Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for September 10, 2018

Newsline: Cuba’s “Sonic Attack” on the U.S. Embassy Could Have Been Merely Sounds Emitted by a Listening Device

The Associated Press made recordings available of the sounds that the employees reported hearing. If those indeed were the sounds, that would rule out the microwave auditory effect where the microwave-induced vibrations exist only within the head. Chen Yan, Kevin Fu and Wenyuan Xu (of Zhejiang University and the University of Michigan) showed the sounds in the AP recordings are characteristic of those produced by the interaction of two inaudible ultrasound beams via an effect known as intermodulation distortion. Ultrasound is widely used in burglar detectors, room occupancy sensors and other increasingly common appliances, and some individuals report unpleasant audible sensations from such devices. Intermodulation distortion is increasingly being employed to jam microphones used to record concert music illegally or for eavesdropping. Yan and colleagues report ultrasound can be used for eavesdropping purposes as well, by picking up vibrations in objects produced by human speech. In short, it is reasonable to guess the sounds were inadvertently produced by ultrasound devices, possibly even spytech, but without malicious intent against the embassy personnel. The incidents occurred about the time of the 2016 U.S. election, and the Cubans undoubtedly were desperate for intelligence about U.S. intentions. There is even a historical parallel to the recent incidents: In 1972 it became publicly known the Soviets had been irradiating the U.S. embassy in Moscow with low-level microwave energy from the 1950s through the 1970s. Neither side disclosed the reason for this. (A reasonable guess is the Russians were trying to disrupt U.S. listening equipment or to collect data from their own bugs in the building.) The media published hyperbolic stories about supposed attempts to harm the embassy staff, fueling a generation of speculation about microwave “neurowarfare.”



Newsline: UAE embassy issues travel warning for Spain

UAE residents and citizens in Spain have been warned that they should exercise caution and be wary of demonstrations and political unrest. This warning was issued by the UAE Consulate General in Barcelona on its Twitter account. According to the post, UAE citizens and residents should take all necessary precautions and avoid demonstrators or areas of political unrest.