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10 Times The U.S. "Hacked" Foreign Elections and Democracies

by Wes Messamore, published

Over a month after the conclusion of the 2016 presidential election, politicians, and unnamed sources quoted in various media outlets continue to raise the spectre of Russian interference in the elections.

As TIME pointed out last week, this is a fear that goes back to the time of America's Founding Fathers, with Alexander Hamilton, for instance, concerned about, "the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils."

Yet, as Glenn Greenwald has pointed out throughout the controversy, there is not yet any substantive evidence that has been brought to the public's attention, proving or strongly evidencing Russian interference in the election:

"To begin with, this is a second-hand report so you have somebody whose identity is being shielded describing what the CIA supposedly concluded, laundering that through the Washington Post. These are assertions that are being made completely unaccompanied by any evidence whatsoever, let alone evidence that we can touch and rationally review. There’s all kind of reasons to suspect the CIA statements, including the fact that they’re wrong all the time, they’re programmed in a lot of cases to disseminate disinformation and there’s lots of reasons to view them as political actors.” - Glenn Greenwald, Co-Founding Editor of The Intercept

But if it turns out to be true that Russia had interfered in the U.S. election, it would be just one more good reason for the United States foreign policy establishment to reconsider its heavy-handed intervention in overseas affairs, because it would be an example of what the CIA calls "blowback."

The United States has a storied record of interference in foreign elections, and while that does not justify foreign intervention in our elections, it does legitimize it as a geopolitical tactic, endangering the integrity of our own democratic process.

Here are 10 times the U.S. interfered in another country's elections:

1. Italy (1948)

As Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and author of "Legacy of Ashes: The History of The CIA," Tim Weiner has chronicled, "Several months after the CIA was created in 1947, it set out to steal the Italian election in 1948 to support the Christian Democrats who were pro-American, against the socialist Democrats, who were pro-Moscow, and they won," adding "It’s just the beginning of a long, long story."

2. Syria (1949)

The following year, Syria's two-term democratically elected president, Shukri al-Quwatli, was overthrown in a military coup led by Col. Husni al-Za'im. American military advisors in Syria at the time, including an undercover CIA agent, were close confidants of Za'im's, becoming very closely acquainted in the weeks leading up to the coup, and remained his principle Western advisors during his time in power.

3. Iran (1953)

It's a strange story. For many years before the U.S.-led 1953 Iranian coup d'état, Iran was a democracy. That was until the intelligence agencies of the United States and England orchestrated the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh, and replaced him with a king(!), Mohammad-Rezā Shāh Pahlavi, whose monarchy increasingly became more authoritarian until he was overthrown in 1979.

4. Guatemala (1954)

In 1954, the United States CIA went into Guatemala under an operation code named PBSUCCESS. The covert operation successfully overthrew the democratically-elected government of President Jacobo Árbenz and replaced him with the first in what would turn out to be a brutal line of right-wing dictators until 1996! U.S. involvement was widely suspected and heavily criticized internationally, sparking off lasting resentment against the United States in Latin America.

5. Vietnam (1955)

After the French exit from Vietnam in 1950 - 1954, there were supposed to be democratic elections held in 1956, but the United States, fearing that the Communist Party would be elected to power in a freely democratic process, spent tens of millions of dollars to relocate Communist opposition groups and concentrate them in South Vietnam to create a separate government, leading to an extremely violent, two-decades-long civil war.

As U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote in 1954:

"I have never talked or corresponded with a person knowledgeable in Indochinese affairs who did not agree that had elections been held as of the time of the fighting, possibly eighty percent of the population would have voted for the Communist Ho Chi Minh as their leader."

6. Congo (1960)

In 1960, the CIA attempted to poison Congo's very first democratically-elected prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, in an elaborate plot to place poisoned toothpaste on Lumumba's toothbrush. After that plan was abandoned, the CIA, which believed Lumumba was a communist after the prime minister sought Soviet help in dealing with a military uprising, actively armed, aided, and funded Lumumba's enemies and was in direct contact with his captors the night he was executed by firing squad.

7. Brazil (1964)

In 1964, the United States government supported a military coup against democratically-elected President João Goulart. Leading up to the crisis, the CIA ran covert propaganda campaigns against the elected government. Then, as the crisis progressed, diplomatic and military officials stayed in constant contact with the U.S. president, who ordered an aircraft carrier-led U.S. Navy fleet into the area to support the military coup.

8. Chile (1973)

Chile had long been hailed as an exemplar of democratic government in South America, holding democratic elections since 1932 on a continent plagued by autocratic military dictatorships. That is until 1973, when following an extended period of economic and psychological warfare ordered by Richard Nixon, Chile's democratically-elected socialist President Salvador Allende was overthrown by Chile's military. He was replaced with a heavy-handed military dictator, Augusto Pinochet, who was immediately recognized and supported by the United States government.

9. Turkey (1980)

In 1980, at the end of Turkish president, Fahri Korutürk's constitutional seven-year term, the Turkish military seized power in a U.S.-supported coup, announcing the new government on national television, declaring martial law, suspending the Constitution, and banning all political parties. Immediately before the coup, the general in charge of the Turkish Air Force met with U.S. officials, and during the coup, the U.S. Army conducted military maneuvers on Turkish soil. After the government was overthrown, CIA Ankara station chief Paul Henze cabled Washington to say "our boys did it."

10. Nicaragua (1984)

Initially seizing power by force, the leftist Sandinista government held democratic elections in 1984, which were overseen and validated as fair by independent observers from the UN and Western Europe. That didn't stop elements within the U.S. government, answering directly to the president, from secretly funneling millions of dollars in aid from third party countries to fund, advise, arm, and train an anti-Sandinista terrorist group called the Contras.

Photo Credit: patrice6000 /

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