The National Security Agency’s Inspector General Robert Storch has announced a review of whether the agency illegally conducted cyber-espionage and collected the electronic communications of Fox News opinion-show host Tucker Carlson, who has accused the NSA of trying to capture embarrassing information that might lead to him being taken off the air.
“The National Security Agency Office of the Inspector General (OIG) announced that it is conducting a review related to recent allegations that the NSA improperly targeted the communications of a member of the U.S. news media,” the brief statement said. Reports have widely identified that “member” as Carlson.
In late June, Carlson told his audience that an unnamed government whistleblower contacted his show’s staff with details that could have only been gleaned from monitoring his emails and text messages. That led the host to proclaim that the NSA was “monitoring our electronic communications and is planning to leak them in an attempt to take this show off the air” — despite having no hard evidence.
NSA Denies Spying on Carlson
The newly announced NSA IG investigation will specifically look at whether Carlson was illegally spied on and whether any U.S. government officials asked for his name to be “unmasked” or revealed in intelligence documents, in a supposed effort to disparage the talking head.
On June 29, the NSA took the unusual step of posting a statement on Twitter denying Carlson’s allegations:
A statement from NSA regarding recent allegations: pic.twitter.com/vduE6l6YWg
— NSA/CSS (@NSAGov) June 30, 2021
“This allegation is untrue,” the statement read. “Tucker 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 emphasized that the NSA is only authorized to target foreign entities, adding, “With limited exceptions (e.g. an emergency), NSA may not target a U.S. citizen without a court order that explicitly authorizes the targeting.”
An already-conducted NSA internal investigation found that Carlson’s name and electronic communications were not “unmasked” at the request of an unnamed government official; rather, his name was brought up in conversation by a foreign target being surveilled legally.
According to Axios, at the time Carlson was in the midst of negotiations with Moscow to secure an interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Conservatives Call for Further Investigation
Following the unsubstantiated accusations, high-profile conservatives like Florida Senator Marco Rubio criticized the NSA publicly, adding that previous statements didn’t specifically address whether Carlson was the target of an investigation, the AP reported.
A new statement from the Florida lawmaker praised the added scrutiny on the matter from the NSA IG, saying that the review “is an important step toward ensuring public confidence. It is important that this review is as transparent as possible, so it doesn’t fuel further public suspicion and distrust.”
Fox News is also applauding the announcement of the new NSA IG review.
“We are gratified to learn the NSA’s egregious surveillance of Tucker Carlson will now be independently investigated,” a Fox News statement provided to Threatpost said. “As we have said, for the NSA to unmask Tucker Carlson or any journalist attempting to secure a newsworthy interview is entirely unacceptable and raises serious questions about their activities as well as their original denial, which was wildly misleading.”
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