Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
United States Government Hardware Technology

Hearing Loss of US Diplomats In Cuba Is Blamed On Covert Device (bostonglobe.com) 224

bsharma shares a report from The Boston Globe: The two-year-old U.S. diplomatic relationship with Cuba was roiled Wednesday by what U.S. officials say was a string of bizarre incidents that left a group of American diplomats in Havana with severe hearing loss attributed to a covert sonic device. In the fall of 2016, a series of U.S. diplomats began suffering unexplained losses of hearing, according to officials with knowledge of the investigation into the case. Several of the diplomats were recent arrivals at the embassy, which reopened in 2015 as part of former President Barack Obama's reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba. Some of the diplomats' symptoms were so severe that they were forced to cancel their tours early and return to the United States, officials said. After months of investigation, U.S. officials concluded that the diplomats had been exposed to an advanced device that operated outside the range of audible sound and had been deployed either inside or outside their residences. It was not immediately clear if the device was a weapon used in a deliberate attack, or had some other purpose.

Hearing Loss of US Diplomats In Cuba Is Blamed On Covert Device

Comments Filter:
  • by creimer ( 824291 ) on Friday August 11, 2017 @09:06AM (#54990229) Homepage
    Another mishipment by the ACME Corporation.
    • by ls671 ( 1122017 )

      No, I work for a 3 letter agency in Cuba and my sources tell me that the diplomats lost hearing because they started to masturbate too much while in Cuba.

  • Immunity and protection are the precepts of diplomatic law. Without them there are no diplomatic relations. Time to take our ball and go home.

    • Immunity and protection are the precepts of diplomatic law. Without them there are no diplomatic relations. Time to take our ball and go home.

      Have to say I disagree. Cuba is one of our closest neighbors; it is to both our benefits that we have a positive relationship. Besides, do you honestly believe that we haven't conducted espionage on Cuban diplomats?

      We were listening in on Angela Merkel's telephone calls for chips sake, Spying on the chancellor, the leader of the free world. If we're spying on such an important ally, I'm sure we've been spying on Cuban diplomats. We've been spying on everyone.

      We'd be huge hypocrites to throw a paddy over

      • by mOzone ( 1447147 )

        using a focused sound/energy device to make someone deaf is totally the same-thing as listening to voice mails lol

        you realy need to come back to reality

        • using a focused sound/energy device to make someone deaf is totally the same-thing as listening to voice mails lol

          you realy need to come back to reality

          At whom or what would a device hidden inside the embassy be focused on? No to mention: why would it be targeted at any body or thing? Unless maybe a US listening device inside the embassy ...

        • by Strider- ( 39683 ) on Friday August 11, 2017 @10:48AM (#54990897)

          using a focused sound/energy device to make someone deaf is totally the same-thing as listening to voice mails lol

          There is no indication that this was a deliberate attack. Spying on diplomats and missions is always part of the game of international relations, especially between nation-states that do not have the best relations. Whatever caused this could easily have been a side effect of a covert listening device or technique and an unintended consequence.

          During the cold war, the US Embassy in Moscow was given a wooden version of the Great Seal of the United States by local school children. What they didn't know is that it contained a covert listening device, which consisted of a passive resonant cavity. It worked by having the KGB transmit microwave energy from across the street, which would resonate in the bit of metal, and re-radiated. (more info here [wikipedia.org].

          A Canadian diplomat and family were also affected by the same thing, the chances of it being a deliberate attack is relatively low as Canada has had good relations with Cuba for pretty much all of its modern history.

        • What if the ear damage is just a side-effect of ultra-sonic data transfer of some spy device :D Normal bug detectors won't notice it.

        • I'm sure the intention was not to make them deaf, that was a side effect. There would be no point in making people deaf just for the sake of it.

      • Because listening in on telephone calls is exactly the same as damaging people's hearing, right?

        Everyone spies on everyone. Everyone does not cause physical harm to other diplomats.

        • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

          The US may not have made Angela Merkel deaf (yet). But deafening a few diplomats is pretty minor compared to a lot of the things the US has done covertly.

          • The US may not have made Angela Merkel deaf (yet). But deafening a few diplomats is pretty minor compared to a lot of the things the US has done covertly.

            So based on the theory that one wrong allows another do we get to nuke North Korea for being so evil to its citizens? Or can we agree that two wrongs does not make a right?

            • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

              The thread I replied to suggested (at a minimum) cutting diplomatic contact. Presumably that would mean reinstating sanctions, which cause extensive harm to ordinary people. Other posters suggested lots of things up to "nuke 'em."

              So what's your position on three wrongs?

              The US plays diplomatic hardball when it suits them. Maybe Cuba did something bad here, maybe not; the story has a lot of holes. Even if they did, perhaps we should agree that even if nations can't be nice to each other's diplomats they s

              • It may not even have been the Cuban government that did it, if it was intentional. It could have been a third party, or a faction within the government that doesn't want relations to go well. A false flag attack. Or it may not have even been intended to do damage. It might have been some tricksy way they came up with to exfiltrate data, that had unintended effects.
              • Presumably that would mean reinstating sanctions, which cause extensive harm to ordinary people.

                Not according to the Cuban government. Everything was wine and roses during the time of sanctions. As in, "what sanctions are you talking about, comrade?"

                You wouldn't be saying that the Cuban government was lying about such stuff, would you?

                Even if they did, perhaps we should agree that even if nations can't be nice to each other's diplomats they should try to keep the regular people out of it.

                So "regular people" are off-limits, but diplomats are fair game? Obviously they can't be fair to each others' diplomats.

                How many deaf Russians had to cut their stays in the US short because they went deaf in Russian embassies, again?

      • by halivar ( 535827 )

        Diplomatic relations are based on reciprocity. Germany would be well within their rights to reciprocate by halting intelligence-sharing activities with the US. If a specifically appropriate reciprocal response is unavailable (for instance, if there were no intelligence-sharing to halt), a well-honored tradition in diplomatic relations is to expel diplomats (as Russia did recently in response to US sanctions). Reciprocity is what makes bilateral relations work.

        The problem here is that there IS no possible (i

        • by Minupla ( 62455 ) <minupla@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Friday August 11, 2017 @10:13AM (#54990651) Homepage Journal

          Cubans did

          Citation needed. The apparent attack happened in Cuba, it does not follow that it was perpetrated by the Cuban authorities, any more then an attack on a diplomat on US soil is assumed to be caused by the CIA. It might be, but at this point it appears to be he-said, she-said.

          Min

          • by Strider- ( 39683 )

            It's also not known whether this was actually an attack or a side effect of other activities. A Canadian diplomat and family were also affected, and Cuba has a long history of relatively good relations with Canada.

      • Yeah, listening in on phone calls and permanently damaging diplomats is exactly the same thing.

        Mother of false equivalence.

        • Yeah, listening in on phone calls and permanently damaging diplomats is exactly the same thing.

          Mother of false equivalence.

          #1 theory is that this was caused BY listening in. Not that they deliberately made the diplomats deaf. In all likelihood, no matter who is responsible, Cubans, Russians, whoever... they probably didn't know they were damaging the diplomats hearing.

          • they probably didn't know they were damaging the diplomats hearing.

            "Hey, Juan, that was Oswaldo on the phone. He said to turn off the listening device, it's unintentionally hurting people and we can't do that."

            "What you say, man? I can't hear you. Speak louder..."

    • by Jeremi ( 14640 ) on Friday August 11, 2017 @09:52AM (#54990511) Homepage

      We might want to determine who was behind the attack first, rather than simply assuming it was the Cuban government. For one thing, I can't imagine what motive the Cuban government would have for attacking American diplomats at a time when Cuba is trying to normalize relations with the USA. (I can imagine other parties wanting to sabotage that relationship, though)

      • We might want to determine who was behind the attack first, rather than simply assuming it was the Cuban government. For one thing, I can't imagine what motive the Cuban government would have for attacking American diplomats at a time when Cuba is trying to normalize relations with the USA. (I can imagine other parties wanting to sabotage that relationship, though)

        Yep. It would definitely be in Russia's interests to perpetrate this and it fits with their disregard of health damages to those they view as their enemies. Russia would love to re-establish military bases in Cuba and Cuba has resisted this so far, despite Trump's attempts to make them as angry as possible, in the hopes of improving relations with the USA. A bunch of misdirected anger at Cuba while the Russians laugh in the background totally seems plausible. I'd put the Canadian problems as collateral

      • Agreed, this seems to be a ruse for relations to revert back to where they were. One would think that the Cuban government would want this investigated as well. It is in both our countries interests that we normalize and keep the relations on a good standing instead of outright accusing them of foul play.

        It seems that SOMEONE is pulling out the old Cold War playbook again.

        Hmmm. kinda of makes you wonder who benefits from this.

      • If you can't think of a reason for an adversary of 70 years to be a bit cagey regarding reconciling, kill your self. Now. Post your Facebook, and live stream yourself sucking on a gun barrel.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 11, 2017 @09:15AM (#54990287)

    "They sent us some Kanye West cd's, let's pay them back in kind"...?

  • by wired_parrot ( 768394 ) on Friday August 11, 2017 @09:32AM (#54990403)
    Cubans are known for their DIY, improvised repairs that has kept together their infrastructure even during decades of economic hardship and an embargo. Could this just be a poorly done local electronic repair job on a power transformer, for example? The locals may well be suffering from the same issue health issues, but given the communist mindset, no one had the courage to complain. I'd wager more on poorly done electronic repair job than cloak and dagger spy tricks.
    • Doesn't the State Department do security scans of our embassies and diplomatic residences for hazards if any kind, intentional or otherwise? Being posted to a location with plague rats would be just as big a problem.

      • And ultrasonics just got added to the sweep checklist.

        Probably rolling out continuous monitoring equipment as we speak to embassies around the world - if they're on their game they had the equipment in-place before they published this story; it would take about an hour to rig up a device like this from a 555 timer, couple of resistors and capacitors, a power transistor or two, and a big horn tweeter - surely there are copycats around the world doing just that right now with intent to deafen whomever it is t

      • While I'm sure they do, high volume sounds outside of the audible frequency range probably wasn't one of the things that are swept for. All in all this makes very little sense to be done intentionally, as there's literally nothing to gain from it. I'd go with what others are suggesting - that this is probably caused by some poorly maintained or malfunctioning piece of equipment.

    • by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Friday August 11, 2017 @10:01AM (#54990563) Homepage Journal

      There are millions and millions of transformers all over the world, in countries far poorer than Cuba, and they have been in use over the course of a hundred years. If this was remotely realistic (a transformer going bad or being repaired in such a way that it could cause subaudible soundwaves that damage hearing but in such a subtle way that no one notices it happening) then it would have been encountered many times before. Think of it - any time you would have an entire family of people going deaf at the same time, there would be extensive investigation into the cause, even in a third world country. If anything it would at least make the news, even if the cause was not found.

      • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Friday August 11, 2017 @02:37PM (#54992735)
        FWIW, in grad school I worked with sonars which emitted in the 12-35 kHz frequency range. I wasn't exposed to them regularly, but I did get blasted a few dozen times (very annoying when it's in the audible range). Because they're designed to operate underwater, the transducers pack a lot more energy than speakers designed for the air (water being 800x denser than air).

        By the time I was 35 my hearing above 11 kHz was pretty much gone. On those hearing tests, I rated among 60- and 70-year olds. And no I didn't listen to loud music as a kid. I actually hated rock concerts because of how loud they were, and only went to one in my life (part of a school rally). The loss seems to have stabilized. I'm 48 now and I'm still able to hear 11 kHz, but not above.

        I didn't notice it happening, and it happened pretty rapidly (within a few years). Because of the relatively few incidents of exposure and short durations (single pings - this was in the days before CHIRP sonars), I've wondered if the cause wasn't the sonars, but rather some electronic device. Say, a component in a computer I used all the time, constantly exposing me to high frequency noise just outside my hearing range for hours every day. I do suffer tinnitus, though oddly it doesn't bother me as it's in the frequencies I've lost so doesn't interfere with hearing "real" sounds.
      • by mysidia ( 191772 )

        Agree... It is easy to make noise but HARD to deliver high enough sound pressure to be a concern at high frequencies -- the higher frequency you go. It is possible, But it is going to require special design for the apparatus to not quickly break down and is thus not going to happen accidentally just from a defect in a standard transformer.

    • I believe that to induce ultrasound that damages hearing, you would need a frequency generator and pretty powerful transducer or amplified speaker that could reproduce that ultrasound frequency at those damaging levels. I'm pretty sure that a misaligned fly-back transformer for example, can't do that.
      • Depends on the transformer, power levels, and housing - but, yeah, most wouldn't be that loud. Still could happen by accident.

        Burglar alarm motion detectors based on ultrasonics in the 1980s were bordering on these kind of damaging levels of sound pressure.

    • That or ultrasonic mosquito repellents. A 35$ pest repellent gives me headache and killed my high frequency earing.
  • by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Friday August 11, 2017 @09:50AM (#54990505) Homepage Journal

    I think it is very doubtful it was the Cuban government. They want money from the USA, in the form of tourism, the ability for people in the USA to send money back home to family in Cuba, etc. Obama already set all that in motion and gave it to them for free (IE without any worthwhile conditions or concessions from the Cuban government). The Castros should be tickled pink with the state of things - they still have full control, yet are now getting some respect and official acknowledgement from the superpower next door, and money, goods and services are beginning to flow into their country.

    So it makes absolutely no sense for them to do something as petty as this - injuring diplomats from the USA for no good reason whatsoever, with the only possible result being harm to relations between the two countries. If the Cuban government didn't want these diplomats there, they would simply tell them to leave - it is a dictatorship after all.

    IMO this is the action of some other government, with sophisticated technology and deep covert capability, doing this because it is in their best interest for Cuba and the USA to not have good relations. I'll leave the exercise of figuring out who those players could be to you.

    • I think it is likely the Cuban government, but that the hearing loss is just a side-effect, while the purpose is possibly using UHF for some sort of "benign" spying.

      Surely nobody honestly thinks that the Cuban government isnt paranoid as fuck about American ambassadors, especially since after the Cuban missile crisis we used Canadian ambassadors to spy for us.
      • >Surely nobody honestly thinks that the Cuban government isnt paranoid as fuck about American ambassadors

        I can see being paranoid about American intentions (Americans have traditionally seen Cuba as a resource to exploit which is why the revolution had so much backing to start with...), but I can see no benefit to deafening the ambassadors.

        It almost certainly has to be some kind of surveillance or counter-surveillance accident of technology, though I suppose there could be an audio engineer out there wit

        • You're spot on.
          It's a counter-surveillance device that's used by both the Americans and the Canadians. It emits inaudible soundwaves at varying frequencies in a spread spectrum mode so that it can not be detected by integrative sound pressure detectors. It works by vibrating the air so violently that the objects that are targeted by a laser surveillance device, e.g.: windows, tile areas, are vibrating with an amplitude so much larger than would have resulted from a normal conversation, or even a shouting w
    • Or, just a rogue Cuban with their own agenda, access and means.

    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      It could also be that it is caused by a (new) device to prevent spying via microphones and installed there by the CIA/NSA or anybody else from within the USofA.

    • You a trump voter? Your simple world view makes it likely. It's not like are factions within a govt. especially a dictatorship. No cliques at all im sure. Don't breed you waste of protein.
  • Global Affairs Canada has confirmed at least one Canadian diplomat in Cuba has been treated in hospital after suffering headaches and hearing loss.

    The information comes a day after the U.S. government said it believed some of its diplomats in Havana had been targeted with a covert sonic device that left them with severe hearing loss.

    The Canadian diplomat's family members were also affected and treated.

    "We are aware of unusual symptoms affecting Canadian and U.S. diplomatic personnel and their families in Havana. The government is actively working - including with U.S. and Cuban authorities - to ascertain the cause," said Brianne Maxwell, a Global Affairs Canada spokesperson.

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/politic... [www.cbc.ca]

    • by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Friday August 11, 2017 @10:51AM (#54990917) Homepage Journal

      In a comment earlier I threw out the idea that the hearing damage was caused by a countersurveillance device (such as one to disrupt laser microphones) that was employed incorrectly (used continuously when only meant for use for a few minutes at a time, wrong settings for the size of the room, etc). The fact that it happened to Canadians too might lend credence to that theory, as it is likely the US and Canada shares some degree of technology or services to protect diplomats in foreign countries. Still, this seems the kind of thing that the CIA would try and sweep under the rug if it was US tech that caused it, instead of playing dumb and letting it become mysterious international news.

      There's also the possibility that the Cubans employed such a device to protect the privacy of foreign diplomats, as a nice gesture, and it the technology was misused in some way to cause hearing damage.

  • by Lothsahn ( 221388 ) <Lothsahn@@@SPAM_ ... u_bastardsyahocm> on Friday August 11, 2017 @10:20AM (#54990703)
    I wonder if it had any similarities to The Thing, a Soviet listening device that required no power...

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
  • Being nice to d-bags only gives them permission to continue being d-bags. Same applies to Maduro, North Korean, Putin, Iran, ISIS, Al Qaeda, and Boko Haram. That last only always reminds me of "Temple of Doom"

    • Take Russia and Iran off the list and I would agree with you.

      Iran and Russia are only "bad guys" in the sense that they interfere with our interference efforts.
      • Not Russia in general. Putin.
        Iran seems to be too much of a closed society to point strictly at the mullahs.

  • The article mentions that the "officials familiar with the probe said investigators were looking into the possibilities that the incidents were carried out by a third country such as Russia, possibly operating without the knowledge of Cuba’s formal chain of command."

    Of course it doesn't mention that the device could have come from the second party. Hint: I'm talking about the USA spy agencies. Because all US embassies have strange spying devices in or (mostly) on top of them, And do those of the o

  • I mean; it is scary that such a device is capable of existing, and you can be physically attacked/damaged over time without noticing it.

    It is a cruel sort of weapon victims have no chance of defending against with high potential of grave accidental collateral damage, so it should clearly be banned; same with any weapon using light outside human visible range with no visible warning.....

    Also, is there some kind of monitoring system that can be installed, and portably carried that could detect such kind

    • I seriously doubt it's a weapon. What kind of impractical weapon do you have to install onsite and slowly makes your target deaf? You are better off making them sick or something.

  • Ridiculous conspiracy theory, just to cover up these diplomats went deaf from too much masturbation.

    (what with all those jineteras...)

You had mail. Paul read it, so ask him what it said.

Working...