MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) will hold the first open public hearing Tuesday on the mysterious sonic attacks on U.S. diplomats and other personnel in Cuba.
The hearing, scheduled to start at 10:00 a.m. is entitled “Attacks on U.S. Diplomats in Cuba: Response and Oversight.”
The goal of the hearing is to establish the facts surrounding the attacks and conduct oversight over the State Department’s handling of the attacks.
Three State Department officials are scheduled to testify. Francisco Palmieri, the acting assistant secretary for the western hemisphere; Todd Brown, diplomatic security assistant director for international programs; and Charles Rosenfarb, medical director of the Bureau of Medical Services.
The State Department claims its diplomats in Havana were subjected to some kind of attack that produced a range of physical symptoms including hearing loss, headaches and dizziness. Consequently, the State Department pulled out most of its embassy staff and expelled a number of Cuban diplomats from the U.S.
In a statement provided to CBSMiami, the State Department wrote, “The investigation into the attacks is ongoing. We still do not have definitive answers on the source or cause of the attacks. As we’ve said previously, based on continued assessment of U.S. government personnel, 24 persons are confirmed to have experienced health effects. The most recent medically-confirmed attack occurred August 21, 2017. The State Department continues to be deeply concerned about the safety and security of our personnel. We continue to remind the Cuban government of its obligations under the Vienna Convention.”
The Cuban government has denied any involvement.
Sen. Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.) also said recently the US has found no evidence that American diplomats in Havana were the victims of attacks with an unknown weapon.
Flake, a Senate Foreign Relations Committee member and a longtime leading advocate of normalizing ties with Cuba, met Friday with high-ranking Cuban officials including Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez and officials from the Interior Ministry, which oversees domestic security and works with foreign law-enforcement agencies.
The Cubans told Flake the FBI has told them that, after four trips to Cuba, its agents have found no evidence that mysterious illnesses suffered by U.S. diplomats were the result of attacks.
Flake told The Associated Press on Saturday morning that classified briefings from U.S. officials have left him with no reason to doubt the Cuban account, although he declined to discuss the contents of those briefings.
Sen. Rubio took to Twitter on Sunday to push back against Flake’s comments.
“It’s a documented FACT that 24 U.S. government officials and spouses were victims of some sort of sophisticated attack with stationed in Havana,” Rubio tweeted Sunday.
It’s a documented FACT that 24 U.S. govt officials & spouses were victims of some sort of sophisticated attack while stationed in Havana 1/3
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) January 7, 2018
“Any U.S. official briefed on matter knows full well that while method of attack still in question, that attacks & injuries occurred isn’t,” he added in another tweet.
His final tweet reads: It is impossible to conduct 24 separate & sophisticated attacks on U.S. Govt personnel in Havana without #CastroRegime knowing about it.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said he’s “convinced these were targeted attacks,” but the U.S. doesn’t know who’s behind them.
Cuba has decried the reductions as an unjustified blow to U.S.-Cuban relations that were restored under President Barack Obama.
Flake, one of President Donald Trump’s toughest Republican critics, announced last year that he would not seek re-election as Senator from Arizona. He has not ruled out running against Trump in 2020.
Several of the 24 U.S. diplomats and spouses reported hearing loud, mysterious sounds followed by hearing loss and ear-ringing, leading some U.S. officials to describe the incidents as “sonic attacks.” But officials are now carefully avoiding that term.
Medical testing has revealed that some embassy workers had apparent abnormalities in their white matter tracts that let different parts of the brain communicate, several U.S. officials said, and acoustic waves have never been shown to alter those tracts.