Diplomats were pulled from the Havana, Cuba embassy after several State Department employees ended up with brain damage similar to a traumatic injury. Now top Americans doing work in China are coming forward to say they too have had problems, but they say the State Department isn't doing anything to help them.
In a "60 Minutes" interview, diplomats and other Americans tasked with doing work between the U.S. and China are complaining that they are being ignored as medical bills are stacking up.
According to a New York Times report in 2018, radio frequency energy in the microwave range gave Americans nose bleeds, vision problems, memory issues, dizziness and multiple other health concerns.
Catherine Werner worked for the U.S. Commerce Department as a trade officer promoting American business while at the Guangzhou Consulate. In a conversation with CBS reporter Scott Pelley, she said she would wake up in the middle of the night with a strange sound in her head.
"It was intense pressure on both of my temples," Werner said. "At the same time, I heard this low humming sound, and it was oscillating. And I remember looking around for where this sound was coming from, because it was painful. October of 2017, I started to get hives all over my body. Really bad hives. I woke up with headaches every day. The simplest things would just make me very, very tired."
She noted that her mother came to China to help take care of her, but then the mother started to have the same problems. Indeed, even Werner's dogs were throwing up blood while she lived in her apartment.
"We hadn't heard about what happened in Cuba. I mean, there were headlines in the news about hearing loss and um, attacks to our diplomats, but we didn't know the details," she continued."
She was ultimately medically evacuated to the U.S. for treatment.
U.S. agencies are investigating, but Werner's upstairs neighbor, Mark Lenzi, who also suffered from problems, said it was a "directed standoff attack against [his] apartment."
When asked if he considered it a weapon, Lenzi said, "of course, it was a weapon."
According to Pelley, in 2014 the National Security Agency described a weapon that could do what happened to these Americans.
According to their report, it's a "high-powered microwave system weapon that may have the ability to weaken, intimidate, or kill an enemy over time without leaving evidence." The NSA's statement also said, "…this weapon is designed to bathe a target's living quarters in microwaves." It was part of a workman's compensation case filed by ex-NSA staffer Mike Beck.
Beck and his colleague Chuck Gubete, spent a week in a country known as a foreign adversary. He and Gubete then began getting tremors and both were ultimately diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease at the same time. He can't reveal which country, but it wasn't in China or Cuba.
US officials have suspected Russia could be a culprit, according to NBC News.
"The suspicion that Russia is likely behind the alleged attacks is backed up by evidence from communications intercepts, known in the spy world as signals intelligence, amassed during a lengthy and ongoing investigation involving the FBI, the CIA and other U.S. agencies," NBC reported in 2018. "The officials declined to elaborate on the nature of the intelligence."
For reasons passing in understanding, however, the State Department is ignoring the Chinese cases as they work to negotiate a trade deal.
The State Department's medical office told Lenzi in a letter, "We have reached the decision that your symptoms and findings do not correlate with the Havana cohort."
He thinks they're trying to cover it up and minimize it, "because it's China, because we have such a large trade relationship with them. You can push around Cuba. Their trade, you know, relations are minimal. With China, that's a different beast. Right?"
State Department doctors claim that Beck's illness is from an injury 17 years ago when he played baseball. They can't explain why Beck's children and wife have problems when they didn't play baseball.
"What does it mean for your benefits today that the State Department is refusing to call this an attack?" Pelley asked.
"It has a significant impact on our, our life. Our finances. My career as well, likely," said former Commerce Department staffer Robyn Garfield. "I have not been afforded time for my rehabilitation. Being classified as a preexisting injury means that I don't have access to paid leave. It also means that after one year my medical bills will not be covered currently."
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) is attempting to get answers for those suffering from the health concerns.
Watch the segment below: