If you’re familiar at all with so-called Havana syndrome—the mysterious swath of neural disorders affecting a growing number of U.S. diplomats working abroad—you’re probably familiar with some of the wild speculation surrounding the potential source of the illness. At least for now, we can take microwave weapons off the list of potential suspects, according to an internal U.S. State Department scientific review that was obtained by BuzzFeed News.
The report was completed in 2018 by JASON, a shadowy science advisory group that works with multiple branches of the government, including the Pentagon, which has become increasingly concerned about the mystery illness striking members in its ranks. That agency also recently joined the ranks of the individual task forces investigating potential ties between nausea, headaches, and dizziness that diplomats were feeling with a potential microwave weapon. And after years of experts in the field pointing out how scientifically and logistically impossible a weapon like this would be, it seems like the fed’s own advisory committee agrees.
“No plausible single source of energy (neither radio/microwaves nor sonic) can produce both the recorded audio/video signals and the reported medical effects,” the JASON report noted. “We believe the recorded sounds are mechanical or biological in origin, rather than electronic.”
Their best guess for the sound that officials tied to some attack by a foreign power? Crickets. Specifically, the Indies short-tailed cricket, according to the JASON report. As for why mass cricket calls might be causing dizziness and nausea among diplomats, the report puts it down to “psychogenic” effects. In other words, while the neurological effects might be real, their source is psychological.
In order to arrive at their conclusion, the JASON researchers compared the cellphone recordings taken by one Havana syndrome-sufferer—along with eight additional records of audio incidents that preceded Havana syndrome cases—and compared the sounds they were hearing with recordings from various insects. And this isn’t even the first time that people have been able to pinpoint these sounds as distinctly cricket-like; in 2019, two researchers working off recordings pawned from the Associated Press came to the same conclusion.
Meanwhile, JASON’s report rules out microwave- or ultrasound-based weaponry as potential culprits because... the sounds didn’t match the frequencies either of those tools would make.
Of course, this report was written in 2018, and it clearly hasn’t stopped senior U.S. officials from touting out the microwave theory anyway in the years since. But the sooner we come around to accepting how infeasible these weapons are, the sooner we can put more resources towards giving these victims the help they deserve.
Correction: A previous headline stated that crickets were the likely source of the syndrome, which is incorrect. The crickets are the source of the sound linked to the syndrome. We regret the error.