Animal experiments on ferrets are being conducted by the US government in an effort to understand the Havana Syndrome, which has afflicted hundreds of officials.
The experiments are being funded by the Department of Defense and seek to determine if radio frequency waves may be the cause of the perplexing illness, Politico initially reported.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence found last week that there’s no credible evidence that a foreign power is using any kind of weapon to cause the syndrome, but the Defense Department is still looking at that possibility.
Wayne State University in Michigan was handed a $750,000 grant in September by the Army to look at the effects of radiofrequency waves on ferrets, whose brains are similar to those of humans, information shared on USASpending.gov reveals. The study is attempting to understand if the experiment will cause symptoms similar to those experienced by US government personnel in Havana, Cuba, and China.
The reported symptoms include serious headaches, temporary hearing loss, vertigo, and other afflictions similar to a traumatic brain injury.
The Defense Department has also used pulsed frequencies in experiments on primates to find if those effects may be connected to what the government refers to as “anomalous health incidents,” a current and a former official told Politico, which noted that it remains unclear if these internal experiments are still taking place.
A spokesperson for the Defense Department, Lieutenant Commander Tim Gorman, confirmed to The Independent that Wayne State University had been given the grant and that they, alongside researchers from the University of Michigan, “will develop and test a novel laboratory animal model to mimic mild concussive head injury”.
“Behavioral, imaging, and histological studies will determine if the model is comparable to the abnormalities seen in humans following concussive head injury,” he said.
“The model may subsequently be used to test potential treatments to alleviate the deficits associated with traumatic brain injury,” he added.
He chose not to comment on if the department had recently performed experiments on primates.
Lt Cmdr Gorman noted that in accordance with congressional directives, “DoD continues to address the challenges posed by [Anamoulous Health Incidents], including the causation, attribution, mitigation, identification and treatment for such incidents”.
“Our foremost concern remains providing care to affected individuals – since the health and wellbeing of our personnel are our top priority,” he said.
The study has been funded from 30 September 2022 until 29 September 2023.
The annual threat assessment put to Congress by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said this week that US intelligence is looking into “a subset of priority cases for which it has not ruled out any cause, including the possibility that one or more foreign actors were involved”.
The Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines, told Congress on Wednesday that the government is carrying on with its research “on the [science and technology] side to determine causation”.
PETA Vice President Shalin Gala criticised the Defense Department for its animal testing.
“We are disturbed by a reported military plan [exposing] monkeys to pulsed microwave radiation in a misguided attempt to determine human brain effects associated with Havana Syndrome,” she said, according to Politico. “This has been debunked as has the purported justification for the Army’s current $750,000 taxpayer-funded brain injury experiment that bombards 48 ferrets with radio waves.”
A former intelligence official told the outlet that this research being conducted means the Defence Department has “extremely solid science”.
“You don’t get approval for animal testing unless the science is there. … You’ve already proven out that the science is correct and exists, and now you are looking at the biological impacts that can’t be modelled and you need a specimen to determine what it does biologically,” the ex-official said, adding that the department is processing other contracts to do further animal experiments.
Former CIA officer Marc Polymeropoulos experienced debilitating symptoms during a 2017 visit to Moscow from what was a suspected directed-energy attack.
He told Politico that “this type of testing will be integral to us finally finding out what happened to the AHI victims as we will be able to compare the imaging that was done on our brains to what will be seen from animals who are subject to radio frequency waves”.
The Wayne State University experiment was set to expose 48 ferrets to two hours of frequencies a day for 60 days, which was expected to lead to “an exposure profile that is likely comparable to that which our embassy personnel received”.
Another 24 ferrets would be exposed to “sham exposure”.
A study description from the Defense Technical Information Center’s public database states that “United States government officials working in our Embassies in Havana, Cuba, and China have been diagnosed with acquired neurosensory syndrome, commonly referred to as the Havana Syndrome”.
The summary added that victims experienced “symptoms and clinical findings resembling someone who has had a concussive head injury”.
The description adds that there’s a “strong rationale” that the Havana Syndrome has been caused by “occult exposure to radio frequency (RF) waves,” as it states that the Russians have utilised radio waves to listen in on US staff since the Cold War. It was then called the “Moscow Signal”.
The Independent has reached out to the Department of Defense for comment.