A U.S. senator has called for more transparency from the Biden administration regarding reports of "directed energy" attacks directed at U.S. troops and individuals in and around Washington, D.C.
In a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on global threats Thursday, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire asked Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines about the mysterious attacks, which were first reported in 2016 by U.S. Embassy personnel in Havana, Cuba. Diplomats and intelligence officials later reported similar events in China and Russia.
CNN reported Thursday that federal agencies are investigating at least two alleged attacks in the D.C. area, including one last year on a National Security Council official on the Ellipse, near the White House, and another in 2019 on a White House official in the Virginia suburbs.
The CNN report follows an article in Politico last week about a closed Pentagon briefing to the House Armed Services Committee regarding the threat such attacks pose to U.S. troops.
Politico had previously reported, based on sources, that the Pentagon was investigating suspected incidents involving U.S. service members.
According to the reports, Defense Department briefers told lawmakers they are increasingly concerned about the vulnerability of service members in the Middle East and some countries in South America.
During the briefing, DoD briefers allegedly pointed to Russia as likely being behind the attacks, although China was also raised as a suspect, according to Politico.
Shaheen said she is concerned that the "clampdown" on information about the attacks has led to leaks and that there is no way to know whether the media reports are correct.
"What more can be done to declassify this information, share it with members of Congress, that lets us better respond?" she asked. "After all, we have to fund operations, and there are a lot of personnel -- not a lot -- there are personnel who have been harmed and we need to make sure they get the care and benefits they need."
Haines cited reasons for the information being classified and said the intelligence community would brief members of Congress and ensure they have access to information needed to make funding and policy decisions.
"I would argue that with stories like this," Shaheen countered, holding up a copy of the CNN article, "and with stories that have appeared over the last two years, really, and those people who have been affected and gone public, the horse is out of the barn on this."
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine released a report late last year saying that neurological symptoms experienced by nearly 50 State Department and Central Intelligence Agency employees -- including dizziness, tinnitus, intense cranial pressure and cognitive issues -- likely were caused by "directed, pulsed radiofrequency energy."
The study did not say where the attacks originated. The report noted, however, that previous research on similar injuries had been conducted in the former Soviet Union.
Shaheen was instrumental in crafting legislation that provides long-term emergency care benefits to those injured in China or Cuba; it also allows compensation to those who can no longer work as a result of their injuries.
During the hearing, Haines assured Shaheen that "leaders are focused on this issue" across the intelligence community.
-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Patricia.Kime@Monster.com. Follow her on Twitter @patricia.kime.