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Senate Panel Told U.S. Is Still Trying To Get To The Bottom Of Havana Syndrome

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

President Biden has a long list of concerns to raise with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, when they meet at a summit next week in Switzerland. Some U.S. senators want him to add another - so-called directed energy attacks happening against U.S. personnel overseas. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: The Senate has passed legislation to give more assistance to U.S. diplomats and intelligence officials who are suffering from neurological symptoms from these mysterious attacks, and Senator Susan Collins suggested this should be on the agenda for the upcoming summit with Russia.

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SUSAN COLLINS: ...Since Russia is one of the countries that is suspected of wielding this weapon?

KELEMEN: Secretary of State Antony Blinken, though, is not so sure.

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ANTONY BLINKEN: Here's the hard reality right now. We do not know what caused these incidents. We do not know who, if anyone, is actually responsible.

KELEMEN: He told the Senate hearing yesterday that the U.S. government is still trying to get to the bottom of this. The Havana Syndrome, as it's known, first appeared in 2016. About 40 U.S. officials in Cuba and about a dozen in China started suffering severe headaches, dizziness and other symptoms. Blinken says the State Department is now starting a baseline testing program for all U.S. officials before they head out to the field.

BLINKEN: And that will create some standard by which to measure in the future, should there be incidents, to determine whether there is actually a difference between their baseline medical state and something that might have affected them.

KELEMEN: Senator Collins sounded frustrated with his responses.

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COLLINS: I think we need to move to determining which adversary is using what kind of weapon to harm our American personnel.

KELEMEN: In December, the National Academies of Sciences issued a report saying that microwave radiation was the most plausible cause of the Havana Syndrome.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE BEST PESSIMIST'S "MY LONG GOODBYE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.