U.S. State Department service officer Mark Lenzi recently filed a lawsuit against the agency alleging retaliation and disability discrimination. Lenzi experienced a series of symptoms associated with the mysterious “Havana Syndrome” following a trip to China.
In a complaint filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Lenzi aimed at the State Department and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the Washington Post reported.
In a complaint filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Lenzi accused the State Department of initially downplaying the health risks of Havana syndrome. He said a doctor affiliated with the agency refused to diagnose him with the condition.
Lenzi alleged that the State Department had subjected him to retaliation and discrimination simply for exercising his First Amendment rights to speak freely about his disability and how the department has treated him, causing him emotional distress and lost wages.
Accordingly, Lenzi seeks compensation for past and future loss of wages and benefits, including front and back pay with interest; plus six additional years of retirement credit at the State Department; reinstatement to a position comparable to his previous positions; legal fees; and “financial compensation for emotional distress, pain and suffering,” among other legal actions.
According to his complaint filed on Dec. 8, Lenzi and his family, around November 2017, began experiencing “sudden and unexplained physical and psychological symptoms, including headaches, insomnia, dizziness, nosebleeds, and memory loss,” while they were based at the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, China.
A few months later, in June 2018, Lenzi, his wife, and two children were administered the relevant brain injury tests, which led to all four being transferred to the University of Pennsylvania’s Brain Injury Repair Center. Lenzi began receiving treatment at the center.
As reported in the complaint, Lenzi was reassigned to a national position in December 2018. Since then, he has been denied overseas postings and has not been promoted.
The complaint also details that Lenzi sent an email in May 2018 to fellow U.S. diplomats, warning them of the potential danger to their health and safety from this mysterious syndrome. As a result, the DSS ordered Lenzi to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.
The psychiatric evaluation he was ordered to undergo “constituted a crude and cruel act of retaliation against Mr. Lenzi for discussing his injuries and concern for his own health and that of his colleagues,” the complaint states.
Havana syndrome is a series of mysterious neurologically rooted symptoms first reported by U.S. authorities in Cuba in 2016. Symptoms include nausea, severe headaches, fatigue, dizziness, sleep problems, and hearing loss.
Some theories indicate that the syndrome is triggered by an ultrasound weapon, but nothing has been proven so far.
The case is exceptionally complex and challenging to investigate, considering that the devices used to attack could be small and portable. In addition, the symptoms may appear similar to those of many other diseases.
Scientists and officials are unclear or have not communicated, who might be behind any of these attacks, and whether the incidents are actually targeted attacks or are inadvertently caused by surveillance equipment.