State Department Considers Closing Embassy in Cuba Over Sonic Attacks on Diplomats

Posted: Sep 18, 2017 8:00 AM
State Department Considers Closing Embassy in Cuba Over Sonic Attacks on Diplomats

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday the U.S. is considering closing the embassy in Havana, Cuba after at least 21 American diplomats have been injured by mysterious sonic attacks.

“We have it under evaluation,” Tillerson told CBS News’s “Face the Nation.” "It's a very serious issue with respect to the harm that certain individuals have suffered. ... It's under review."

Some of the people affected have been brought back to the U.S., Tillerson said.

Diplomats have faced a wide range of injuries from the attacks, including hearing loss, headaches, nausea, and in some cases, mild traumatic brain injury.

The attacks date back to 2016 and have continued as recently as August, spokeswoman Heather Nauert confirmed last month.

Cuba has denied any wrongdoing and promised the U.S. they would investigate the incidents, but last week, Republican senators wrote a letter to Tillerson telling him more forceful action is needed.

In the letter signed by Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr of North Carolina, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, and Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford, all of whom sit on the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Republicans said the U.S. should expel Cuban diplomats and consider closing the embassy.

"[W]e ask that you immediately declare all accredited Cuban diplomats in the United States persona non grata and, if Cuba does not take tangible action, close the U.S. Embassy in Havana," they wrote. "Cuba's neglect of its duty to protect our diplomats and their families cannot go unchallenged."

Nauert said last week the administration was considering removing staff from the embassy and acknowledged it was a dangerous situation.  

“Our folks can come back to the United States if they wish to do so. It shows the bravery, the hard work and the dedication of Americans, whether they are serving in Cuba or whether they are serving anywhere across the world,” she said. “I want to recognize them and let them know that we care, we certainly have not forgotten about them, and that this investigation is aggressive.”