Figure 1: Senator Marco Rubio
Excerpts from automatic transcript with minor modifications starting at 25:50 (1550sec)
MR: Thank you. Doctor, I'll start with you. Is it fair to say May 1st or early May we were aware that at least 16 U.S. government employees and/or dependents had suffered a serious injury while working in Havana for the U.S. government?
CR: It's fair to say we were aware they had suffered some type of injury.
MR: Was it serious?
CR: In some individuals it was more serious than others.
MR: Was there at least one U.S. government employee suffered serious injury?
CR: Many cases.
MR: In any case of serious injury, they should convene an accountability review board. That has to happen within 60 days of an occurrence of the incident and allows for a 60-day delay if they determine more time is necessary for convening by the board. By early May, we knew at least one or several, as the doctor has testified, suffered serious injury. And certainly by early September an accountability review board should have been set up. I got a letter November 6th saying there was still not an accountability review board. And the Secretary decided to delay 60 days to determine whether one was necessary. "Allow additional time to better inform the decision whether to convene an ARB." Has an accountability review board been set up to this date and why wasn't it set up, as according to law, in the 120-day period.
FP: The Secretary has made a decision to convene an account accountability review board. There will be a congressional notification sent shortly.
MR: Why wasn't it done within 120 days since May 1st when we knew there was serious injury?
FP: Throughout this process there were things we knew or at times and then was later contradicted. Throughout this process we have not been able to identify who the perpetrator of such attack was and what the means of that attack was. It was only until late August when there was another round of attacks that it became apparent to us that we should begin the process of looking at an accountability review board.
MR: That's not what the law reads. In any case of serious injury, loss of life related to a United States government mission abroad. It doesn't say you need to know who did it. In fact, that's one of the reasons for the review board. The fact is the State Department did not follow the law in my opinion and I believe in the opinion of others given the fact that by early may we knew serious injury had occurred related to their service in government mission abroad. And Mr. Brown, you testified the conclusion was this was forces hostile to the U.S. and/or to our presence in Cuba. Is that correct?
TB: That's correct. Initially we felt it was a form of harassment and that was attributed to the government.
MR: Do you know when Secretary Kerry was made aware? This was a State Department conclusion that there was harassment, correct?
TB: Yes, sir. That was the early opinion of the security professionals who looked at it that it was likely a form of harassment.
MR: When was Secretary Kerry made aware? Do you know?
FP: I do not know.
MR: Do you know if President Obama was ever made aware?
FP: I know as a regular matter we would have apprized the National Security Council at some point after the late December information became apparent.
MR: What about Secretary Tillerson? When was he first made aware?
FP: I believe that would have been late February, sir.
MR: Do you know if the Trump transition team was made aware during the transition period?
FP: I did not have a contact with them on this issue. I' m not aware if anyone else did.
MR: When President Obama changed policy towards Cuba. We set up the embassy. We had to expand personnel, did we not? We added personnel to expand the mission?
FP: i would have to go back and check the record.
MR: We had to secure housing for the additional mission in Havana?
FP: That would be normal practice.
MR: And we would have to provide Cuban government the list of all the U.S. employees that would move to work at the mission.
FB: We would have enlisted additional visas, yes.
MR: And all of these residencies would have been owned by the Cuban government?
FP: That's my understanding too, sir.
MR: The hotels where these attacks happened were owned by the Cuban government.
FP: That's correct.
MR: What measures did we take on the expansion of these residencies?
TB: Senator, to talk about residential security, I think historically from a crime perspective there were not features related to that. Our concern and I believe the Cuban government selected was aware of which housing our personnel would go into. Our housing profile is fairly compact. There are not specific security measures in a counterintelligence type environment. So there wouldn't have been any other physical security in relation to the residents in place and particularly in Cuba, we did not have, beyond the harassment element, we did not have a high crime statistics or anything related to political violence. So there wouldn't have been any residential measures taken above and beyond what was already in place.
MR: Based on what we know and more importantly what we don't know, can you today guarantee the safety of any personnel in Havana currently stationed or about to be deployed to Havana? Do we know what they can do to protect themselves from these injuries? Can we guarantee today they're safe from the injuries.
TB: Certainly not knowing what's causing it or who's behind it or how it's being done gives us very little in the terms of mitigation. And what we have done is address sort being sure that our community in Havana is well aware of what has happened to provide advice on how to respond to that to have teams in place and how to report those types of incidents. So we have done a lot of work in terms of elevating the knowledge.
MR: I guess to cut the chase, MR. Brown. If I were being deployed to work in the embassy in Havana and asked what could I do to protect yourself, you do not know what I can do to protect myself?
TB: That's true, senator. Our guidance would be in the event of something similar that what has taken place to react in a certain manner. That' s a reactive measure
MR: Do you have any advice to people being deployed to Havana, how they can protect themselves?
CR: We try to educate them and make sure they're aware of the risk and what we know about the symptoms that have occurred. As far as we know right now the only mitigation factor is to limit exposure. We inform them should they hear or feel a sensation to move away as quickly as possible. We know from our patients the less exposure the better. We also do predeployment screening to ascertain baseline hearing, baseline cognitive function. So should they report any concern, we're able to measure what they are currently at compared to the previous status and get them the help they need.
Questions by Senator Bob Menendez to State Department officials Dr. Charles Rosenfarb, Franscesco Palmieri and Todd Brown
Senator Menendez inquires on the relevance of the Cuban-Russian Defense Cooperation Agreement signed in December 2016. This included cooperation in a series of new technologies. The attacks started in November 2016.
Deputy Assistant Secretary (State Dept) commits to providing a classified briefing (one was provided in October and a request for another had been made in early December).
Dr. Rosenfarb: "the pattern of injuries became consistent with what I testify as being most likely a version of traumatic brain injury or concussion.”
Senator asks why diplomats were told not to share their symptoms or concerns with family members.