A bipartisan group of senators is pushing Secretary of State Antony Blinken to immediately appoint someone to oversee the U.S. response to the Havana Syndrome, The Hill is reporting.
The request came in a letter from Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Jim Risch, R-Idaho, the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The letter was also signed by other members of the committee, including: Sens. Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn.; Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; Mitt Romney R-Utah; Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.; Ben Cardin, D-Md.; Chris Coons, D-Del.; Tim Kaine, D-Va.; Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii; and Cory Booker, D-N.J.
"We urge you to immediately announce a successor to Amb. [Pamela] Spratlen to lead the Department's Health Incident Response Task Force," the lawmakers wrote. "Critically, this post must be a senior-level official that reports directly to you."
Spratlen had come out of retirement in March to take the job of senior adviser to the Department Health Incident Response Task Force. A State Department spokesperson told The Hill that Spratlen left because she had "reached the threshold of hours of labor permitted" as a reemployed retiree.
A steady increase in mysterious Havana Syndrome attacks on American spies and diplomats has left administration officials concerned and frustrated, The Wall Street Journal reported Sept. 28.
A recent case sparked the CIA to evacuate an intelligence officer serving in Serbia. The officer had suffered serious injuries consistent with the syndrome.
The mysterious attacks leave people with headaches, dizziness and memory loss. Scores of State Department officials, CIA officers, and their families have been affected. Experts studying the illness are still struggling to find evidence to back up the leading theory that microwave attacks are being launched by Russian agents.
In their letter to Blinken, the lawmakers added: "It is clear that this threat continues to target U.S. diplomats and related personnel, and reflects a significant, unmitigated threat to our national security.
"We believe this threat deserves the highest level of attention from the State Department, and remain concerned that the State Department is not treating this crisis with the requisite senior-level attention that it requires. Further, while there has been progress, we continue to hear concerns that the department is not sufficiently communicating with or responding to diplomats who have been injured from these attacks."
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