The National Security Agency did indeed monitor Tucker Carlson’s private communications, confirming the Fox News host’s tip from a whistleblower. The revelation comes out indirectly via an Axios “scoop” from reporter Jonathan Swan.
“Tucker Carlson was talking to U.S.-based Kremlin intermediaries about setting up an interview with Vladimir Putin shortly before the Fox News host accused the National Security Agency of spying on him,” sources told Axios.
“Those sources said U.S. government officials learned about Carlson’s efforts to secure the Putin interview,” Axios said. “Carlson learned that the government was aware of his outreach — and that’s the basis of his extraordinary accusation, followed by a rare public denial by the NSA that he had been targeted.”
“Axios has not confirmed whether any communications from Carlson have been intercepted, and if so, why,” Axios continues.
Jonathan Swan, often considered the gold standard for ‘objective’ reporting, engages in defensive spin, impugning Carlson’s accusation and those who might believe him.
“Carlson’s charges instantly became a cause célèbre on the right, which feasted on the allegation that one of America’s most prominent conservatives might have been monitored by the U.S. intelligence community,’ Swan writes. It is as if such an accusation is completely unprecedented. However, it follows upon revelations of NSA spying under the Obama administration, spying on AP journalists and then Fox News journalist James Rosen, illegal FISA-authorized Trump campaign surveillance, and unmasking of Trump transition team members.
“An NSA spokesman declined to comment and referred Axios back to the agency’s earlier, carefully-worded, statement,” Swan wrote on Twitter. “In other words, the NSA is denying the targeting of Carlson but is not denying that his communications may have been incidentally collected.”
This essentially confirms that his communications were intercepted or else the NSA would flat-out deny it. However, since no one can access the NSA to verify if this happened, this may be the closest we get to safely inferring it.
Nonetheless, we can parse the agency’s unprecedented press release that is tantamount to a non-denial denial.
The NSA releases a statement responding to allegations of electronic surveillance by Fox News host Tucker Carlson:
"This allegation is untrue. Carlson has never been an intelligence target of the Agency and the NSA has never had any plans to try to take his program off the air." pic.twitter.com/px7fK1Nbvh
— Alex Salvi (@alexsalvinews) June 30, 2021
“On June 28, 2021, Tucker Carlson alleged that the National Security Agency has been ‘monitoring our electronic communications and is planning to leak them in an attempt to take this show off the air’,” the NSA said.
“This allegation is untrue. Carlson has never been an intelligence target of the Agency and the NSA has never had any plans to try to take his program off the air,” the statement continued. “NSA has a foreign intelligence mission. We target foreign powers to generate insights on foreign activities that could harm the United States.”
“With limited exceptions (e.g. an emergency), NSA may not target a US citizen without a court order that explicitly authorizes the targeting,” the statement added.
Tucker Carlson, nonetheless, made such an allegation in late June on his prime time cable television show.
“Yesterday, we heard from a whistle-blower within the U.S. Government who reached out to warn us that the NSA, the National Security Agency, is monitoring our electronic communication and is planning to leak them in an attempt to take this show off the air,” he said. “That’s a shocking claim and ordinarily we would be skeptical of it. It’s a crime. Not a third world country, things like that should not happen in America.”
“But unfortunately, they do and in this case, they did,” Tucker continued. “The whistle-blower, who is in a position to know, repeated back to us information about a story that we are working on that could have only come directly from my texts and emails. There’s no other possible source of that information.”
“They did it for political reasons,” Tucker went on. “The Biden administration is spying on us. We have confirmed that. This morning, we filed an employer request asking for all information that the NSA and other agencies have gathered about the show. We did it mostly as a formality and contacted the press office of both NSA and the FBI.”
“You don’t expect to hear much back, that’s the way that usually goes.,” he said. “Only Congress can force transparency on the intelligence agencies and they should do that immediately. Spying on opposition journalists is incompatible with democracy. They are doing it to us and again, they are definitely doing it to us, they are almost certainly doing it to others. This is scary and we need to stop it right away.”
The NSA indeed did respond to Tucker Carlson’s accusation in a very public way. But it may indeed take an act of Congress to get the full story on what actually happened.