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Top officials who suffered "Havana Syndrome" symptoms on White House grounds discuss experiences for first time

"Havana Syndrome" cases on U.S. soil
"Havana Syndrome" stumps investigators as U.S. officials report injuries on White House grounds 27:52

For the first time Sunday night, Homeland Security officials spoke on camera about being overcome with symptoms similar to the "Havana Syndrome" reported by American diplomats in foreign countries since 2016. The high-ranking officials said they suffered unexplained vertigo, confusion and memory loss while on White House grounds and in their Washington homes.

Olivia Troye, a Homeland Security and counterterrorism adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, told 60 Minutes she fell ill in the summer of 2019 while descending a set of stairs in front of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, adjacent to the West Wing on the White House campus.

"It was like this piercing feeling on the side of my head, it was like, I remember it was on the right side of my head and I got vertigo," Troye told Scott Pelley. "I was unsteady, I was, I felt nauseous, I was somewhat disoriented, and I remember thinking, 'OK you've got to---don't fall down the stairs. You've got to find your ground again and steady yourself.'"

  Olivia Troye

Troye said she was overcome like this four times in 2019 and 2020, once on the stairs and three times in the Ellipse, immediately south of the White House.

"It was almost like I couldn't really process. I was sort of-- it was like a paralyzing panic attack," Troye told 60 Minutes. "And I've never had that. I've never felt anything like that. And so… I thought to myself, 'I mean, do I have a brain tumor out of the blue? Is this what happens? Am I having a stroke?'"

Miles Taylor, former chief of staff of Homeland Security during the Trump administration, had a similar experience in his D.C. home.

"I'd just become deputy chief of staff of the department, taking on some additional sensitive issues at DHS, and woke up in my apartment that night, a row house on Capitol Hill, to a really strange sound," Taylor said. "It was sort of a chirping, somewhere between what you would think is a cricket or sort of a digital sound. I didn't know what it was, but it was enough to wake me up."

"What was really strange about it is, I went to the window, opened up my window, looked down at the street. And keep in mind, Scott, this is probably 3-- 3:30 in the morning and I see a white van," Taylor told Pelley. "And the van's brake lights turned on, and it pulled off and it sped away."

  Miles Taylor

Taylor said the whole ordeal lasted seven to 10 minutes. The next day he said he felt sick. Five weeks later, Taylor said it happened again at home in the middle of the night. He says he later learned an unnamed, "roughly" cabinet-level official was also seemingly targeted at their home.

"This was an individual that, yes, was roughly at the cabinet-level in the Trump administration who had similar episodes occur," Taylor said. "That to me as a homeland security professional was a big blinking red light. I mean, to me this said, 'five-alarm fire.' We may have ongoing activity targeting U.S. government officials here in our country."

60 Minutes spoke with other government officials who have suffered debilitating, long-term disabilities after similar experiences. Former national security adviser John Bolton corroborated some of the other instances.

The injuries are still under investigation by the FBI, State Department and intelligence community. One of the leaders of the investigation, new CIA director William Burns, said after early disbelief, these injured Americans can no longer be doubted.

"In my first week as director, I began what had become dozens of dozens of meetings with affected officers and family members," Burns told 60 Minutes. "And I found their stories to be powerful and compelling and sometimes heartbreaking."

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