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U.S. FDA OKs Johnson & Johnson Vaccine; Moderna Designs New Vaccine Version to Fight Variant; Oath Keepers Leader: I Was Answering Trump's Call; Intel Report on Jamal Khashoggi's Killing Coming Soon; Tiger Woods Has No Recollection of Accident; Millions of Women Forced to Leave Jobs by Economy, COVID-19; CIA's New Task Force to Probe Invisible Attacks on Spies. Aired 2-2:45a ET

Aired February 25, 2021 - 02:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the, world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM and I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead, the Food and Drug Administration signals yet another vaccine could be given emergency use authorization in the U.S. in days.

Plus, new details about the people involved in the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Then an invisible weapon targeting U.S. diplomats and CIA agents. What one of the victims has to say about it.


CHURCH: Great to have you with us.

After more than a year of loss, grief and uncertainty, it now seems the U.S. is turning the corner in the fight against COVID-19. It has administered more than 66 million vaccine doses and soon it could have another vaccine at its disposal.

The Food and Drug Administration says the Johnson & Johnson vaccine appears safe and effective and meets the requirements for emergency use authorization, which could come as soon as this week.

It appears the single dose vaccine could protect against severe cases and even asymptomatic infections, meaning it may reduce the chances of transmission.

It's the latest encouraging sign for the U.S., which is already trending in the right direction. In the past month, the 7-day average of COVID deaths fell by 34 percent. Hospital admissions were down about 52 percent. The average number of daily cases dropped 59 percent. Still, some experts warn the positive trends could be reversed if new

variants of the virus keep spreading. But they also say vaccines and other health measures could prevent another infection surge. More now from CNN's Amara Walker.


AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A third vaccine on the horizon in the U.S.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will waste no time getting this lifesaving vaccine into the arms of Americans.

WALKER (voice-over): The Food and Drug Administration announcing today the Johnson & Johnson vaccine meets the criteria for emergency use authorization which come as early as Friday. The White House COVID-19 task force on Wednesday saying they already started preparing for distribution.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If authorized we're ready to roll out this vaccine without delay and if the EUA is issued, we anticipate allocating 3 million to 4 million doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine next week.

WALKER (voice-over): But that's less than what the White House was originally expecting.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We were surprised to learn the Johnson & Johnson was behind on their manufacturing. As you noted it was reported to be about 10 million but now it's more like 3 million to 4 million doses that they would be ready to ship next week.

WALKER (voice-over): Experts say they expect a potential third vaccine to expand access and get more people vaccinated faster because it is a single dose.

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: My suspicion is it's going to start with those people who are a lower risk for severe disease to begin with, so people without comorbidities, the younger, the general population.

WALKER (voice-over): Johnson & Johnson told Congress Tuesday they're ready for the rollout.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will have 20 million doses of the vaccine to be made available by the end of March.

WALKER (voice-over): Adding to the 220 million doses the Pfizer and Moderna have pledged to make ready for shipment to the same timeframe after some initial delays in manufacturing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We did initially experience some problems with the initial ramp up of our vaccine.

WALKER (voice-over): Rerecord vaccine supply is getting up to states this week and White House is encouraging sites to be open 24 hours a day. To get more shots in arms, the task force says they will mobilize 1,200 National Guardsmen to service vaccinators.

Even with progress on the vaccine front, the White House today also announcing they will distribute 25 million masks, beginning next month, to get them to some of the most vulnerable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many low income Americans still a lack affordable access to this basic protection.

WALKER (voice-over): Dr. Anthony Fauci announced the National Institutes of Health would be supporting research looking at people experiencing long term COVID-19 symptoms or long haulers, after new data shed some light on the toll it takes.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF COVID-19 MEDICAL ADVISER: Approximately 30 percent of the patients who were enrolled at the University of Washington reported persistent symptoms for as long as 9 months after illness.

WALKER: Moderna has designed an updated vaccine.


WALKER: It is evaluating a booster shot and a primary vaccine that would combat the South African variant. Doses of it have been shipped to the NIH for a clinical study.

They are looking at 3 approaches to the South African variant. First a booster shot of half a dose of the current COVID-19 vaccine; number 2, a booster shot of the new vaccine made specifically for the South African variant and, lastly, a booster shot that combines current and the new vaccine into one -- in Georgia, Amara Walker, CNN.


CHURCH: CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta has more on how the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and what its benefits are.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: They found that there were no deaths in the people who received the vaccine. Good news. There were two hospitalizations within 14 days in people who received the vaccine outright versus zero at 28 days. So people got released from the hospital.

So it seems pretty protective against severe illness and very protective against hospitalizations and death.


CHURCH: As more countries roll out vaccines and more shots are going into arms, new coronavirus cases declining around the. World In Europe, Denmark, lifting COVID-19 restrictions on Monday, stores will be allowed to reopen, outdoor sports with up to 25 people will be able to resume. Meanwhile, France is doubling down on its restrictions as variants

rapidly spread. The health minister says the city of Dunkirk and its surrounding region will enter a weekend lockdown on Friday. France reported more than 31,000 new cases on Wednesday. That's its highest single day increase since last November.

Brazil's most populated state will soon be under curfew. Officials are imposing new restrictions to slow a rising number of COVID-19 hospital admissions. And a ban on large gatherings will be enforced with violators fined. Matt Rivers has the details.


MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil's biggest state, a new curfew will go into effect starting this Friday. Every night, the curfew will run from 11 pm to 5 am and the curfew will go on until at least March 14th.

The reason for this new curfew, according to the state's governor, hospitalizations. As of Monday, the number of people hospitalized in the state of Sao Paulo stood at more than 6,400 people. That is the largest such figure in the state since this pandemic began. Officials are pointing to 2 main reasons for this increase. One, gatherings during the recent Carnival holidays in the country and two, a potentially more contagious variant that continues to spread in Brazil.

Meanwhile we heard from the Pan American Health Organization during a press briefing on Wednesday. They said overall there is some good news. The number of cases throughout Latin America and the Caribbean does generally appear to be dropping in places like Brazil, for example, like Columbia, like Ecuador.

But the group's director put a lot of context on. That she said despite the fact that cases are dropping, infection rates still remain roughly equivalent to what we were seeing in the middle of 2020, a time that the group's director says many countries were sounding the alarm over those kinds of infection rates.

She says a lot of things can change in just a number of weeks. She also pointed out the vaccines continue to be in short supply in the Americas. It's why she called on all countries around the world to make it, quote, "a global priority" to get more vaccines to the Americas, where the group's director said both the need and the risk are highest -- Matt Rivers, CNN, Mexico City.


CHURCH: In Washington, the acting U.S. Capitol Police chief says her department knew about an extremist plan to take part in the pro Trump rally on January 6th. But the agency's intelligence failed to predict the scope of the attack on the Capitol. Tom Foreman has more on the investigation.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They took over the Capitol. Overran the Capitol.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The radical right wing Oath Keepers celebrated on social media the violent attack against what they falsely called a stolen election.

But if that was a big day for Jessica Watkins from Ohio, so was her day in court, asking to be set free while awaiting trial.

CNN has now confirmed 27 current or former members of the military are facing charges. An Army veteran, Watkins is accused of conspiracy, obstructing an official proceeding, destroying property and more.

She denies it all, says she believes she was answering the call of president Trump and providing security for VIPs. But the main argument from her lawyer.


FOREMAN (voice-over): "She fell prey to the false and inflammatory claims of the former president, his supporters and the right-wing media. However misguided, her intentions were not in any way related to an intention to overthrow the government but to support what she believed to be the lawful government."

Those claims have not yet been fully argued in court. Another hearing is set for later this week.

FOREMAN: They are essentially arguing that she was in an alternate reality.

Is that a reasonable defense?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: In my judgment, it will not be persuasive. Not only was it insurrection but it also was violence in pursuit of a political objective, which is domestic terrorism.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Others are showing up in court as well. Among them, Douglas Jensen of Iowa, the man in the QAnon shirt, seen chasing down officer Eugene Goodman.

William Chrestman, associated with the Proud Boys and implicated in alleged conspiracy.

Houston cop Tampham, who resigned from the force and said he went to the rally to see history.

And Pennsylvania police man Joseph Fischer, who's been suspended, accused of fighting Capitol police officers. He allegedly told his boss, "No regrets."

The courts do not appear to be applying any consistent standard in terms of who goes free and who stays locked up. Some decisions that are made are being reversed just a short while later. In short, the prosecution so far are very messy. And as the actual trials begin, they could get even messier -- Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


CHURCH: A new link is emerging between the Saudi crown prince and the barbaric murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Details on that and a new long-awaited U.S. intelligence report on that killing.

Plus, new information in the Tiger Woods crash. Police say he has no recollection of the accident. We will tell you what they are looking at as the possible cause. Back in a moment.




CHURCH: Welcome back, the U.S. intelligence community will soon release its report on the grisly killing of "Washington Post" journalist Jamal Khashoggi. These are long awaited findings that the Trump administration chose to keep under wraps.

President Biden says he has read the report and will soon speak to the Saudi king. This comes as a new link emerges between the Saudi crown prince and Khashoggi. Documents from a Canadian court case showed the private jets used by the hit team that killed him were owned by Mohammed bin Salman.

After the murder a deluge of damning evidence was released. Nic Robertson shows us how it all played out


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: It was October of 2018 when Jamal Khashoggi took these fateful steps into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): A Saudi hit team had arrived a few hours ahead of him. The hit team included an intelligence officer, in charge; a forensic doctor and more than a dozen others, including Mustafa al-Madani, the body double, who dressed in Khashoggi's clothes left by the back door, laying a false trail.

In reality, Khashoggi had been killed minutes after entering the building. His last words after being attacked, "I can't breathe, I can't breathe," before he was dismembered by the doctor's bone saw. His remains were believed to be driven off in a black van shortly after from the consulate to the consul general's residence.

His girlfriend, waiting outside, raised the alarm. Turkish authorities listened to audio recordings from the consulate, then rushed to the airport, questioning members of the hit team, about to leave on private jets and searching some of their baggage but found nothing and let them to leave.

In the following days, the Saudi government denied killing Khashoggi. The consul general even taking reporters on a hokey tour of the consulate. Eventually, 16 days later, Saudi authorities finally gave Turkish investigators permission to search the consulate and the consul general's house.

There was evidence of a cover-up but no body. In the coming weeks, local farms were searched, the consular vehicle recovered from an underground car park but still no leads.

All questions led back to Saudi, where the hit team fled. Finally after more than 2.5 weeks, Saudi authorities admitted Khashoggi was killed by Saudi officials.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was killed in the consulate. We don't know in terms of details how. We don't know where the body. Is

ROBERTSON (voice-over): They called it a rendition gone wrong, an accident, saying local collaborators had the body, although they never provided the names or evidence.

Months later, a U.N. investigation finds credible evidence that crown prince Mohammed bin Salman could bear responsibility in the killing.

The CIA concludes he personally ordered it, both accusations the Saudis flatly deny. In December 2019, Saudi authorities said they have investigated 11 suspects in the murder. Eight have been found guilty in a closed-door trial. Ultimately they're sentenced to time in prison.

But the most high-profile defendants see their charges dismissed. Among them, two close confidants of Mohammed bin Salman. Further distancing Saudi's top royal from the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi -- Nic Robertson, CNN


CHURCH: Authorities in Los Angeles County will conduct a safety review on the stretch of road where Tiger Woods crashed his car. Police report 13 accidents there in the past 13 months. The sheriff says they will look into whether Woods was on his phone when he crashed.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At the scene he made no comments regarding that. He wasn't questioned. At the hospital he was asked about it by the investigators and he had no recollection of the crash itself.


CHURCH: The sheriff also says they don't plan to pursue any criminal charges against Woods. CNN's Kyung Lah has more on the crash and Woods' recovery


KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR U.S. CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The investigation into Tiger Woods' crash will look at speed. How quickly the SUV was traveling down this road when the golfer lost control.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hopefully it'll be equipped with this black box and have some information about the speed and what may be a factor in this accident.

LAH (voice-over): This winding downhill road is known as a local trouble spot. Deputies did not find skid marks or indications of brakes used or any evidence of impairment. Deputies say the engineering of the SUV, airbags and the seatbelt likely saved Woods' life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a rollover with someone trapped.

LAH (voice-over): Responding officers found Woods trapped in the wreckage of the high speed single car rollover. The hospital says his legs were broken in multiple places. Surgeons inserted a rod to stabilize fractures exposed to open air. Bones, especially in his right foot and ankle, needed screws and pins. Surgeons also worked to relieve muscle swelling and pressure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The surgeons likely believed, if they did not perform one of those procedures to release that pressure, they were worried he could lose the limb. Amputation might have been necessary.


LAH (voice-over): Woods' family says he is awake, responsive and recovering in the hospital. Emotion continues to pour in from the sports world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We love him and, you know, anytime someone you care deeply about is hurt, it hurts. And it's not me, it's everybody out here.

LAH (voice-over): To those marking the barrier-breaking figure in a sport largely dominated by white athletes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There were some people who were able to look at Tiger Woods and understand Black excellence in this arena in a way they hadn't understood before.

TIGER WOODS, GOLFER: I had come to the realization I would never play competitive golf again.

Woods has faced potentially career ending injuries before. This video, featuring Woods from a health care company, explains his comeback after one of his five back surgeries, a reminder of why, even after this devastating accident, Tiger Woods cannot be counted out yet.

WOODS: I went from accepting it and having a peace of mind that I would never ever do this again, to all of a sudden monkeying around with my kids, with great hope just hanging around the living room. It's wild.

LAH (voice-over): Kyung Lah, CNN, Los Angeles.


CHURCH: And the tributes and well wishes for Tiger Woods are pouring in from all around the world.

Take a look at this giant sand art sculpture on display in Scotland. A man made this on Wednesday at the city's famous golf course. He says he has been a huge fan of Woods for years and wanted to pay tribute to the golf legend. He created the artwork using two rakes then launched his drone to capture the aerial view. Wow.

Be sure to stay with CNN, we will have more on Tiger Woods ahead on "WORLD SPORT."

Now for some other news we are following this hour. Police in Germany and Belgium have made Europe's biggest cocaine bust ever. They seized more than 23,000 kilos of the drug at the port of Hamburg and they made one arrest.

The drugs were in containers from a ship that had traveled from Paraguay via Tangier in Morocco and Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Police say the cocaine would have a street value of several billion euros.

The showdown between Facebook and the Australian government is over and both sides seem happy. Australia passed its hotly debated law that forces tech companies to pay publishers for news content.

Facebook got them to water it down in a major way after blocking news pages in Australia. Will Ripley is following the story live from Hong Kong and he joins us now.

Good to see you, Will.

Who came out on top here?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Both sides are claiming a win. From the Australian government perspective, their law, which has been the focus of the bitter debate for months, especially with Facebook, has resulted in Facebook and Google entering into commercial agreements with large media organizations in Australia.

In other words, compensating them for content that appears on the Facebook news feed. That's what the Austrian government wanted all along. But the way that the law was originally written really riled up Facebook because it opened up the door for either individual or collective bargaining.

And if that didn't go well made it pretty easy to go into forced arbitration. Facebook felt like that took away too much control from that platform over which publishers they choose to support.

Now on Tuesday, the Australian government amended a particular part of the code, basically encouraging commercial negotiation and saying that the arbitration would only be as a last resort, if good faith mediation didn't work out. That means Facebook gets to decide which publishers they want to pay

for content but everyone that is appearing on Facebook is getting paid in Australia. So lawmakers say that that is a win, for them.

What is interesting here is that aside from the fact that Facebook was playing hardball they yanked the news feed from Australian users and are on the process of getting it back up and running. This is something that regulators in other countries are taking a very close look at.

Could other countries try to enact similar legislation?

Could we see similar showdowns like we have seen in Australia that led to disruption of news feeds from users in other areas?

Those are the aspects of this that we need to watch closely, is whether this case in Australia expands around the world, as other governments look at ways that they can regulate Facebook and forced them to pay for the news content that appears on their platforms. Google as well -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: They took down some critical information on COVID as well as some other information that outraged many Australians. But it looks like they have come to an agreement. CNN's Will Ripley joining us live in Hong Kong. Many thanks.


CHURCH: The pandemic is bad enough but the U.S. unemployment rate is still very high. Ahead, how many mothers are forced to bear the burden. And why President Biden is calling it a crisis.




CHURCH: The COVID crisis and the economic downturn have had a big impact on unemployment. Among the worst hit may be working mothers. They are losing their jobs in droves. One major consulting companies describes this as a "she-cession" because it has hit women so hard.

The firm says, unlike men, women are often employed in sectors where work from home is just not possible. CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich spoke to some women who were affected.



VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS & POLITICS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was supposed to be one of the happiest times of her life --

GASAWAY: Want to play our favorite game?

YURKEVICH: But when Brooke Gasaway was five months pregnant with her son, Luciano, she says she was laid off from her job.

GASAWAY: It was a lot of anxiety because I didn't know what was the best thing to do. YURKEVICH: Now that her son is six months old, she's looking for work

again, but the economy she's facing is still down nearly 10 million jobs since the pandemic began, 5.3 million held by women.

GASAWAY: At this moment, sometimes I am scared to say I'm a mom when I'm applying. There's something about telling an employer that I'm going to be one of those people that -- that's going to have to balance those two things.

YURKEVICH: And 2.5 million women have left the workforce altogether, many who are mothers.

ALLISON ROBINSON, CEO AND CO-FOUNDER, THE MOM PROJECT: It has been, on so many fronts, such a challenging year for women. We've suffered more layoffs than men. And we've seen our already fragile childcare and education infrastructure unravel.

YURKEVICH: That very issue may have cost single mother, Nicole Conner, her job. She says she was fired because she could only work virtually. Her seven-year-old son, Atikis (ph), is at home remote learning.

She says they're surviving off food stamps and her student loans.

NICOLE CONNER, UNEMPLOYED MOTHER: I mean I'm lucky that my bills are paid during this time. But it's a sad concept that I have to be -- consider myself lucky to be able to go into debt and make sure my bills are paid.

YURKEVICH: Mother of four, Michelle Mitchom, is also looking for new work after she says she was laid off in July from a career in sales. The search has led her to apply for jobs she never considered before.

MICHELLE MITCHOM, UNEMPLOYED MOTHER: I've been applying for, I mean, any type of jobs. It doesn't matter if it's entry level, if it's, you know, internships.


MITCHOM: If it's janitorial. If it's anything, I've been applying.

YURKEVICH: President Joe Biden is proposing giving $15 billion in grants to working families to pay for childcare as part of his stimulus plan.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Enable parents, particularly women, to get back to work.

YURKEVICH: And some companies, like Spotify, Google and Facebook, are offering perks, like additional paid family leave or remote work from anywhere. Accenture is committing to hire 150 moms as a start.

GASAWAY: This is where I applied to jobs while my son takes naps.

YURKEVICH: The pandemic giving new meaning to work-life balance for mothers.

YURKEVICH (on camera): How are you feeling about your future?

GASAWAY: I want to be something that makes my son proud and I think he would want me to continue pushing and, you know, continue trying to help other people and just be back in the workforce.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): Vanessa Yurkevich, CNN, Brooklyn, New York.


CHURCH: And this isn't just the case in the United States. We want to talk now with Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. She is the executive director for United Nations Women.

Thank you for talking with us.


CHURCH: We saw the impact COVID-19 is having on American women but this is happening all over the world.

What has been the overall economic impact of this pandemic on women specifically a year into this health crisis?

MLAMBO-NGCUKA: Rosemary, about two thirds of the jobs that have been lost are jobs that were occupied by women. And the pattern is consistent around the world. It's working mothers particularly hard hit because they have the burden of care and at the same time they have to go out and work to put food on the table.

There is a real risk that we will lose women in the labor market, which means we will be back to a woman's place being at home and a man's place being at work. And we need policy interventions that are pushing back against that as becoming an established pattern.

CHURCH: Women have carried the burden of this pandemic more than men in so many ways, especially if they are working and also trying to school their children at home while they juggle work commitments, a task that often tends to fall on the shoulders of women more than men.

Has that tended to make them more vulnerable to actually losing their jobs?

Because they can't give it 100 percent.

MLAMBO-NGCUKA: Absolutely. Working mothers, young mothers, women in the ages of between 20 and 30 are hardest hit, because that's the age group that has young children or is at a child bearing age. So you have to choose between looking after your children and going to find food for the children. And many women will tend to decide to stick with their children. But

also the women have been giving this fight against the pandemic their all, because the majority of the front line workers, who are keeping us alive and also fighting to keep their own families alive.

CHURCH: Yes, it has been the burden of women for centuries, hasn't it?

So how have women been confronting these challenges?

And what sort of support is out there to help women in various countries in all the various ways they need?

MLAMBO-NGCUKA: We are calling on governments in their interventions, in their stimulus package who targeted and tailor-made programs for women. It's important that women in the informal sector, women who are working in industries where they are in the lower rank of the jobs, in many cases do not have protection because they are not in jobs with contracts. They are not covered by labor loss.

So if the packages don't stimulate those women that also benefit there is also the high chance that those women will be missed.

Rosemary, there is a problem with girls who are dropping out of school in large numbers. In countries where child marriage is prevalent, girls are getting married off early. Girls are getting trafficked, girls are also getting pregnant.

So we are also worried about a lost generation and we therefore need to go out and find these girls and bring them back to school.

CHURCH: Are governments doing anything about that?

MLAMBO-NGCUKA: We could do more and we need to push the governments as well as help them all over the world.

CHURCH: And they are aware of this problem and they have systems or they're starting to consider systems to help these young girls?


MLAMBO-NGCUKA: Yes, ministers of education are having to do a roll call and see if the kids have come back to school. In many countries, where it's clear the kids have not come back to school after the lockdown and the closure of schools are actually girls in most cases.

CHURCH: It is a dreadful situation, everyone trying to find their way in the midst of this pandemic but the burden falling more on women and young girls as we are seeing. And hopefully governments will do something about it. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, thank you so much and thank you for all you do.

MLAMBO-NGCUKA: Thank you, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Appreciate it. Some U.S. officials have seen their lives changed forever after

traumatic invisible attacks. Next, a former intelligence officer shares his own experience after one such attack in Russia.




CHURCH: The death toll from the bloody riots at four prisons and Ecuador has risen to 79. These body camera images show police barging into one of the facilities and firing tear gas.

The coordinated and simultaneous attacks were between rival gangs and authorities say all the victims were inmates. Families have been gathering outside the prisons, waiting to find out if their loved ones are OK.

The CIA has set up a brand new task force to look into suspected microwave attacks on U.S. intelligence officers. About 40 government officials have been affected by these mysterious attacks in Russia, Cuba and China to name a few. Among, them a former senior intelligence officer who sat down with CNN's Kiley Atwood.


MARC POLYMEROPOULOS, FORMER CIA OFFICER: I woke up in the middle of the night with an incredible case of vertigo. The room was spinning. I wanted to throw. Up

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mark Polymeropoulos, a former U.S. intelligence officer at the CIA, was hit in 2017 by an invisible attack in a Moscow hotel.

POLYMEROPOULOS: I've been in place like, you know, Iraq and Afghanistan. I've been shot at. But this was, by far, the most terrifying experience of my life.

ATWOOD: It's a mystery that has plagued the U.S. intelligence community and the State Department for years. An attack which brain Esper say was likely the result of a microwave weapon, hitting American personnel in Cuba, China, Russia and other places around the globe.

The U.S. government has not identified the perpetrator, but current and former U.S. officials believe Russia is to blame. The Russian government did not respond to CNN's request for comment.

The attack impacted his balance, sight and hearing. The pain has never wholly subsided.

POLYMEROPOULOS: I couldn't, you know, make it through the day.


POLYMEROPOULOS: Not even close. I've had a headache every day since that night in Moscow. It's never gone away, day and night.

ATWOOD: He had to retire early and for a dedicated CIA officer who spent his entire career fighting terrorists in the Middle East, it hasn't been easy to accept that an invisible strike took him out of the game.

POLYMEROPOULOS: I rather would have been shot. This is a silent wound. You know, it's --

ATWOOD (on camera): You would have rather been shot?



POLYMEROPOULOS: Well, I mean, it's something that I could have shown people. I had a really hard time initially at the agency, because people didn't necessarily, the senior medical staff didn't necessarily believe me.

ATWOOD (voice-over): Polymeropoulos had to fight to get expert healthcare. Just this month, he finished specialized treatment at Walter Reed Medical Center, more than three years after that dramatic night in Moscow.

POLYMEROPOULOS: When they provided me the piece of paper with the diagnosis that said I had a traumatic brain injury, I had tears in my eyes.

ATWOOD: Some 40 U.S. government officials have experienced symptoms similar to his.

In 2017 U.S. embassy in Cuba slashed its staff, because the attacks were so pervasive.

A newly-declassified State Department report points to systemic disorganization when the department began handling this crisis during the Trump administration.

New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen has been fighting to get the victims medical assistance and answers about who did this.

SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D-NH): If we don't hold those responsible accountable, then we can be sure it's going to continue to happen and that's a national security risk to the United States into our personnel.

ATWOOD: According to U.S. intelligence documents obtained by CNN, Russia has been developing this microwave attack capability for decades.

Today Bill Burns, President Biden's nominee to lead the CIA, telling Congress --

WILLIAM BURNS, CIA DIRECTOR NOMINEE: I will have no higher priority than taking care of people, of colleagues and their families. I will make it an extraordinarily high priority to get to the bottom of who's responsible for the attacks.

ATWOOD: Polymeropoulos created a Superman mask in art therapy, thrusting a dagger through Superman's skull to represent the headaches which have changed him. The CIA agency seal, cracked.

His family was emotional when he showed them his project.

POLYMEROPOULOS: My son and my daughter both said to me, You know, Dad, you're -- you know, you're still my Superman.

Before the attack happened, how would you describe your relationship with the agency in, you know, one or two words?

POLYMEROPOULOS: It's a love affair.

ATWOOD: And after?

POLYMEROPOULOS: A divorce -- with -- with perhaps some reconciliation in the future, I would hope.


Kylie Atwood with that report.

Before we go, we now know the Tokyo Olympic torch relay is set to begin March 25th but with new COVID precautions. Torchbearers will need daily health checks for 2 weeks leading up to the relay and must avoid public activities that would risk infection.

Spectators can attend the event when it begins in Fukushima. But they have to wear masks and they can't cheer or shout. Only clapping is allowed. The games are set to begin July 23rd.

Thank you so much for joining, us I'm Rosemary Church. I will be back with more news at the top of the hour. "WORLD SPORT" starts after a quick break.