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Former CIA Director and Fox News Host Share a Laugh Over American Interference in Foreign Elections

James Woolsey says America only interferes in other nations' elections "for a very good cause," but he can't keep a straight face while saying it.

During a Friday appearance on Fox News, former CIA chief James Woolsey shared a laugh with host Laura Ingraham over the United States' history of interfering in elections throughout the world.

The two yukked it up after Ingraham asked Woolsey to confirm that the United States does not "mess around in other people's elections." That sort of thing only happens "for a very good cause," said Woolsey, grinning broadly.

Foreign interference in American elections tends to get a different sort of treatment. On Friday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced federal indictments against 13 Russian nationals and three companies for allegedly interfering the 2016 presidential election. The Russian effort was aimed at sowing political and social discord in the U.S., Rosenstein said, even though there is no hard evidence that the election's outcome was altered.

Woolsey was on Ingraham's show to comment on the news. Things progressed normally until the very end of the segment, when Ingraham asked Woolsey about the CIA's history of trying to influence elections in other countries.

"Have we ever tried to meddle in other countries' elections?" asks Ingraham.

"Oh, probably," says Woolsey. "But it was for the good of the system."

He goes on to talk about the CIA's efforts to influence the outcome of elections in Greece and Italy in the immediate aftermath of World War II, to "keep the Communists from taking over."

But what about now, Ingraham asks. "We don't do that now, we don't mess around in other people's elections?"

"Well..." Woolsey starts, before trailing off, making some weird gibberish noises, and flashing a knowing grin in Ingraham's direction. The Fox News host can't keep a straight face either and is seen visibly laughing as the camera cuts back to Woolsey. "Only for a very good cause," he offers. "In the interests of democracy."

Oh, OK.

Woolsey's candor significantly understates the extent to which the CIA has interfered in the internal affairs of foreign countries over the years. There is a long history of American intelligence agencies using their influence to put the thumb on the scale of democratic contests in countries all over the globe, from Guatemala to Ukraine.

Hypocrisy aside, the slip of Woolsey's and Ingraham's masks suggests just how silly the outrage over the supposed Russia attempts to "hack" the 2016 presidential election really are. Powerful countries with the ability to engage in complex espionage and subterfuge—like Russia and the United States—are constantly working to prop up allied regimes and to undermine rivals. One academic study by Dov Levin of Carnegie-Mellon University suggests that Washington and Moscow "intervened in 117 elections around the world from 1946 to 2000—an average of once in every nine competitive elections."

And how much influence did Russian trolls, bots, and agents have on the 2016 election anyway? Reason's Jacob Sullum previously looked at the social media data and came away deeply unimpressed at the Russian effort's reach. Likewise, Jesse Walker has noted that Russia's attempts to foment rallies on U.S. soil didn't generally amount to much. Nothing in Rosenstein's indictments seems particularly explosive either.

All of this, of course, is separate from the legal and political question of whether President Donald Trump's campaign was in contact with Russian agents or was supplied with information stolen by Russian hackers during the campaign. It is possible to believe that Trump's campaign (or even Trump himself) broke federal laws during the campaign, and that Russian efforts to influence the outcome of the election largely came to naught.

If you're having trouble keeping it all straight, just do what Woolsey does. Take accusations of Russian influence very seriously, while laughing off any suggestion that America has done the same.

Photo Credit: KEVIN DIETSCH/UPI/Newscom

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  • loveconstitution1789||

    "Have we ever tried to meddle in other countries' elections?" asks Ingraham.
    "Oh, probably," says Woolsey. "But it was for the good of the system."

    This is what these bureaucrats think. They are saving the World in everything that they do.

    As we see with ObamaCare in the USA, sometimes having an unconstitutional socialist scheme that all Americans must buy insurance under threat of death, allows Americans to see how bad socialist schemes are.

    Its like some people don't know what bad is until they experience it themselves.

  • JoeBlow123||

    America is in too many places, but if we were to pull out of them it would cause problems, perhaps severe problems. I give it maybe two years tops until Israel nukes Iran and the Strait of Hormuz is mined to hell if we pulled out.

    If we want to lessen our role in the world you either have to be ready for shit to hit the fan in some places while countries duke it out in wars long delayed by American bullying or have another plan in place, like force the Europeans or Chinese or Japanese to carry their weight.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    Europe is already shitting a brick sideways over being asked to pick up some of the cost of NATO; no, the US can do it and then get whatever blame comes with that. Personally I'd love it if the US backed away from that role and see what happens.

  • Jerryskids||

    Geez, next you'll be criticizing the US for violently attempting to force regime change in Syria. Assad is a very bad man, just like Saddam and Gadhafi and the Shah, and Syria would unquestionably be a much better place if it were run by fundamentalist Islamic ayatollahs.

  • DajjaI||

    Whomst amongst us hasn't attempted to illegally influence a foreign election under the pretext of national security?

  • mashed potatoes||

    I once posted on Twitter about why people would support an issue in another country and thought it was dumb. And omfg people from that country read it and commented.. i influenced the shit out of that

  • sarcasmic||

    Dude, the Democrats were supposed to win! There must have been foreign interference! It's the only explanation!

  • Libertarian||

    If we don't have the political guts to abolish the CIA, let's at least line out their foreign election interference budget. Then we can start abolishing most of the following as well.

    Twenty-Fifth Air Force
    Intelligence and Security Command
    Central Intelligence Agency
    Coast Guard Intelligence
    Defense Intelligence Agency
    Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence
    Office of Intelligence and Analysis
    Bureau of Intelligence and Research
    Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence
    Office of National Security Intelligence
    Intelligence Branch Federal Bureau of Investigation
    Marine Corps Intelligence Activity
    National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
    National Reconnaissance Office
    National Security Agency/Central Security Service
    Office of Naval Intelligence

  • Rhywun||

    That is a lot of intelligence right there.

  • Shirley Knott||

    Mention, not use.

  • DajjaI||

    Them whom am I supposed to squabble with all day long?

    TROLLS HAVE RIGHTS TOO.

    Still Shillin' for Jill 2020 approves this message.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Guatemala, Iran, Georgia, Serbia, Ukraine, Nicaragua, Argentina, Czechoslovakia, Haiti, Chile, . . . and that's just off the top of my head.

    Hypocrisy isn't the real the issue--if the CIA isn't meddling in foreign elections when it's in the interests of U.S. security to do so, then they aren't doing their job.

    The real issue is that progressives still refuse to accept the fact that the Democrat candidate for president lost for two main reasons:

    1) Swing voters thought she was a crook.

    2) The Democrat candidate lost because white, blue collar, middle class voters in Wisconsin, Ohio, western Pennsylvania, Florida, and Michigan--who used to vote for Democrats--became convinced that the SJWs, BLM, immigration activists, radical environmentalists, LGBTQI+ activists, radical feminists, et. al., who run the Democratic Party, hate them for being white, blue collar, and middle class (AKA "deplorables").

    In short, the people who run the Democratic Party would rather blame the Russians than take responsibility for alienating their own support--especially in the Midwest.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Blame and being crooked is what the Democrats are good at.

  • Ken Shultz||

    It's the hate. If they stop being haters, they'll stop being who they are.

    Progressivism is all about using the coercive power of the government to force people to make sacrifices for what they see as the greater good. It is inherently elitist. How can you force people to make sacrifices for the benefit of other people and not claim to know what's better for everyone than they do for themselves?

    If LGBTQI+ activists weren't advocating using the government to force Christians to make sacrifices for the benefit of LGBTQI+, then what would they have left to do in the Democratic Party? If radical environmentalists weren't advocating the use of the government to force the middle class to make sacrifices for global warming, than what's their purpose in the Democratic Party?

    Those are just a couple of examples. The point is that these activists that control the Democratic Party can't change their stance or tactics without destroying everything they are.

    Much better to blame the Russians.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I am just glad more and more Americans are waking up. Picking Trump over Hillary was the first good sign.

    I wish more Americans did faster but at least it happening. I am glad that some Millennials are seeing that they have the huge burden and are waking up that fact. I can see many of them joining the Libertarian fight. They just have to shoot down the helicoptering that made them who they are.

    I would love that many Boomers knew on their death bed that socialism had failed completely here in the USA too.

  • Let freedom ring||

    What if you are missing what the 13 Russians were doing? The indictment never once mentioned the Russian government or Putin. It simply described a commercial operation.
    What if the entire operation was simply an internet commercial click bait operation? That would easily explain the different contradictory memes, the use of non political themes like puppies, and the silly scale of the whole venture. This St Petersburg INTERNET RESEARCH AGENCY is simply a business, not designed to sow discord at all, but simply to test the US waters to use our social media to make a few bucks.
    The only reason the Russian government is alleged to be behind it is because this businessman once had a catering business and catered a few events in the Kremlin. What if he simply discovered an easier way to make a buck in internet trolling. There is nothing in the indictment that draws a link between IRA and Putin, except the very dangerous belief that nothing happens in Russia without Putin's knowledge. Or that Putin must have plausible deniability. Or how about Mueller needs a scalp to hang on this wall, even a virtual one?

  • Troglodyte Rex||

    So you're saying they want some of that internet money?

  • Troglodyte Rex||

  • Brandybuck||

    So this means the election is null and void and Hillary is now our president?

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    She'd certainly like to think so; I seriously believe she still believes she will finish out Trump's term,

  • Room 237||

    My grandparents, and I assume Nick Gillespie's also, were organized by the Catholic Church, presumably with the dircetion of the US government, to write friends and relatives back in Italy telling them not to vote communist.

  • Gary T||

    I remember watching this when it was on TV.

    At least he wasn't outright lying.
    A verbal wink and a nod.

    Of course the US has been and is always doing this.
    I am not particularly against it either.
    That is why I have very little outrage when we find the Russians doing it to us.

  • Curly4||

    But your conclusion is not the conclusion that the author intended for the reader to reach.

  • Room 237||

    For me it is not the fact it happened, but hat it might have been effective. That is what worries me because teh "solution" that will be suggested is censorship and more government power

  • Curly4||

    Eric Boehm, are you saying that the US has never interfered with other nations' elections? If you agree that the US has interfered or if you don't agree that has interfered in other nations' elections why do you use this . . . "The two yukked it up . . ." other than to prejudice the audience reading the article. I thought that as a reporter you are to report the news instead of make it. Stick to reporting fairly without adding your own prejudice to the article so the audience has the facts to make a clear informed opinion.

  • Marty Feldman's Eyes||

    I thought that as a reporter you are to report the news instead of make it. Stick to reporting fairly without adding your own prejudice to the article so the audience has the facts to make a clear informed opinion.

    You seem to be mistaking this site for a wire news service and not an opinion site.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't the pope have some negative things to say about Trump? Isn't that a foreign entity meddling with the election. How about the IPCC? It seems I've heard them whining about Trump and Pence not being of the faithful.

    How about foreign newspapers? Are they going to get indicted?

    Every time I think the Russian thing has surpassed the Onion, it gets even more goofy.

  • CatoTheChipper||

    Also the UK Members of Parliament who publicly denounced Trump in Parliament and tried to deny him entry to the UK.

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