SpyCast 4.11.23
Ep 582 | 4.11.23

“Havana Syndrome” – A Panel featuring Nicky Woolf, Marc Polymeropoulos, and Mark Zaid

Show Notes


This week’s episode is the result of a collaboration with The Sound, a recent limited series podcast exploring the so-called Havana Syndrome. The guests are host and investigative journalist Nicky Woolf (Twitter), former senior CIA operations officer and sufferer Marc Polymeropoulos (Twitter), and attorney and advocate Mark Zaid (Twitter).

What You’ll Learn


  • What Havana Syndrome is
  • Who it is affecting
  • Theories to explain it
  • The role of intelligence organizations


  • The unending search for truth 
  • Humanity in the intelligence field 

And much, much more …

Episode Notes

In late 2016, a number of American and Canadian embassy personnel in Havana, Cuba were the first to report debilitating idiopathic symptoms. Sufferers reported loud ringing in their ears, severe vertigo, headaches, and loss of cognitive abilities. Now, almost 6 years later, over 200 people have come forward experiencing similar symptoms.

Despite the number of reported sufferers and extensive investigations, there is still no conclusive answer. This week on SpyCast, we bring you the recording of an in-person program held at the International Spy Museum in February which brought together a panel to examine the issue.


This episode was produced in collaboration with THE SOUND, an investigative podcast series by Project Brazen and Goat Rodeo with PRX. Tune in to all 8 episodes of THE SOUND now for a more in-depth and comprehensive look at the mystery of Havana Syndrome. 

Quotes of the Week

"There’s a betrayal I felt when the CIA didn't give me the medical attention that I needed. You know, if you're not feeling well and an employee comes to you, send 'em to the doctor. And they weren't able to do that. And to me, that's just a leadership fail for the ages." – Marc Polymeropoulos.




*Beginner Resources*



  • To Catch a Spy, J. Olson (Georgetown University Press, 2021)
  • Putin’s People, C. Belton ( Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2020)
  • The Moscow Rules, A. Mendez & J. Mendez (Public Affairs, 2019) 



Primary Sources 

*Wildcard Resource*

  • Havana Syndrome is an example of a toponymic term in the medical field – A name that comes from a geographic place. For more on medical etymology, check out this article that shares the backstory of the name of 7 well-known conditions.