back to article US yanks staff from Cuban embassy over sonic death ray fears

The US State Department on Friday announced that it is pulling all non-essential staff and their families out of its embassy in Cuba following reports of a secret weapon being deployed against employees there. In a communiqué, the department said that the embassy would be reduced to an emergency skeleton staff until future …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can I be the first to call bullshit on these claims by an American government run by the clown prince?

    How bizarre it is that every enemy is a society not aligned with the USA and it's debt and capitalist model.

    1. kain preacher

      Americans were not the only ones injured.

      1. mics39
        Unhappy

        Canadians unfortunately are often collaterally damaged.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        When you say "injured" how do you mean? It's an invisible threat that can't be quantified from a secret weapon nobody has seen and nobody has any information on. Am I to believe that the Cubans have developed a weapon without the US knowing anything about it that they can deploy invisibly even though the US have lots of satellites that could quite easily locate them. They have also invited the FBI to come and investigate.

        Behold the mighty power of my invisible gun, I shall aim it with my mind and smite the Americans down in their embassy because <insert reason here, because I can't think of one>

        Does America have a Department Of Bullshit for these things?

        1. oiseau Silver badge
          Facepalm

          "Does America have a Department Of Bullshit for these things?"

          Hmm ...

          It would seem so.

          Everything indicates it is inside the Oval Office and the guy who runs it 24/7 moonlights as a false epipremnum aureum.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            I did wonder what Tony Blair was up to these days.

            1. TheVogon Silver badge

              "I did wonder what Tony Blair was up to these days."

              It can't be worse than "middle east peace envoy" ! What a great job he did of that....

        2. SuccessCase

          “secret weapon nobody has seen and nobody has any information on”

          Sonic attacks are hardly secret or hard to do. They just aren’t that common.

          And the guy in the picture, is not under sonic attack. If i’m Not mistaken, i’d say he is suffering the effects of depressurisation and the sand definitely looks like it is Martian, so I deduce he’s lost his space helmet whilst on Mars (and possibly Arnold Swarzenegger is nearby).

          1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

            "

            Sonic attacks are hardly secret or hard to do.

            "

            Nor are they difficult to detect. A phone app could detect them.

          2. J. Cook Silver badge
            Boffin

            The picture is a screen cap of the main bad guy from the first film titled "Total Recall"; you've nailed it right on the head there. :D

        3. kain preacher

          When you say "injured" how do you mean

          hearing loss

          Oh and they are not blaming the Cubans. They always says from an unknown source.

      3. jmch Silver badge

        I second the 'bullshit' call. CIA have huge technical capability. For example overhear conversations by bouncing a laser off a window and measuring the interference caused by sound waves vibrating on the window. Surely they also have more advanced capabilities not known to the general public.

        A 'sonic ray' should be easily detected by a microphone operating in the right frequency, and with some spectrum analysis and triangulation it should be trivial for CIA tech guys to identify such a ray, what's causing it and where it's coming from. Same goes even if the 'ray' isn't exactly 'sonic' but something else. And if there was any actual proof of such a 'weapon' being used, you can be sure that the tweeter in-chief would be close to declaring war... instead all we are hearing out of the US is bluster and hearsay.

        If Americans aren't the only ones suffering symptons, that's neither here nor there. Could just as easily be down to unknown environmental factors rather than collateral damage from a targeted attack. Whether it's targeted or untargeted, it seems more likely to me that it's something environmental (I would have thought 'something in the water' but USAians are notoriously reluctant to drink tap water)

        1. rh587

          I second the 'bullshit' call. CIA have huge technical capability. For example overhear conversations by bouncing a laser off a window and measuring the interference caused by sound waves vibrating on the window.

          Yeah, this.

          They may be shouting that it's the Cuban's responsibility to ensure the protection of visiting Diplomatic staff, but US Counter-Intelligence groups can and do sweep embassies and diplomatic premises for bugs and it seems highly improbable that they would allow their staff to be "attacked" for a period of months without taking some sort of diagnostic action - the Cubans/Russians/SPECTRE could have been listening in. They're also quite familiar with acoustic espionage tools and weapons, having developed a few themselves over the years!

          I find it inconceivable that after the first few reports they didn't install additional counter-espionage and monitoring tools, step up their sweeps, etc.

          Seems far more likely it's something bad in the aircon, CO fumes from a bad boiler, sick building syndrome or the like.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sonic Attack

      In case of Sonic Attack on your district, follow these rules:

      If you are making love it is imperative to bring all bodies to orgasm simultaneously.

      Do not waste time blocking your ears.

      Do not waste time seeking a "sound proofed" shelter.

      Try to get as far away from the sonic source as possible

      Do not panic

      Do not panic

      Use your wheels. It is what they are for.

      Small babies may be placed inside the special cocoons

      and should be left, if possible, in shelters.

      Do not attempt to use your own limbs.

      If no wheels are available - metal - not organic -

      limbs should be employed whenever practical.

      [...]

      1. smudge
        Alien

        Re: Sonic Attack

        Thinking only of myself.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Can I be the first to call bullshit on these claims by an American government run by the clown prince?"

      ^ That is just cheap and crude denial because the victims of these attacks have been medically examined.

      The question then becomes, "Who is doing this and why?". My money's on either hardline Cuban regime members or the Russians who just don't want to see a Cuba-USA rapprochement.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        If this is a sonic attack, then one would think that it could be detected by a suitable type of microphone. There's no need to try to localise the source - just have a big flashing red light to warn the user to get out.

        Is it possible that there's something rather more ordinary going on - e.g. a low-level carbon monoxide leak from badly-maintained boilers?

  2. Mephistro Silver badge

    I'd bet my monies on...

    ... some viral infection or light food poisoning. Both can cause short term symptoms like the ones listed in the article.

    And it'd be trivial for the USA to deploy sound analysers able to identify sonic attacks. Hell, they could probably do it with an app for smartphones and tablets! If they haven't done this already -or they have, but haven't detected said weapon- it's probably because this 'sonic weapon' is just a load of BS that goes well with El Cheeto's plans for Cuba.

    1. malle-herbert
      Joke

      Re: I'd bet my monies on...

      My money is on the Atreides...

      1. Teiwaz Silver badge

        Re: I'd bet my monies on...

        My money is on the Atreides...

        Well, the David Lynch version anyway - just a more easily quantifiable 'secret weapon' than the nebulous political one in the book, which, however made a lot more sense.

        1. israel_hands

          Re: I'd bet my monies on...

          In the book the "secret weapon" is Fremen warriors trained in the "weirding combat" of the Bene Geserit. Think galaxy's greatest warriors + galaxy's most lethal secret martial art = a lot of suddenly very dead Sardaukar and a very nervous Emperor.

          Anyway, as to this nonsensical "red scare" sonic attack bullshit I'm expecting it to turn out the hotel and embassy share a water source which has probably been contaminated with something. There are plenty of bugs that can cause the reported symptoms and a sonic attack is trivial to detect with even a fairly shitty recorder and some software.

          It does seem very retro though. Like a throwback to the 60's and 70's. Maybe it's all being orchestrated by the CIA, sick of everyone talking about the autistic number-crunchers at the NSA and desperate to get back to a time when they were everyone's favourite spooks.

          1. Teiwaz Silver badge

            Re: I'd bet my monies on...

            In the book the "secret weapon" is Fremen warriors trained in the "weirding combat" of the Bene Geserit. Think galaxy's greatest warriors + galaxy's most lethal secret martial art = a lot of suddenly very dead Sardaukar and a very nervous Emperor.

            Sort of yes/no

            What made the Emperor nervous was Duke Letos popularity among the other Great Houses, the ease at which he inspired loyalty by being/appearing a man of the people. Sending House Atreides to Arrakeen was to make them vulnerable - the Empire had no idea there were so many desert fanatics.

            The Fremen trained up in the Bene Gesserit 'weirding way' of combat came after the fall of House Atreides. It was a secret weapon, just not the secret weapon that the Emperor found initially threatening and made him fearful enough to assist House Harkonnen in the destruction of House Atreides.

            1. breakfast

              Re: I'd bet my monies on...

              Of course the key strategic failing of all the Great Houses on Dune was that they would always attack the most southerly(? I think? It has been almost 20 years .) unit first, so you could put something unimportant at the bottom of the map and build up your troops easily to overwhelm their bases.

              1. Teiwaz Silver badge

                Re: I'd bet my monies on...Game version

                I think I still have a copy of the Dune Game somewhere - wonder if it still runs on Dosbox....

                Far less annoying than Jeff Waynes war of the worlds game (all that ...loading combat map)

    2. BillG
      Pirate

      Re: I'd bet my monies on...

      Very low frequencies can have uncomfortable effects on the human body.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I'd bet my monies on...

        "Very low frequencies can have uncomfortable effects on the human body."

        Depends if you're smashed off your tits listening the drum and bass. (or as I like to call it, bum and face)

    3. Captain DaFt

      Re: I'd bet my monies on...

      And it'd be trivial for the USA to deploy sound analysers able to identify sonic attacks.

      Might be real, but not an attack at all, just poorly designed fans.

      Cuba is hot, hot and humid. Wanna bet how many oviet designed fans/ACs there are running there?

      “infrasound”, are ultra low frequencies that we cannot hear but can be felt as vibration. However, our brain is affected by this ultra low frequency and will appear as stress of unknown cause. Low frequencies have stronger oscillatory wave to the brain through skull and other bones. (from the webpage)

      1. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

        Re: I'd bet my monies on...

        I've experienced the infrasonic air conditioning torture in office buildings. It's irritating, like a baby screaming constantly, but less noticeable because it's not interpreted as an audible tone. Having that stress while you are sleeping too could cause some damage.

        The one problem with the theory is that you CAN hear and feel infrasonic sounds. It's just not a tone so it doesn't register in your brain as a sound. It's more like the sensation you get when somebody sneaks up behind you. Infrasonic sound also causes walls, pipes, wires, and glass to squeak very slightly. Some other audible noise would be needed to mask out conscious detection of the infrasonic noise. It's a bit complex to be plausible.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'd bet my monies on...

      ... some viral infection or light food poisoning ...

      Personally, I would bet on the rum and nicotine over-indulgence: cuban rum is a dangerous thing if you are not used to dringking it - by the time you start noticing the effects, you are already too plastered to stop. Combine that with a good, strong cigar you have no clue how to smoke properly, and buzzing in your ears will be the least of your problems next morning.

    5. Orv Silver badge

      Re: I'd bet my monies on...

      I was thinking something like "sick building syndrome," where one or two people fall ill for unrelated reasons, then everyone else makes themselves sick with the placebo effect.

    6. technoise

      Re: I'd bet my monies on...

      Mephistro: And it'd be trivial for the USA to deploy sound analysers able to identify sonic attacks. Hell, they could probably do it with an app for smartphones and tablets!

      Maybe not for smartphones and tablets since they will be equipped with microphones designed to work in the normal range of human hearing. However, yes, I think even a hobbyist could rig up devices for monitoring AF and RF at a wide range of frequencies.

      1. Mephistro Silver badge

        Re: I'd bet my monies on...

        "Maybe not for smartphones and tablets since they will be equipped with microphones designed to work in the normal range of human hearing. "

        I read in ElReg a few weeks ago that a group of boffins were using harmonics and other similar tricks to detect ultrasounds with mobes. The acceleration sensors have been used already to detect infrasounds. Not sure this method would be precise enough for this particular context, though.

  3. 2Nick3
    Megaphone

    Can you hear me now?

    EOM

  4. Alister Silver badge

    I'm also quite sceptical about these alleged attacks, primarily because I really can't see what the motive would be.

    Cuba and America have only recently re-established diplomatic relations after decades of sanctions, and I don't understand why it would be of benefit to Cuba to piss of the Americans again.

    1. kain preacher

      They are saying they are not sure who is behind it. Canadians have been targeted as well. So not sure what the end game is .

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "They are saying they are not sure who is behind it. Canadians have been targeted as well. So not sure what the end game is ."

        If it's not communists then it must islamisistsisms

      2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Windows

        Canadians have been targeted as well

        If Canadians have been "targeted", then I suppose it must be real.

        It's probably just the dumb-rays being deployed the world over by Justified Ancients, their frequencies must be off. Carry on.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "It's probably just the dumb-rays being deployed the world over by Justified Ancients,.... "

          Are those the Mu Mu ones?

    2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      A Country in Turmoil and Terrified by Rabid War Machinery?

      and I don't understand why it would be of benefit to Cuba to piss of the Americans again. .... Alister

      Alister, the better question to be asking is what is the benefit to America to be pissing off Cubans again?

    3. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      IF anyone's behind this (I find the rum and cigars plausible) then the anti-castro community in Miami would be a beneficiary, they have been against this from the start.

    4. smudge

      Cuba and America have only recently re-established diplomatic relations after decades of sanctions, and I don't understand why it would be of benefit to Cuba to piss of the Americans again.

      So who would want to piss them off? (Yes, I know - who wouldn't? - but I'm being serious for a change.)

      I would start off by checking where the North Korean embassy is.

      1. CraPo

        About 2km away

        https://www.google.co.uk/maps/dir/Embassy+of+the+United+States+of+America,+Calzada,+Havana,+Cuba/Paseo+Habana,+Calle+A,+La+Habana,+Cuba/@23.1389805,-82.3957429,16z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m13!4m12!1m5!1m1!1s0x88cd79d5f1d6817b:0xa66689f666e933e!2m2!1d-82.3876316!2d23.1458786!1m5!1m1!1s0x88cd77643b791045:0x335c618cffac812c!2m2!1d-82.3956105!2d23.1344525

  5. Mahhn

    This is what it is

    It's a False flag event. Yes the people are really being sacrificed (made deaf, brain damaged) for the sake of forcing Cuba to give Turnip a "better deal" as he has been insisting on. And this is what they are using to do it: https://www.wired.com/2008/07/the-microwave-s/

    Who are they? well that depends on how deep your conspiracy theories are.

    1. ma1010 Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: This is what it is

      @Mahhn

      That's the first time I've read any plausible explanation of this phenomenon. It's horrible. It seems obvious to me that this is something that should be banned internationally, rather than, as the author of the article seems to suggest, used in shopping malls to beam advertisements into people's heads. (I hope the author was just taking the piss on that, but I wouldn't bet on it.)

      False flag event? I hope not, but can't rule it out. So much of the time nowadays it seems like the US government is slipping back into the 1950's when they could do just about anything they could imagine and get away with it. Back then it was "'cause Russians" and now it's "'cause terrorism." Hopefully there's something that's going to stop them as happened back in the 1960's and 70's.

      1. Mark 110

        Re: This is what it is

        What are you going to ban? Noone knows what it is yet. If you don't know what it is then good luck banning it . . .

      2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: This is what it is

        Back then it was "'cause Russians" and now it's "'cause terrorism."

        Newsflash: Now it's "Coz Russians fighting Our Terrorism" (and spoiling the rightful Diversity Coronation of Brat Hillary, but that's just by-the-by)

  6. HildyJ Silver badge

    Orange Herring

    It's a complete orange herring from Trump to drum up anti-Cuba sentiment. The most likely cause according to scientists is accidental exposure to unregulated chemicals, probably from cleaners and exterminators. Sonic devices are as credible as aliens.

    From an excellent analysis in The Verge: "A much more likely explanation for the symptoms is some kind of chemical exposure, Oghalai [Chair of the Caruso Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Southern California] says. That’s a lot more simple.” https://www.theverge.com/2017/9/16/16316048/sonic-weapon-cuba-us-canadian-diplomats-ultrasound-infrasound-science

    1. handleoclast

      Re: Orange Herring

      You deserve mega upthumbs for "Orange Herring."

      I shall almost certainly steal it for use elsewhere. :)

    2. Scroticus Canis

      Re: Orange Herring - "some kind of chemical exposure"

      That is the most logical explanation, there are loads of ototoxic compounds around and some used medicinally (aspirin, quinine are two common ones). Also possible is the virus/infection scenario.

      An epidemiologist should be able to narrow down the commonalities of those affected if there is a 'concerted' cause.

      Sonic weapons are just too bulky for effective subsonic effects and building material would quickly dampen ultrasonic frequencies. You also need loads of power in the generated frequency for it to have much physical or physiological effect over any distance.

      1. Mark 110

        Re: Orange Herring - "some kind of chemical exposure"

        And obviously there's been no toxicology done on the victims? Not sure that a chemical affect would hold water. I can't believe all the victims would fail to get independent toxicology even if there was a CIA conspiracy feeding them clear results.

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