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State Department official attacked by Havana syndrome sues Blinken and agency for alleged disability discrimination

By Katie Bo Lillis and Natasha Bertrand, CNN

According to court documents, a State Department official who said he was affected by a strange cluster of symptoms now known as “Havana Syndrome” is suing Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the US State Department over his conduct. discriminating against people with disabilities.

This is the first known lawsuit filed by a victim of Havana syndrome with the US government and comes as the State Department continues to face fierce criticism from some lawmakers. and victims on handling cases and caring for affected diplomats.

Mark Lenzi, a member of the diplomatic security service, claims in the lawsuit that he was the victim of a series of incidents began in 2017 in Guangzhou, China, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs retaliated against him for speaking out about his persistent symptoms.

Since the first series of cases were reported in Havana, Cuba, in 2016, intelligence investigators have struggled to understand what – or who – is keeping hundreds of spies, diplomats and service members suffer from dizziness, debilitating headaches, and sometimes trauma. traumatic brain injury. One theory operating in the intelligence community is that a foreign adversary is using pulsed microwave radiation to harass or spy on American personnel abroad, but officials warn they are not gathering evidence. solid evidence to support the theory, and some outside experts have categorically disproved it.

The State Department has committed to solving the mystery of Havana syndrome and says it is prioritizing the safety of its officers.

“All of us in the U.S. government, and especially us at the State Department, are intensely focused on getting to the bottom of what and who is causing these incidents,” Blinken said in a statement. November’s press conference introduces newly appointed officials overseeing the department’s response. .

Lenzi, in his court filing, alleges that the State Department pushed for the State Department’s efforts to determine what happened to him. According to Lenzi, he, his wife and children began experiencing “sudden and unexplained mental and physical symptoms, including headaches, dizziness, nausea, nosebleeds, trouble sleeping, and dementia,” said Lenzi. remember” around November 2017.

In the lawsuit, Lenzi claims that a security technical officer (SEO) conducted a technical inspection of the apartment of another State Department official who had been medically evacuated from the country because of similar symptoms. like Lenzi. However, technicians used microwave detection equipment that was “ancient and outdated, did not function properly, and was disliked by SEOers who regularly used this type of device,” the lawsuit said.

The technical officer “told Mr. Lenzi that the technical inspection of this nurse officer’s apartment was a ‘check the box’ exercise, and stated that (Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs) had requested explicitly requested that this poor quality device be used for the search,” the lawsuit claims.

A spokesperson for the US State Department did not respond to a request for comment.

Lenzi further testified that he was told by technical staff that the deputy assistant secretary “didn’t want the report stored on the State Department’s secret file system (as is normal practice) and wanted to limit access to reporting to a select few”.

Lenzi announced that he was going to be given an “urgent formal consultation” and announced that he was “”too emotional” in his interactions “with area security staff” about a security device problem. “

Lenzi eventually moved the family out of their Guangzhou apartment and sent an unclassified email to colleagues “warning them of the potential danger to their health and safety”, according to the petition. Lenzi claimed that email prompted the State Department to order him to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. The resulting report “questioned Mr. Lenzi’s judgment in sending the aforementioned email and stated that ‘leadership at the ministry wanted to ensure that a serious mental illness was not overlooked.'”

The lawsuit claims that at the time, Diplomatic Security leadership knew that American officials in Guangzhou were experiencing unusual symptoms similar to those of Lenzi and his neighbour.

According to the lawsuit, Lenzi and his wife both took the Havana Acquired Brain Injury Test (HABIT) in June 2018, to assess their condition. Both demonstrated brain injury symptoms consistent with directed energy exposure (symptoms resembling American diplomats injured in Havana) and qualified for medical evacuation to the US, the department said. lawsuit said.

Back in the United States, Lenzi was officially diagnosed with an “acquired traumatic brain injury/concussion” at the University of Pennsylvania, the lawsuit said. He claims that he continues to face retaliation and discrimination by the State Department.

Specifically, Lenzi alleges that he was treated differently from American employees with similar symptoms in Havana in 2016. According to the lawsuit, Lenzi claims that he “receives less support from the Department of Diplomat in the pursuit of treatment, and had to overcome needless, time consuming and heavy administrative obstacles to try to get the medical care he needed. Specifically, Lenzi stated that he was forced to take sick leave to receive treatment, while injured officers in Cuba were allowed administrative leave.

Lenzi also claims that although he has received some disability allowance, he has been placed in roles that involve less pay than his qualifications – although, he claims, those conditions will not prevent him from accepting an overseas post more commensurate with his experience.

The lawsuit also alleges that “Mr. Lenzi would most likely have been promoted if it weren’t for the Agency’s discrimination and retaliation against him. “

Lenzi has publicly expressed his disappointment with the way the State Department has handled cases, but other State Department employees and senior diplomats also expressed frustration earlier this year, including including what they say is a lack of information from the leadership and hands-off approach of Blinken.

Diplomats and intelligence sources who spoke to CNN at the time said they wanted basic information such as the number of people affected and the location of the incident, especially since the department had previously announced it. announced that information publicly during press conferences about the incident in Cuba and China. Diplomats also wondered what the department was doing to ensure that they and their families were not returned to buildings or apartments where health incidents had been previously reported.

In response, State Department officials stressed they were trying to strike the right balance: They wanted to share more details so that diplomats could make informed decisions, but they also did not. want to exaggerate the threat.

Blinken met with victims for the first time in September, and in November he announced that he had appointed two new diplomats to lead ongoing efforts to tackle the illnesses the US government calls “unusual health incident”.

“All of us in the U.S. government, and especially us at the State Department, are intensely focused on getting to the bottom of what and who is causing these incidents,” Blinken said in a statement. The November press conference introduced the newly appointed officials overseeing the response department.

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https://kesq.com/news/2021/12/09/state-department-officer-struck-by-havana-syndrome-sues-blinken-and-agency-for-alleged-disability-discrimination/ State Department official attacked by Havana syndrome sues Blinken and agency for alleged disability discrimination

DUSTIN JONES

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