if Trump turned out to be even Trumpier than they imagined.

  • muselet

    [DISCLAIMER: I am not a physicist. I took one year of physics at the university level and never looked back. If I’m wrong about any or all of this, I trust any physicists out there will set me straight.]

    The Inverse-Square Law would seem to be a good argument against electromagnetic energy being the cause of the symptoms.

    I have no idea what that cause would be, and in the abstract microwave radiation is not an absurd suggestion, but an application like this would require lots of power fucused very tightly. You should be able to find the source of such a microwave emitter by following the trail of dead birds.

    Color me skeptical.


  • I think it’s ridiculous to assume, as the Administration did, that the Cubans are behind this. They likely don’t have the tech, PLUS I have to think they are thrilled to have us engaging them.

    I wonder who might not want us there? Hmmm.

    • Badgerite

      All trump needed was an excuse. Someone gave him one. Hmmm. Let me think. Who would do such a thing?

    • I know, right? I said on this very blog right when it happened it was the Russians and they did it to give Trumpov an excuse to end diplomatic relations. What I wouldn’t give for some kind of tape or written communication that exposed this. Then we’d have Trump not only on collusion but conspiracy to commit aggravated assault of American citizens. I can’t even begin to describe how I want to see Trumpov and Co spend the rest of their lives in prison.

  • katanahamon

    Who’s willing to microwave their head to see if you hear sounds while it happens? ..anyone??

    • JMAshby

      The scientist who discovered it did exactly that.

      From the Times:

      Mr. Frey, a biologist, said he stumbled on the acoustic effect in 1960 while working for General Electric’s Advanced Electronics Center at Cornell University. A man who measured radar signals at a nearby G.E. facility came up to him at a meeting and confided that he could hear the beam’s pulses — zip, zip, zip.

      Intrigued, Mr. Frey traveled to the man’s workplace in Syracuse and positioned himself in a radar beam. “Lo,” he recalled, “I could hear it, too.”

      Mr. Frey’s resulting papers — reporting that even deaf people could hear the false sounds — founded a new field of study on radiation’s neural impacts. Mr. Frey’s first paper, in 1961, reported that power densities 160 times lower than “the standard maximum safe level for continuous exposure” could induce the sonic delusions.

      • katanahamon

        I was framing it as a rhetorical question, but humor sometimes doesn’t translate into print very well..guess I should have added “Bueller..??”..
        I actually purchased an EM field detector, it’s shocking (hmm..pun sort of intended) how much EM comes out of your home microwave, but even an iPad or home base type telephone.

        • JMAshby

          I understand, I was just adding context because I didn’t include it above.