Sonic Attacks, Psychotronics and International Mistrust: How We Can Prevent a Resurgence of the Cold
There is something extra strange about the alleged “sonic attacks” that afflicted U.S. diplomats in Cuba and again, this month, in Guangzhou, China. Another American, his wife and their two children were evacuated from China in early June after the parents exhibited neurological symptoms, according to The New York Times.
The recent injuries in China, like those in Cuba two years ago, followed unsettling sensations of sounds and vibrations that have been described as the noises made by cicadas, static, metal sheets waving or marbles rolling around a metal funnel. Victims have reported mild brain injuries and symptoms similar to those “following concussion or minor traumatic brain injury,” including “subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure.” The experience was so damaging to one U.S. diplomat that he now needs a hearing aid, according to CNN.
The recent reports in China have amplified a medical mystery that started in 2016, when American Embassy employees in Havana and their family members—24 in total—all reported strange symptoms including headaches, nausea, hearing loss, cognitive issues and other symptoms, following the perception of odd sounds. According to this article in Newsweek, later reports of similar effects also came from Canadian diplomats and tourists visiting from both Canada and the U.S.
The Associated Press (AP) posted the alleged sound here, which is painfully piercing and best to avoid. It sounds like the shrieking sinewave of an intense robot beam fueled by a bucket of pulverized alien crickets.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has made investigating the medical cases in China and Cuba a priority for the State Department, but no final determination has been made about what caused these illnesses—at least none that has been made public.
“It remains unclear whether the illnesses are the result of attacks at all,” according to a June 6, 2018 New York Times article. “Other theories have included toxins, listening devices that accidentally emitted harmful sounds or even mass hysteria.”
The Health Effects of Inaudible Sound
The Atlantic reported last year that health effects caused by exposure to inaudible sound waves are real.
“In 2001, after residents of Kokomo, Indiana, began reporting symptoms including ‘annoyance, sleep disturbance, headaches, and nausea,’ the U.S. National Institutes of Health investigated the issue. The result was a dossier on the toxicology of ‘infrasound’—acoustic energy with wavelengths of 17 meters or more,” the article said. “The agency couldn’t pin down the cause of the Indiana residents’ symptoms as infrasound, but the report did confirm that infrasound can cause fatigue, apathy, hearing loss, confusion, and disorientation. In one study cited therein, volunteers exposed to industrial infrasound for just 15 minutes reported fatigue, depression, pressure in the ears, loss of concentration, drowsiness, and ‘vibration of internal organs.’”
The humming sound that plagued the town of Kokomo, Indiana also caused residents to have diarrhea, nosebleeds, dizziness, fatigue and memory loss.
“The most common description of the hum is that it sounds like the low rumble of a distant diesel truck idling,” according to this article in The New York Times. “Some people also feel a vibration, or don't hear any sound but just sense the vibration.”
The New York Times article says this incident in Indiana was not isolated: There have been reports of hums in England, Scotland, Australia and other places in the United States for decades, including New Mexico.
Sound Weapons Could Use Microwaves, Infrasound or Ultrasound
Before we go further, let’s quickly discuss the three ways an inaudible sound weapon could work: infrasound (frequencies below 20Hz), ultrasound (frequencies above 20kHz) or microwaves.
Infrasound is sometimes called the “fear frequency” because, although it is a sound lower than humans can year, it can induce feelings of fear, dread or depression, as seen in the example of the Indiana residents. Infrasound can be caused by anything from earthquakes, nuclear explosions and meteors to ocean waves, fans and pipes vibrating in the attic. Elephants and whales are among the animals that produce infrasound naturally to communicate with each other.
Ultrasound, on the other hand, is not audible because the frequency is higher than what humans can hear. It maintains very directional wave forms and can be hyper focused, which is why it is widely used in the medical industry for digital diagnostic imaging, among other things. Some devices that use ultrasound, however, also use audible frequencies, so the ability to hear a sound does not rule out the use of ultrasound. Among the devices that do this are long-range acoustic devices (LRADs), which have been used by police units to help control crowds of people—especially protestors.
“They emit a loud, painful sound over a long distance and make people run away,” CNN reported.
Police units used ultrasound-fueled LRAD devices at an Occupy Wall Street rally in 2011, for example, and again in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014.
Stranger still, several U.S. military contractors are working on a “God Voice” device, according to this article by Communities Digital News. This “Sonic Projector” is supposedly capable of shooting a narrow microwave message into the head of its intended human target, with those around them left unaware. More on this later.
According to this document released by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in 2007, a Sonic Projector “could be used to conceal communications for special operations forces and hostage rescue missions, and to disrupt enemy activities.”
IFLSCIENCE! may have explained it best.
“Imperceptible to people lacking detection technology, it has been shown that small [microwave] beams directed at people’s heads rapidly heat tissue within the brain, generating a small shockwave. This shockwave is registered as sound by the ears, which then vibrate at an extremely high frequency. All in all, hearing loss and severe headaches are inevitable. Worryingly, such a device would also cause lasting neural damage, if the microwaves were energetic enough.”
Sonic Attack or Intrusive Surveillance?
But an article in The Independent says the recent injuries in Cuba and China are less likely to be the result of a deliberate “sonic attack” and more likely to be “the side effects of intrusive surveillance”—especially since ultrasound is “useful in surveillance, particularly when subjects are trying to avoid being overhead.”
Robin Cleveland, a professor of engineering science at the University of Oxford, confirmed ultrasound is the most likely culprit in an article in The Guardian: “What’s probably happening in the Cuba situation is ultrasonic—higher frequencies above 20kHz.”
Tim Leighton, a professor of ultrasonics and underwater acoustics at University of Southampton, agreed, “If you want to produce a tight beam of energy that you can point at someone, ultrasound is the one to go for.”
But some computer scientists say the true cause of these sonic afflictions could have been caused by equipment trying to listen in on the diplomats’ and visitors’ conversations.
Kevin Fu, a computer scientist at the University of Michigan, decided to study the 6-second audio clip released by the AP—the one described above. His lab specializes in analyzing cybersecurity devices, sensors, RFIDs and autonomous vehicles.
Fu and his frequent collaborator Wenyuan Xu, a professor at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, along with her Ph.D. student Chen Yan, reverse engineered the audio clip and found it was most likely caused by a combination of ultrasonic signals interfering with one another that created an audible side effect, according to their article, “How We Reverse Engineered the Cuban ‘Sonic Weapon’ Attack.”
Through a series of simulations, they showed that an effect known as intermodulation distortion could have produced the sound.
“Intermodulation distortion can produce lower-frequency signals than the original signals,” Fu says. “Inaudible ultrasonic waves going through air can produce audible by-products.”
In other words, they were able to use ultrasonic tones to create sounds like those described and recorded in Cuba. While no single ultrasonic tone would make this terrible sound, by combining more than one tone they were able to create an audible byproduct.
“Maybe there was also an ultrasonic jammer in the room and an ultrasonic transmitter,” Fu speculated. “Each device might have been placed there by a different party, completely unaware of the other.”
Although this research does not conclusively determine what actually happened in Cuba and assumes that a sound weapon could not incorporate audible waves in addition to inaudible ones, it does provide a plausible explanation for what might have happened—especially if these eavesdroppers were not actually trying to harm anyone (but are not about to make their presence known either).
Fadel Adib, a professor at MIT who specializes in wireless technology for sensing and communications, called the study by Fu and his colleagues “a creative take on what might have happened.” Adib, who wasn’t involved in the research but reviewed the results, added that wireless signals can and do interact with one another. “And if that happens, you’ll hear signals you wouldn’t expect to hear,” he says. “Given all the possible explanations, this definitely seems the most plausible and the most technically feasible.”
Alleged Sonic Attacks Spoiled Relations with Cuba
Following the alleged “sonic attacks” in Cuba, the United States emptied the embassy in Havana and expelled 15 Cuban diplomats, accusing Cuban officials of failing to adequately to protect American diplomats.
“We hold the Cuban authorities responsible for finding out who is carrying out these health attacks,” said Secretary Rex Tillerson.
Relations between the two countries have been strained ever since.
In fact, U.S. policy on Cuba has been dramatically altered by the reports of sonic attacks in Havana, as The New York Times documents here. The timing of the roiled relations is especially notable, as Cuba has a new leader—the island’s first leader without the Castro surname in almost 60 years—Miguel Díaz-Canel.
But with Americans now exhibiting similar symptoms in Guangzhou, American in recent weeks, officials have raised suspicions about whether other countries—perhaps Russia, China, North Korea, Venezuela, or Iran—might be to blame. These suspicions have led some to draw parallels between this mysterious situation and the Cold War.
Parallels to the Cold War
During the Cold War, the Soviet Union and the United States were in a bizarre, unconventional arms race, as exposed in this report: An arms race of parapsychology or psychotronics, in which the U.S. vied with Soviet scientists to understand mind control, remote viewing and non-local physics.
The U.S. had MKULTRA, a 20-year CIA program that studied ways of manipulating people’s minds and altering their brain function. According to Senate hearings in 1977, these experiments included the use of hallucinogenic drugs, hypnosis and sensory deprivation. Some of America’s work on these topics is now public and has been the subject of books, TV documentaries and even the Hollywood film “The Men Who Stare at Goats,” starring George Clooney.
The Soviets had a similar program that included experiments in parapsychology, which was built on the idea that the human brain can receive and transmit a certain kind of high-frequency electromagnetic radiation.
Although much of this research was allegedly discontinued in 2003, according to the report’s author, Serge Kernbach at the Research Center of Advanced Robotics and Environmental Science in Stuttgart, Germany, “it is not clear whether Russia (or the U.S.) has ongoing programs in these areas.”
Earlier this year, MuckRock Journalist Curtis Waltman, who specializes in filing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, wrote the Washington State Fusion Center (WSFC)—a joint operation between Washington State law enforcement and the federal government—to request information about Antifa and white supremacist groups. Attached to the response he received, inexplicably and unexplained, was a file entitled “EM effects on human body.zip.”
As Waltman wrote, the file contained information about “psycho-electronic” weapons that purportedly use electromagnetism to do a wide variety of horrible things to people, including artificial tinnitus, microwave hearing, causing intense pain, forced memory blanking, and even “rigor mortis.”
Microwave Hearing and Mind Control
Since it is referenced in this diagram (fourth line down from the top right), which was leaked to Waltman, and microwaves were originally listed as one of the three possible choices for sound weaponry, what is microwave hearing?
Essentially, it is the modification of radar units that transmit a beam of pulsed microwave energy into a person’s inner ear via “bone conduction,” causing ticks, buzzes, hisses, knocks, chirps and even words, according to this article on New World War, which clearly outlines the history of microwave hearing:
In a 1962 report, Human Auditory System Response to Modulated Electromagnetic Energy, which appeared in the, Dr. Allan Frey described how microwave hearing was demonstrated using a microwave transmitter that projected sound several hundred feet.
In 1973, Dr. Joseph Sharp proved the correct modulation of microwave energy could, in fact, result in the wireless and receiverless transmission of audible speech.
In 1976, the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner reported Soviets were also conducting extensive research into microwave hearing. This was brought to the attention of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, as words which appeared to be originating within a person’s skull could be induced by microwaves.
In 1998, U.S. Patent 4877027 mentioned sound could be induced in the head of an individual using microwaves in the range of about 100 MHz to 10 GHz. The waves consist of frequency modulated bursts lasting from about 500 nanoseconds to 100 microseconds that create a sense of hearing in the individual whose head is targeted. It is effective regardless of a person’s natural ability to hear.
Other patents pertaining to microwave hearing, such as the 1989 US Patent 4858612 and the 2003 US Patent 6587729, “Apparatus for Audibly Communicating Speech Using the Radio Frequency Hearing Effect,” are based on similar scientific principles.
In 2008, a story in WIRED entitled “Pentagon Report: Nonlethal Weapons Could Target Brain, Mimic Schizophrenia,” said “the U.S. military bankrolled early development of a non-lethal weapon that creates sound inside your head,” and outlined how microwave weapons are not only possible but have already been demonstrated.
Dr. Lev Sadovnik of the Sierra Nevada Corporation made an intriguing suggestion at the time, according to the article, that “instead of being used at high power to create an intolerable noise, it might be used at low power to produce a whisper that was too quiet to perceive consciously but might be able to subconsciously influence someone. The directional beam could be used for targeted messages, such as in-store promotions. Sadovnik even suggests subliminal advertising, beaming information that is not consciously heard.”
Modern Apps Also Use Privacy-Invasive Ultrasound
It's important to quickly note here, lest we think Sadovnik’s 2008 claims sound too futuristic, that today hundreds of privacy-invading apps are using ultrasonic sounds to track you, as outlined in this ZDNet article.
“These near-silent tones can't be picked up by the human ear, but there are apps in your phone that are always listening for them. This technology is called ultrasonic cross-device tracking, and it works by emitting high-frequency tones in advertisements and billboards, web pages, and across brick-and-mortar retail outlets or sports stadiums,” the article says. “Apps with access to your phone's microphone can pick up these tones and build up a profile about what you've seen, where, and in some cases even the websites you've visited. The technology is still in its infancy, but it's growing in popularity.”
Freaked out by this? Here’s an article in WIRED about “How to Block the Ultrasonic Signals You Didn’t Know Were Tracking You.”
What We Don’t Know (and Don’t Do) Can Hurt Us
Microwaves, ultrasounic spying and mind control, oh my. It is all a bit dizzying and nauseating.
To go back and tie up that loose end about the mind control zip file that was accidentally sent to Mr. Waltman, the origin of the bizarre diagrams and images included therein was unclear.
According to this article in Popular Mechanics, some of the images were from an article in Nexus magazine, "a fringe Australian publication about conspiracy theories and the paranormal." The article in question describes a lawsuit filed by John St. Clair Agnew against the NSA in 1992. Agnew claimed that the NSA used electromagnetic technology to “assassinate US citizens covertly or run covert psychological control operations to cause subjects to be diagnosed with ill mental health." The outcome of Agnew’s lawsuit is unknown, according to this RT article.
Elizabeth Quintana, a senior research fellow at the UK-based military think tank the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), specializes in emerging technologies in the defense world.
"The United States have been surprised at the extent to which others have caught up with them in all sorts of technologies," she told the BBC. "It's probably not so much a surprise that the technology exists, more that others are aware of it and using it."
Clearly these weapons and technologies can all be used for ill or good, although the overwhelming majority outlined above seem to be more sinister than benevolent in nature.
This is exactly why using the bad behavior (or fear) of other people and other countries to justify our own questionable tactics has monumental and lasting consequences.
Fear begets fear. Weapons beget weapons. Suspicion begets suspicion. Bad or unethical behavior
justifies bad and unethical behavior.
If we will govern our own fear, behavior and use of psychological hate on others by adhering to universal ethics and the golden rule—even when broken by others—we might be able to prevent a recurring Cold War and end this cycle of mistrust. We might be able to reach across the aisle and see each other as fellow humans worth our respect. We might even be able to create a more harmonious world, one where America befriends North Korea and even Russia.