Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday said a health attack on a U.S. government employee in China is medically “consistent” with those that took place against 25 U.S. diplomats in Cuba over the past two years.
Pompeo told senators that he didn’t know if the sonic attacks that took place against U.S. diplomats and other personnel in Cuba were exactly the same as the single medically confirmed health incident that an American employee experienced earlier this year while working at a U.S. consulate in China.
“That’s a very good question,” Pompeo told Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.) during testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee. “I don’t know if they were the same events. It is the case that the medical condition, the single medical condition to date in China is, as the medical folks would say, consistent with what happened in Cuba.”
“We are now up to two-dozen plus in Cuba. We do not know the source of either of these,” he said. “We are continuing to investigate in both places.”
Leahy pressed Pompeo on why the State Department chose to dramatically draw down U.S. personnel from the U.S. embassy in Havana and expel Cuban diplomats from the United States while only sending a few U.S. diplomats home from China after a similar health incident in April of this year.
The Democratic senator also pointed out the attacks triggered a Level 3 travel advisory warning advising U.S. visitors not to travel to Cuba while the State Department issues only a health alert and no ordered departure in response to the health attack in China.
Level 3 travel advisories are warnings to Americans to reconsider travel to that particular country; the same ranking is given to Russia and Turkey.
Pompeo said the different policies were a response to the “magnitude, scope, consistency, and time period” differences between what happened in China and Cuba.
“But I am deeply aware that if we determine that we face a similar situation [in China], you can expect that a response our government would take would be commensurate with the risk our officers face,” he said.
He also noted that the Chinese government has responded—at least initially—in a more responsive way than the Cuban government did.
“But neither of those ha led to a satisfactory outcome we can determine how to keep foreign service officers and State Department officials and foreign commercial officers serving in embassies in those two places safe,” he said.
In early June, the State Department confirmed that it evacuated a U.S. worker who experienced a health incident from the U.S. consulate in Guangzhou, China.
U.S. doctors later diagnosed the employee with brain trauma, a diagnosis that matches some of the debilitating cognitive health issues 25 U.S. personnel experienced while working at the U.S. embassy in Havana.
A different American employee who experience mysterious neurological symptoms while working in the same consulate accused the State Department of failing to inform him and others about the first employee’s similar health concerns until a month after the staffer was evacuated.
The complaints about the lack of warnings echo similar objections made last year when news broke about the mysterious sonic attacks U.S. diplomats and their families experienced in Cuba.
The attacks began sometime in mid-to-late 2016, according to U.S. officials who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.
Last week, the State Department confirmed that another U.S. employee experienced an unexplained health attack while working in Cuba, bringing the total number of U.S. personnel impacted to 25.