The first challenge of an investigation is to prove that a sonic attack is actually feasible. Evidence of this, obtained from witnesses or leakers, is lacking. But the persistence of the reports, most recently (CNN) Mysterious attacks on US diplomats in Cuba occurred as recently as last month, and the implied confidence of the F.B.I. that the attacks were real, indicated a real need for a feasibility study.
So as a kind of proof-of-concept, the series Havana Sonic Attack Weapon , parts 1-6, attempts to reverse engineer a hypothetical gadget, deriving a design from very specific details of the attacks.
The reality of the attacks, and the plausibility of the design suggest that there really is a sonic attack weapon, and it was not invented in Cuba. The strength in physical sciences of the Soviet Union, inherited by Russia, lays obvious suspicion. The bonds between old-line communists of the KGB and the Dirección de Inteligencia date from 1962, and linger in the elderly, higher echelons of the DI.
This exceeds the notoriety of the riddling death of Mikhail Lesin. One would have to go back to the assassination of (BBC) Alexander Litvinenko. The British judge in charge of the investigation, Sir Robert Owen, came to the conclusion that it was probably personally approved by Vladimir Putin. But the behavior during the preceding year of the likely assassin, Andrei Lugovoy, was so bizarre, I lean toward significant possibility in place of probability. The choice between the two is very muddy.
It’s muddy because there has been a consistent failure of the Russians to correctly calculate the risk/reward ratio of clandestine operations. The fallout from Litvinenko’s murder has been devastating. It’s an enduring PR nightmare for the Russian image in Britain. The election hacks have bought Russia nothing but pain. In Cuba, they may think they have a zero chance of getting nailed. They are probably right. But in the U.S., conviction, even of a capital crime, can be based solely on circumstantial evidence.
It is very unlikely that the Cubans will ever hand over evidence of Russian culpability. But how could a Russian operative sit in a car all night outside a U.S. diplomatic residence with a brain-fryer humming along? It’s pretty easy to imagine.
Some old fart in the upper echelons of the DI, whose buddies in the KGB go way back, is not happy with his pension. He’s smuggling Bolivar Corona Gigantes, but it’s not enough. Since he walks with a cane, he got together with some slightly younger guys, who smuggle smaller cigars than the Gigante, and also want a taste of the good life. Old Fart is close to Raúl, who is not going to sell him out for the sake of the Yanquis.
We’ll probably never hear the end of it, but not for any sinister reason. If someone in the Ukraine digs up an early model of the dastardly gadget and hands it over to the CIA, the source will be protected. The Cubans may offer one or more of these as a resolution:
- Public Contrition. We found the culprit, we offer our abject apologies, and will deliver him in chains for extradition.
- Loud denial. This worked, after a fashion, for Moscow with Litvinenko, so why shouldn’t it work for Cuba?
- Stonewall. An investigation by Cuba that goes nowhere.
- Private admission. We know who is responsible, and will be careful to insulate you from him.
The last may be the best we can hope for. The communist and ex-communist states have a hard time admitting mistakes. In notable exception, after Boris Nemtsov was assassinated in sight of the Kremlin Walls, Putin seemed to grieve. Two of the trigger-men received judicial process. A harder-to-reach individual, (Guardian) Beslan Shavanov, by some accounts fell on a grenade during a police raid mounted with great effort inside the hostile territory of Chechnya itself.
So an unlikely fifth possibility exists. Maybe Old Fart will smuggle no more cigars.
We’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, have a rum and coke on me.