The CIA has removed its Vienna station chief amid criticism of his handling of intelligence officers and diplomats falling ill with the mysterious Havana syndrome, The Washington Post reports.
Pamela Spratlen, head of the State Department task force studying the episode, also stepped down this week after victims groups said she viewed the health incidents skeptically, failed to meet regularly with those affected and moved slowly to improve health care for them.
The mystery attacks leave people with headaches, dizziness and memory loss. Scores of State Department officials, CIA officers and their families have been affected. Experts studying the illness are still struggling to find evidence to back up the leading theory that microwave attacks are being launched by Russian agents.
“The attacks continue, people are really getting hurt, and I think that it’s just incumbent on the U.S. government to find out who’s behind this,” Marc Polymeropoulos, a 26-year veteran of the CIA who was forced to retire in July 2019 from overseeing clandestine operations in Europe because of the symptoms, told Fox News.
“This is a terror weapon. This is an act of war,” he added. “At one point it was plausible that this was a signals intelligence collection system, but I think now we’re looking at a device that is designed to terrorize, that is designed to incapacitate. It’s taking our officers off the battlefield. And, in fact, it’s actually leaving them … severely impaired.”
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., in an interview with MSNBC, suggested that Spratlen had been fired due to inaction.
“I thought that was an action that was positive in terms of providing the care that people need,” Shaheen said. “Sadly what we’re still hearing from employees at the Department of State who have been injured by this syndrome, these directed energy attacks, is that unlike some of their colleagues that work for CIA or Department of Defense, they have not been able to get the same care at Walter Reed and other hospitals so that needs to change.”
A State Department spokesman told Fox News that Spratlen “recently reached the threshold of hours of labor permitted” under her retired status. “We thank her for her service and invaluable contributions to the efforts of the task force.”