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First Cuba, Now China? A Worker In US Embassy In China Experienced 'Abnormal' Sounds, Brain Damage (reuters.com) 160

amxcoder writes: An American citizen working at a U.S. consulate located in the Chinese city of Guangzhou has reported experiencing "abnormal" sounds (and pressures) for the past several months, starting in late 2017 until April of 2018. Upon medical evaluation, the worker has been diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injury symptoms. The U.S. embassy is conducting an investigation into the issue, and is issuing warnings to all U.S. citizens in China. The symptoms and several other similarities has drawn comparison to a similar event last year in a different U.S. embassy in Cuba. Officials can not link the two events together at this point, but the U.S. State Department is working with Chinese authorities to investigate the issue further. As a result of the Cuba acoustic "attacks," the U.S. government in October expelled 15 Cuban diplomats from the U.S. for what it said was Cuba's failure to protect staff at the U.S. embassy in Havana. Staff there reported symptoms including hearing loss, dizziness, fatigue, and cognitive issues. Canadian personnel also reported similar health symptoms.
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First Cuba, Now China? A Worker In US Embassy In China Experienced 'Abnormal' Sounds, Brain Damage

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  • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <bruce@perens.com> on Thursday May 24, 2018 @06:30PM (#56669390) Homepage Journal

    The embassy in Cuba was renovated in the '70's and has ultrasonic alarms of that vintage. The sound of more than one of them intermodulating with each other (a harmless effect) would be exactly as reported.

    The problem with these reports is that the U.S. has been intensively monitoring for various forms of sound, radio waves, radiation, etc. since the Great Seal Bug [wikipedia.org]. And you've got to be skeptical about anything that all of the intelligence and military agencies of the great and powerful USA can't detect.

    • Well, what do the Geneva Conventions on War state about the use of Acoustic Weapons . . . ?

      Oh, wait . . . we're not at war neither with Cuba nor with China . . .

      . . . yet . . .

      • A good deal of international law facilitates peaceful espionage against each other. For example, the diplomatic packet - though now somewhat obsolete and more likely to be used for Amazon purchases - wasn't just for coded messages to and from the embassy but to and from the spies.
      • Well, what do the Geneva Conventions on War state about the use of Acoustic Weapons . . . ?

        Oh, wait . . . we're not at war neither with Cuba nor with China . . .

        . . . yet . . .

        And what if it is neither Cuba nor China directly who were using them? What if the damage is a side-effect not the intended outcome. Much more likely the damage is a side-effect of some sort of listening device or espionage and not an actual weapon. It's probably not even Cuba and China, but another state spying on us because they are suspicious of our activities in those two countries.

        Who wouldn't want us getting closer to Cuba and China? Who is traditionally closer to those two countries than the US..

        • ... Oh and as an addendum to my previous comment.

          What if the US is actually doing it to itself? That's another possible scenario. Those are two countries we might expect espionage in, so what if the US has some sort of device that is designed to mask what goes on inside the embassy to listeners outside (acoustic or electronic listeners) and that device is making people in the embassy go deaf?

    • by ls671 ( 1122017 )

      Well, given the tendency nowadays, if the intelligence and military agencies of the great and powerful USA can't detect it and it happens in Cuba and China, it obviously has to be Russian technology! Of course they wouldn't use it in Russia if it was...

      • We don't know for sure that it couldn't be a satellite-based attack. A sonic attack from space may sound far-fetched but they have been doing very creative things with lasers and microwaves these days.

        • A sonic attack from space may sound far-fetched but they have been doing very creative things with lasers and microwaves these days.

          Obviously there isn't going to be a sonic attack from someplace with no atmosphere.

          Lasers actually do spread, one from space is going to end up being larger than someone's house, and easy enough to detect. Microwaves will never get that narrow a beamwidth and are easy to receive.

        • :|
          I don't have the words to really articulate the dumbfounded look on my face right now.

          Yes, we know for sure it couldn't be a satellite-based attack.
          There is no satellite emitter that is going to cause sonic waves to travel further than the collimated radiation that creates them via its interaction with the atmosphere (if such a thing is even possible).
          Basically, you have to pump out a *lot* of laser light or microwave energy to affect the atmosphere in any appreciable way. I posit that enough to caus
          • by Rolgar ( 556636 )

            Well, if it were spaced based, why would they do it to an embassy to overseas? If some foreign power had this and wanted to use this, they could get the capital building and White House in DC.

            • I didn't bother speculating on the why given the obviously impossibility of the how, but you're right. It's a little weird to point your proposed Dr. Evil space weapon at an embassy... in Cuba. Particularly with how trivial it is for any advanced country to turn a satellite into debris at will.
    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by benjfowler ( 239527 )

      Just because you don't hear about it, doesn't mean it's happening. An awful lot of stuff is classified to protect sources and methods.

      For instance, we knew within days that Russia was responsible for their criminal and genocidal shooting down of MH17, even as the Russians were robbing the corpses of their victims. We're only hearing about it now through controlled leaks, because it suits the powers-that-be to divulge that fact.

      Also, attribution of cyberattacks is not quite as problematic as we've been led t

      • by willy_me ( 212994 ) on Thursday May 24, 2018 @07:24PM (#56669684)

        Russia did not pull the trigger - they gave a powerful weapon to untrained rebels who did pull the trigger. The distinction is minor - but relevant.

        If Russia was operating the AA missiles MH17 would probably be intact. The Russian military is well trained and would verify the identity of a plane before firing. The rebels - not so much. Giving AA missiles to the rebels is like giving a BB gun to a 10 year old --- do not be surprised when you find a pile of dead birds with BB shaped holes in them.

        After MH17 was brought down, the AA missiles were withdrawn back to Russia. This is a sign that Russia is embarrassed by what happened and was taking steps to prevent it from happening again. Too little too late... After this there was an increase in Russian military activity - probably due to the fact they could not trust the rebels to do the job for them.

        So Russia is to blame but they did not pull the trigger. Giving the AA missiles to the rebels was probably a political decision that had nothing to do with the military. I imagine that, at the time, the Russian generals did not approve of the decision and were probably not surprised by the result.

        And a note regarding Russians looting the victims --- it did not happen. The looting was from the local rebels. Basically gangs of undisciplined assholes tasked with driving out anyone who did not speak Russian. Once again, the Russians facilitated this behavior and are partially responsible, but they did not do it.

        • by Type44Q ( 1233630 ) on Thursday May 24, 2018 @07:44PM (#56669760)

          The Russian military is well trained and would verify the identity of a plane before firing.

          Actually, yes, they would. [wikipedia.org]

        • I actually find this marginally credible. If MH17's transponder was working, there would have been little doubt about it's identity. I doubt even a questionable AA crew would choose to fire a missile at it. Unless there was a more legitimate target in the area and the missile locked on to the wrong target. OTOH, I can sort of conceive of the Russians handing Ukrainian rebels the keys to a missile launcher, giving them a few hours of very basic training on how to use it and turning them loose. (But only

          • by willy_me ( 212994 ) on Thursday May 24, 2018 @08:49PM (#56670154)

            And an intercepted recording of the incident...

            CNN [cnn.com]

            It could have been faked, but unlikely. Most of the Ukrainian assertions claim that Russia was more directly involved. It is doubtful they would fake a recording that counters their assertions.

            • Most of the Ukrainian assertions claim that Russia was more directly involved

              Surprise!

              To be clear I'm not sure who did it and not taking sides, but I also don't believe a single shred of evidence the Ukraine brings against Russia, and I don't believe a single shred of evidence that Russian brings against the Ukraine.

          • MH17's transponder was not found to be either inoperative or switched off. You may have confused this with MH370.

            The problem is that a BUK system deployment normally contains both the TELAR (launcher) and a surveillance radar system known as the TAR. By itself, the TELAR has limited target acquisition capabilities and a very basic military IFF interrogator but it is supposed to be tasked by the TAR so multiple TELARs can engage different targets simultaneously but each has to be "pointed" in the correct ge

        • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

          Wow what a crock. Evidence, hmm, nobody can decide, motivation, totally Ukrainian but what the fuck, bullshit will suffice. What's with the propaganda on slashdot.

          You put fear into people about shit and they will find shit, they will feel it and they will believe it and they will end up harming themselves and Americans are just full of it.

        • Russia did not pull the trigger - they gave a powerful weapon to untrained rebels who did pull the trigger.

          I am sorry, but a random Cossack or a coal miner from Donbas is not going to figure out how to operate such a complex piece of machinery as the Buk SAM system after taking only a two-week crash course. It had to be operated by full-time Russian professionals.

          • It could have been operated by Russians who were 'on holiday'(I've actually encountered this description), but going from coal miners without military experience to Russian professionals making their own decisions seems like you're skipping a lot of possibilities in between.

            • going from coal miners without military experience to Russian professionals making their own decisions seems like you're skipping a lot of possibilities in between.

              The international trade and transfers in the surface to air missile systems that are capable of hitting a passenger jet liner (or a fighter jet) at the cruise altitude are some of the most well-monitored, regulated, and politicized in the world. If Russia transferred the weapon to be in the hands of the possibilities in between, that probably st

    • The attack doesn't have to happen on the embassy grounds. You can't monitor the entire country.
      • Although off-compound travel enlarges the threat surface, embassy staff are often not given the freedom of the entire nation. Even the U.S. is limiting diplomats of Pakistan to 40 km from their posts, in response to a similar limit on U.S. diplomats in Pakistan.
        • That isn't true in China or Cuba. They have freedom of travel. Most likely these attacks are outside of the embassy grounds (if they are even occurring at all).
          • Or it could be a Zika mosquito. Or high blood pressure.
          • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
            The NSA and CIA like US embassy workers to travel deep into a China and Cuba.
            Look at things, photograph things. Talk to people. Collect soil, air samples. Look for local wifi networks.
            Talk to civil society groups, academics, artists, engineers. Sway them over to the US side with offers of charm, cash, "democracy" and "freedom".
            Embassy staff have freedoms in many nations. The CIA uses that freedom of movement every day for its embassy "workers" in China, Cuba.
            • This is either a dictatorship employee shilling, or what used to be called a Blame America Firster, now called someone with America Derangement Syndrome.

              Rorschach: "Old joke. American man says, 'In America, we have freedom of speech. I can go up on the steps of the Capitol Building, and say how terrible the President of the United States is.' (Putin shill): ' We, too, have freedom of speech. I can go up to the Kremlin and say, also, how terrible the President of the United States is.' Funny. Gets lot

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rahvin112 ( 446269 )

      These "attacks" are alleged to have occured at the workers homes.

      The biggest problem I have with this whole story is that all the experts on sound keep saying what the US proposes is happening here violates the laws of physics. That to generate an effect like this at any distance is practically impossible.

      I've been of the opinion that whatever is happening is likely a conflict between two systems exacerbated by some sore of harmonic. Probably a bug / counter bug that are interacting in some bad way, maybe b

      • One would think that the homes of diplomatic workers are as well monitored for sound, RF, and radiation attacks as the office building.

        Say you have two ultrasonic alarms working at 31 KHz and 36 kHz. The difference frequency is 5 kHz and is most likely to be heard between them rather than close to them. Nontechnical people would have no understanding of this phenomenon.

        • by DeVilla ( 4563 )

          One would think that the homes of diplomatic workers are as well monitored for sound, RF, and radiation attacks as the office building.

          Why? I mean why the trouble? If you are that concerned about the well being of the diplomats and staff, why not just build apartments into an embassy compound? I would assume that if it was believed to be safe enough for embassy workers to live outside the embassy, then that would mean we didn't feel it was necessary to build radiation attack detection systems into the homes.

          • Being diplomatic staff in Cuba was never an ordinary job. I don't know what all of the arrangements and rules are regarding staff housing, but I am sure they have 24-hour security, bug sweeps, and monitoring for various forms of attack.
      • So it can't happen and is accidental.

        Happy shilling, comrade!

    • On top of which, the Cubans actually asked the US to send the FBI down to investigate. I doubt they'd do that if they were responsible for the problem or wanted to keep the cause a secret.

      • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
        Cuba wants the US embassy investigations to stop. Cuba has too many of their own spies deep in the US gov to keep undercover.
        Generation of spies all over the USA. Why would Cuba do and risk the one thing to make the USA to do more security work that would find Cuba spies?
    • The problem with these reports is that the U.S. has been intensively monitoring for various forms of sound, radio waves, radiation, etc.

      Sounds like the monitoring devices are causing brain damage. (Seriously? Brain damage?)

    • ...and has ultrasonic alarms of that vintage....

      What exactly would be the point of an ultrasonic alarm? If you see the dogs running, follow them?

      • Before anyone made an infrared motion detector based on an IC, intrusion alarms were based on sonar. They would detect the doppler from any moving object, which would be a difference from the fundamental frequency. Ultrasonic ones had the advantage that they did not make audible noise. At least most of the time. There were audible ones too. These ran around 10 kHz, I think using the same speaker for the alarm siren and for the sonar emitter.
    • by mjwx ( 966435 )
      Have we heard of other embassies in Cuba or China having the same issues?

      If not, I'd say the issue was more likely to be with how the US chooses its Embassy staff than some secret ultrasonic weapon.
    • A similar thing happened to me in '08 in Albuquerque --I lived right next to Kirkland AFB, too.

      I was overly-tired, sometimes mental fog. Then one day, BAM! I hear a 'whoosh,' a light ringing, and then the ringing got louder over the coming hours.

      Eventually I lost the ability to hear anything over 3 kHz in one ear... it took over a period of 5 hours to really understand what seemed to be going on. I was more perplexed than scared, but I still haven't got my hearing back--I'm really, really looking forward

  • Clearly US embassies are haunted. ;)

  • Beware! Whenever a company claims "we take privacy very seriously", you should run! That company will do whatever possible to collect as much private data as possible about you to control and abuse you for its own purposes.

    • by MS ( 18681 )

      I posted that to another story...

  • by Roger W Moore ( 538166 ) on Thursday May 24, 2018 @06:55PM (#56669532) Journal
    It seems to me that the common factor is that they work at a US Embassy. Presumably, these are stocked with a variety of high tech equipment both to enable and prevent spying. Is it possible that there is some undesirable interaction of this equipment? The alternative, that someone is targetting US officials in disparate parts of the world with a bizarre ultrasonic non-lethal weapon seems somewhat less likely in the absence of any evidence for either scenario.
    • by guruevi ( 827432 ) <evi&evcircuits,com> on Thursday May 24, 2018 @07:00PM (#56669556) Homepage

      Could also be a case of mass psychosis. When you have hundreds of workers and you start warning them both internal and give credence through the media, you get these sort of results. Anticebo effect.

    • It seems to me that the common factor is that they work at a US Embassy. Presumably, these are stocked with a variety of high tech equipment both to enable and prevent spying. Is it possible that there is some undesirable interaction of this equipment? The alternative, that someone is targetting US officials in disparate parts of the world with a bizarre ultrasonic non-lethal weapon seems somewhat less likely in the absence of any evidence for either scenario.

      Yeah the latter doesn't seem like a realistic scenario, because if you did have some secret new cool weapon why would you risk exposing it by testing it like this. You'd test it on poor people somewhere in the middle of nowhere, then unleash it on a high value target when appropriate. I suspect that there's something else going on here that we're not being told

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      A Cuba and China would try to flood a US embassy with its own spies.
      Long term, nice and productive, totally trusted by the US embassy.
      Humans walking out with all kinds of sensitive US information.
      No tech needed to risk collection just lots of totally trusted human. Lots of split loyalty staff reporting back to Cuba, China that are totally trusted by the US gov/mil.
      Why would a China and Cuba do the one thing to induce US security to look at all the embassy and find the spies using spy tech in place?
      C
    • It seems to me that the common factor is that they work at a US Embassy.

      Probably this is the natural reaction of being exposed to Trump's foreign policy documents.

    • One plausible theory is also that it's the interaction of gear deployed to spy on the embassy by the host country and the anti-spying gear deployed by the embassy to thwart it.

      Think of it this way, the US probably has some mock/test environment where they validate equipment and conduct offensive tests on it. At that point, they would notice any weird interaction of their own gear. But they didn't notice it till it went to the embassy, meaning that the interaction is likely between their gear and something e

  • Officials can not link the two events together at this point

    Of course they can. The obvious link is US itself!

  • There's a lot of talk of explanations, but I've yet to hear anyone blame this on anything supernatural. Yeah, yeah, it's 2018, but it's good to think that science is pervasive enough that nobody blames it on witches or demons or ghosts or something. From a historic standpoint it wasn't too long ago they'd be calling a priest in.
    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      The ghosts of NSA and CIA communications attempts for the US embassy deep into China and Cuba?
      Some 1960's long forgotten Room 641A in the US embassy is still functional. The haunted paper scanner prototype is emitting a haunting glow up into the AC ducts Set to warm up ready for a 1970's US communications satellite pass over.
      The satellite is long gone but the spy fax machine warms up every day ready to send documents.
      A room nobody has keys and clearance to go into.
  • I wonder if any of the affected people have any metal tooth fillings.
  • microwave auditory effect

  • by LostMyBeaver ( 1226054 ) on Friday May 25, 2018 @12:18AM (#56670858)
    Staff there reported symptoms including hearing loss, dizziness, fatigue, and cognitive issues

    So lawyers, poli-sci grads, international studies grads :
      - Are noticed to be misinterpreting everything they hear in a way that seems like they are suffering hearing loss
      - Are dizzy after lunch and dinner... maybe having a little bit of trouble walking a straight line, can't touch their noses, etc...
      - Appear to be lazy as shit and are hoping people will believe they have fatigue?
      - Have cognitive issues... I mean beyond the aforementioned being a lawyer, poli-sci/international studies grad...

    I seriously don't see how this isn't a bigger problem in all embassies around the world.

    Is it possible this has always been the case but now, they're in a communist country and want to blame it on that?
  • Audio attack? This has supposedly been happening for months (in Cuba). The very first thing any competent investigator would do is put microphones on the 'targets', to confirm the hypothesis of audio attack, to start understanding where and how the attacks are taking place, and to have evidence to present to the world that the attacks are real. I've seen no claims of there being such evidence. (I'm not perfect, so if I've missed something in the news, I'm happy to be corrected.)

    On the other hand, the mass hysteria hypothesis explains the known facts very well - except that we have to also assume US State Department incompetence, given that they expelled diplomats over this.

  • Considering that it's quite easy to record (even high frequency) sound, this is just plain silly.
    Either there was 'sound' and they recorded it or there wasn't.

  • by Chrisq ( 894406 ) on Friday May 25, 2018 @04:09AM (#56671412)
    This is starting to look a lot like something that America is doing in its embassies, at least in "non-allied" countries. Maybe some leakage from something aimed at the host country's infrastructure
  • Some of the affected people say the sound resembles "Yanny", while other swear it sounds more like "Laurel".

  • Multiple whitenoise generators / ultrasound generators - Wasnt that the verdict discovered a while back? I'm sure I read that somewhere.

    Wasnt that being used in Cuba? Two different teams setting up protection equipment in the same office sending off inaudible sounds. Since there were two they created worse interference that was undetectable to the ear.

    Sounds like the same two idiots.

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