Two prominent GOP lawmakers are pressing the Secretary of State Rex, Tillerson for a detailed and exact timeline of when Senior State Department officials first started exhibiting symptoms that they had been attacked in Cuba by a mysterious sonic (sound) weapon.
Representative Ed Royce, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Paul Cook, who chairs the panel’s Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, together sent a letter to Tillerson on Monday expressing their “grave concern” regarding the attacks that had occurred on the American diplomats and asked for additional details about them.
“As you know, the victims of these attacks have suffered serious health issues, including hearing loss, dizziness, nausea, cognitive difficulties, and trouble sleeping,” they wrote. “It is our hope that the answers to the questions below will advance the Committee’s ongoing oversight of the Department’s response.”
The first question the lawmakers asked in the letter focuses on the discrepancies involving when the State Department officials first learned of the attacks.
“When did senior State Department officials, such as the chief of mission in Havana, receive evidence of these attacks?” Royce and Cook had asked.
“In addition, press reports indicate that these attacks occurred from late 2016 until August 2017. Is there any evidence to suggest that attacks occurred before or after these dates?”
Royce and Cook also asked the Department to confirm whether the number of diplomats exhibiting symptoms has risen to 24, and if there was any evidence to suggest that this number could increase further.
The State Department has previously said it has not yet determined whether the Cuban government is directly responsible for the perpetrating the sonic attacks but had argued that the Castro regime is responsible for the safeguarding the security of U.S. officials in Havana, citing the international treaty requirements.
“Since the committee was last update, is there new evidence or analysis to suggest the source of these attacks?” they asked.
The lawmakers also wanted to know whether they believe “at least some element” of the Cuban government knows something about the sources of the attack and whether the department has any plans to provide any ongoing medical care to the victims “including after they—or their family members—have left government service.”
“While many members hold different views on U.S. policy towards Cuba, we all agree that the health and safety of our diplomats and their families is vital to the national security of the United States,” they further wrote.
Though the State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter.
The letter comes just one day before President Trump is expected to issue his own revision to Cuba travel policy. The administration earlier this year had announced changes to President Obama’s much looser travel policies. The Trump changes appeared small on the surface—individuals may no longer plan their own individual trips to the island nation and the trips must be made as part of educational groups only.
“The American people have every right to understand everything that happened to our diplomats serving abroad,” José Cárdenas, a former State Department official during the George W. Bush administration who now consults on Latin America issues, had said.
“We need an explicit timeline of when the State Department first learned of these reports of the health attacks,” he added. “We need to know who knew and when they knew it because there’s going to be a lot of suspicion that perhaps information was covered up in order to protect President Obama’s normalization process.”
Last week, all five Cuban-American House members had asked the Government Accountability Office similar questions and pressed on to investigate the State Department’s response to the sonic attacks in Cuba.