During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on foreign cyberthreats to the United States, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) argued that America had often meddled in other countries’ elections and warned against overreacting to interference in our own.
Referencing research from Carnegie Mellon University that found that the United States had been involved in 81 different foreign elections since World War II, Tillis emphasized that Russia’s interference in the 2016 election was not unique on the world stage.
“In fact, when Russia apparently was trying to influence our election, we had the Israelis accusing us of trying to influence their election,” he said, referencing accusations by some that the State Department funded an Israeli-Palestinian peace advocacy group that was politically antagonistic to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“So I am not here to talk about that, but I am here to say that we live in a big glass house and there are a lot of rocks to throw,” he said.
Tillis also warned against escalating cyber conflicts without fully understanding the nature of cyber weaponry.
“In cyber space, weapons systems get created in 24-hour cycles. You have no earthly idea whether or not you have a defensive capability against them. So if you all of a sudden think, ‘Let’s go declare war in cyberspace,’ be careful what you ask for, because collectively there are 30 nations right now that have some level of cyber capability,” he said. “There are four or five of them that are near-peers to the United States. There are two or three that are very threatening, and in some cases probably have superior capabilities to us in terms of presences.”
Tillis, who worked at IBM as a consultant prior to his career in Congress, said his colleagues should get “educated” on the nature of cyber threats and the right ways to fight them.