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Health Effects seen in US Embassy Employees Exposed to Microwaves During the Cold War & Havana Cuba: A Connection?

Oct 28, 2017


Health Effects seen in US Embassy Employees in Moscow Exposed to Microwave Radiation During the Cold War

During the Cold War, the Russians bombarded the US embassy in Moscow with radiofrequency (microwave) radiation for several hours a day  for decades.

In 2017, U.S. State Department officials contended that Cuba staged a sonic or some sort of attack on employees of the American embassy, causing a variety of neurological symptoms which include cognitive difficulties and problems with balance, eye tracking, sleep disturbances and headache.

 2018 publication in JAMA The Journal of the American Medical Association  authored by the team of doctors at the University of Pennsylvania who examined 21 of the U.S. government (Cuba)employees found the patients had suffered from concussion like symptoms—but without any blunt trauma to the head. The Associated Press reported that MRI scans showed damage to white matter in the brains of embassy employees.

Could there be a connection between the two embassy situations?

Some reports say scientist it is crickets while other question how crickets could cause brain injury.

News Articles

Times of San Diego, UCSD Professor Offers Theory on What Affected Diplomats in Cuba and China, August 2018

New York Times, Microwave Weapons Are Prime Suspect in Ills of U.S. Embassy Workers, September 1, 2018

CNN, Microwaves suspected in ‘sonic attacks’ on US diplomats in Cuba and China, scientists say September 2, 2018

NBC News, Evacuated after ‘health attacks’ in Cuba and China, diplomats face new ordeals in U.S. October 29, 2018

NBC News,  Mother of U.S. diplomat hurt in ‘health attack’ speaks out, November 18, 2018  VIDEO

CBC News, Another Canadian diplomat in Cuba affected by mysterious brain injury, November 29, 2018

NPR, Doubts Rise About Evidence That U.S. Diplomats In Cuba Were Attacked, March 25, 2019

NBC Nightly News, Mother Of U.S. Diplomat Hurt In Mysterious ‘Health Attack’ Speaks Out, December 9, 2018

60 Minutes,  Brain trauma suffered by U.S. diplomats abroad could be work of hostile foreign government, March 17, 2019

Since 2016, dozens of American officials have come home from Cuba and China with unexplained brain trauma. Evidence shows it may be the work of another government using a weapon that leaves no trace

60 Minutes Is an invisible weapon targeting U.S. diplomats? How do you report on an attack that you can’t see? 60 Minutes producers say they approached it with skepticism, March 2019

60 Minutes, “60 Minutes” speaks with survivor of mysterious health attack in China, March 18 2019

Published Research

Golomb BA. Diplomats’ Mystery Illness and Pulsed Radiofrequency/Microwave Radiation. Neural Comput. 2018 Sep 05; 1-104. PMID: 30183509. PUB MED, Full Paper

  • A mystery illness striking U.S. and Canadian diplomats to Cuba (and now China) “has confounded the FBI, the State Department and US intelligence agencies” (Lederman, Weissenstein, & Lee, 2017). Sonic explanations for the so-called health attacks have long dominated media reports, propelled by peculiar sounds heard and auditory symptoms experienced. Sonic mediation was justly rejected by experts. We assessed whether pulsed radiofrequency/microwave radiation (RF/MW) exposure can accommodate reported facts in diplomats, including unusual ones.
  • Reported facts appear consistent with RF/MW as the source of injury in diplomats in Cuba. Nondiplomats citing symptoms from RF/MW, often with an inciting pulsed-RF/MW exposure, report compatible health conditions.

Frey Allen, Human Auditory System Response to Modulated Electromagnetic Energy J. Appl. Physiol. 17(4):689-692. 1962-

Allen Frey, Opinion: Cell Phone Health Risk? Security concerns during the Cold War may have led to the generation of misinformation on the physiological effects of microwave radiation from mobile phones.


The US Embassy in Havana, Cuba

“Sonic Weapon Attacks” on U.S. Embassy Don’t Add Up—for Anyone” Scientific American

“By August 2017, physicians at the University of Miami and Penn had diagnosed 24 of 80 embassy employees with mild traumatic brain injury, likely caused by “trauma due to a non-natural source.”

Neurological Manifestations Among US Government Personnel Reporting Directional Audible and Sensory Phenomena in Havana, Cuba, JAMA 2018

“In this preliminary report of a retrospective case series, persistent cognitive, vestibular, and oculomotor dysfunction, as well as sleep impairment and headaches, were observed among US government personnel in Havana, Cuba, associated with reports of directional audible and/or sensory phenomena of unclear origin. These individuals appeared to have sustained injury to widespread brain networks without an associated history of head trauma.”

Podcast:Audio Report of the findings (29:14) “Medical Findings In U.S. Government Personnel Reporting Symptoms After Exposure To Sensory Phenomena in Havana, Cuba”

Medical Findings In U.S. Government Personnel Reporting Symptoms After Exposure To Sensory Phenomena in Havana, Cuba

“Doctors find brain abnormalities in victims of Cuba mystery”, Associated Press 2017

“Medical testing has revealed the embassy workers developed changes to the white matter tracts that let different parts of the brain communicate, several U.S. officials said, describing a growing consensus held by university and government physicians researching the attacks. White matter acts like information highways between brain cells.”

The US Embassy in Moscow


Ambassador Walter Stoessel 1976 Memo released by Wikileaks

During the Cold War, the Russians bombarded the US embassy in Moscow with radiofrequency (microwave) radiation for several hours a day from the 1950s until 1979. The US government never confirmed the reason for the irradiation though there were several theories.  One was for covert audio surveillance of the embassy.  The wireless listening devices employed by the Russians were passive, and they were only activated in the presence of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields.  “The Thing” was the first such listening device discovered in the Ambassador’s office of the US embassy.   Other theories were for interference with American electronic‐intelligence equipment or for affecting the health or behavior of the employees at the embassy.  The irradiation exposed up to 3500 employees and dependents at the US embassy during this time, and it was kept secret from the embassy employees until 1976.

This really happened.  Here are some articles about it

Liakouris, Ana G. Johnson. “Radiofrequency (RF) Sickness in the Lilienfeld Study: An Effect of Modulated Microwaves?” Environmental Health 53.3 (1998): 236 – 238

Lilienfeld, A.M., et al. “Foreign Service health status study. Evaluation of Health Status of Foreign Service and Other Employees From Selected Eastern European Posts”. Report on Foreign Service Health Status Study, U.S. Dept of State 6025-619073 (31 July 1978).  

In 1978, epidemiologist and Professor Abraham Lilienfeld from John Hopkins University was hired to do a study on the health effects on the US embassy employees in Moscow who had been irradiated with microwaves.  The study is long, over 400 pages.  The study concluded that no significant increases were seen in cancer and morbidity rates caused by the microwave exposure but recommended that the employees continue to be monitored for long-term health effects since the time period covered by the study was relatively short.  There was no follow-up monitoring of the employees.    However, looking at actual data, some statistically significant increases in health effects  (p<0.05) were seen in the US Embassy employees who were exposed to chronic levels of microwave radiation compared to a similar population that was not located in Moscow.  There were about 3500 employees and dependents at the US embassy in Moscow during the study period, making this one of the largest epidemiological studies on the biological effects of chronic exposure to microwave radiation.  


The embassy employees were exposed to 600 MHz -9.5 GHz RF radiation (cell phone and Wi-Fi falls within this frequency range) for several hours a day.  Exposure levels to the embassy employees were well below current US government exposure guidelines, which is the FCC maximum permissible exposure limit of 1000 uW/cm2 for 30 minutes at frequencies 1.5-100 GHz.


The Exposure levels to the employees:

1953-May 1975: Maximum 5uW/cm2, 9hrs/day

June 1975 – February 7, 1976: 15uW/cm2, 18hrs/day

Since February 7, 1976: <1uW/cm2, 18hrs/day


The statistically significant health effects (p<0.05) seen in the US Embassy employees are as follows:


  1. 156, Table 6.22, Males only

Protozoal Intestinal disease, p = 0.001

Benign Neoplasms, p= 0.04


  1. 169, Table 6.27, Males only

Psoriasis, p=0.009

Skin Conditions (cysts, dermatitis, eczema)  p = 0.04

Eye problems, p = 0.0002


  1. 175, Table 6.31, Males only

Depression, p = 0.004

Irritability, p = 0.009

Difficulty Concentrating, p = 0.001

Memory Loss, p = 0.008


  1. 172, Table 6.29, Females only

Anemia, p = 0.03

Ulcers, p = 0.04


A review of the Lilienfeld study


Liakouris, Ana G. Johnson. “Radiofrequency (RF) Sickness in the Lilienfeld Study: An Effect of Modulated Microwaves?” Environmental Health 53.3 (1998): 236 – 238


concluded there were 4 statistically significant effects seen in exposed employees:   

  1. dermographism (eczema, inflammatory and allergic skin problems)
  2. neurological
  3. reproductive
  4. tumors


Ambassador Walter Stoessel, who served at the US embassy in Moscow during the time it was irradiated and who died of leukemia at age 66, wrote a memo in 1976 that the radiation levels measured at the embassy, 1-15uW/cm2, is many times higher than background levels of cities and that their medical experts say prolonged exposure at the levels at the embassy is a potential health hazard.  The memo was classified until 2006 and released by wikileaks.  The radiation levels measured were lower than the current US government exposure guideline, which is the FCC maximum permissible exposure limit of 1000uW/cm2 for 30 minutes at frequencies 1.5-100 GHz.


The memo: