Several times in today’s hearing on foreign cyberattacks on the US, James Clapper explained why he never favored big retaliation for China’s hack of OPM: because he considers it the kind of espionage we engage in too. “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw rocks.”The research shows that over 11% of competitive elections between 1946 and 2000 were hacked, and about ⅔ of these interventions were by the US state security apparatus, and wasn't just some obscure banana republic: It includes things like intervening in the Italian elections of 1948.
When North Carolina Republican Thom Tillis got his turn, he addressed Clapper’s comment, pointing out that on election-tampering, as with espionage, the US lives in a big glass house.
The glass house comment is something that I think is very important. There’s been research done by a professor up at Carnegie Mulligan that um Mellon that estimated that the United States has been involved in one way or another in 81 different elections since World War II. That doesn’t include coups or regime changes. Tangible evidence where we’ve tried to affect an outcome to our purpose. Russia’s done it some 36 times. In fact, when Russia apparently was trying to influence our election, we had the Israelis accusing us of trying to influence their election.
So I’m not here to talk about that. But I am here to say we live in a big glass house and there are a lot of rocks to throw and I think that that’s consistent with what you said on other matters.
With regards to comparative numbers on US and Russian intervention in elections, Tillis is discussing research published by Dov Levin last year (see WaPo version), who found that either the US or Russia intervened in 11.3% of all elections since World War II, with the US — indeed — intervening far more often (and more broadly) than Russia.
Glass houses indeed.