Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee received information behind closed doors on an incident in Cuba that left US and Canadian diplomatic staff injured. But answers remain elusive.
“No,” committee chairman Sen. Bob Coker (R-Tenn.) told reporters bluntly after the Wednesday briefing, when asked if investigators were any closer to learning what exactly happened.
Corker clarified that the US isn’t accusing the Cuban government of being responsible for the incident, which allegedly left 21 diplomats suffering hearing loss and other ailments. He stated, however, that Havana has “the ability to figure this out.”
Corker speculated that “rogue elements” within the Castro administration might be responsible.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) went on to describe the events to reporters as a highly-advanced attack against the US diplomatic corps in Cuba.
“This is not something you could do by going to the local Radio Shack and buying the right equipment,” he said. “I can tell you that whoever is responsible for it is certainly a sophisticated operation.”
Cuba denied the use of any sort of “sonic weapon.” The government has been cooperative with FBI and Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigators.
According to the Associated Press, spies were some of the first Americans in Havana to report illness-causing sounds around their diplomatic mission.
The wire service reported that investigators are probing the “world of spycraft and counterespionage, given that so many of the first reported cases involved intelligence workers posted to the US embassy.”
Despite uncertainties about the nature of the alleged attack and who was behind it, the Trump administration moved on Tuesday to expel 15 Cuban diplomats from their post in Washington.
Sen. Rubio defended the action, saying it was not “retribution” but instead “reciprocity” for the decline in US staff in Havana.
Democratic members of the Foreign Relations Committee, however, spoke out against the expulsions.
The ranking member of the panel, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), warned that they could complicate the ongoing investigation.
“The US should not take actions that could undermine our bilateral relations with Cuba and US policies aimed at advancing our strategic national interests in the hemisphere,” Cardin said in a statement.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) also weighed in with a statement.
“We do not know who is doing this or why, yet we are punishing the Cubans for not preventing it,” Leahy said. “That will not help solve the mystery of this serious offense, and it won’t make our diplomats safer.”
Also during Wednesday’s press gaggle, Sen. Corker was also asked about the future of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson within the Trump administration, on the same day press reports alleged that Tillerson referred to Trump as a “moron” during a meeting in July.
“I think that Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis, and Chief of Staff Kelly are those people who help separate our country from chaos, and I support them very much,” Corker said.
When asked if by “chaos” he was referring to President Trump, Corker didn’t list names, but added: “Well, let’s just say they work very well together to make sure the policies we put forth around the world are, you know, sound and coherent.”
“There are other people within the administration, in my belief, that don’t,” he stated.