The National Security Agency (NSA) has found no evidence to support Tucker Carlson’s claims he was being spied on by the agency, according to a report.
Two sources told cybersecurity news outlet The Record that a review has confirmed the NSA did not target the Fox News host’s communications but that he was ‘unmasked’ after being mentioned in communications between third parties.
Carlson made the bombshell accusation that the security agency was spying on him and reading his emails in an effort to take him off the air on his show back on June 28.
He later said he had been trying to arrange an interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the time of the alleged spying and that he learned about it when he was approached by someone at a funeral in Washington DC.
The National Security Agency (NSA) has found no evidence to support Tucker Carlson’s claims he was being spied on by the agency, according to a report. Carlson on his show where he first accused the NSA of spying on him
The review found that Carlson’s communications were neither targeted by the agency nor intercepted through ‘incidental collection’ – where the government can obtain the emails and phone calls of Americans if they are in contact with a foreign actor under surveillance.
Instead, the review found Carlson had been mentioned in communications between third parties and his name was then revealed through ‘unmasking,’ the sources said.
The names of Americans are obscured in NSA intelligence documents to protect their privacy.
Unmasking is where government officials ask for the identities of Americans to be revealed in order to help them make sense of intelligence documents they are dealing with.
Only senior officials can request unmasking, and each request is reviewed by officials at the agency that generated the intelligence report.
The sources did not reveal who the two third parties were who had mentioned Carlson in their communications.
The sources said the spy agency has shared the findings of the review with both the House and Senate Intelligence committees, after lawmakers ordered an investigation into the allegations.
The NSA campus in Fort Meade, Maryland. Two sources said a review has confirmed the NSA did not target the Fox News host’s communications but that he was ‘unmasked’ after being mentioned in communications between third parties
Carlson was absent from his show ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight’ Friday and so has not spoken publicly on the findings of the review.
However, Fox slammed the NSA for ‘unmasking’ its host in a statement read out by conservative author Mark Steyn, who filled in for Carlson on the show.
‘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,’ the network said in the statement.
It is still unclear how Carlson learned that his name may have been mentioned in intelligence documents.
However, an ex-government official put forward two possible scenarios.
The first is that Carlson may have been offered a defensive briefing by FBI officials after his name was unmasked to warn him he may be a potential target of a foreign government, the official told The Record.
While such briefings would not reveal any details about how the information was obtained, Carlson may have assumed this meant he was being spied on.
The official said the other alternative is that information was leaked to Carlson by someone in the country’s intelligence agencies.
Carlson said he had been trying to arrange an interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin (pictured) at the time of the alleged spying
US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet at the Geneva Summit in June
Carlson announced on his show on June 28 that he learned of the alleged spying thanks to ‘a whistleblower within the US government who reached out to warn us that the NSA, the National Security Agency, is monitoring our electronic communications and is planning to leak them in an attempt to take this show off the air.’
Carlson said the whistleblower ‘repeated back to us information about a story that we are working on that could have only come directly from my texts and emails.’
He added: ‘The Biden administration is spying on us. We have confirmed that.’
The NSA on June 29 responded with a highly unusual statement denying the targeting of Carlson, but not denying that his communications were incidentally collected.
The intelligence agency does not normally comment on its activities.
They tweeted: ‘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.’
‘This allegation is untrue. 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.
‘NSA has a foreign intelligence mission. We target foreign powers to generate insights on foreign activities that could harm the United States.
The NSA took the unusual step of releasing a statement last month denying spying on Carlson
‘With limited exceptions (e.g. an emergency), NSA may not target a US citizen without a court order that explicitly authorizes the targeting.’
On July 7, Carlson then said he was trying to arrange an interview with Putin at the time of the alleged spying.
He claimed his communications were intercepted by the NSA, his identity ‘unmasked’ and the content of his emails and texts then disseminated, in a bid to discredit him.
‘Late this spring I contacted a couple of people I thought could help get an interview with the Russian President Vladimir Putin,’ Carlson told his viewers.
‘I told nobody I was doing this other than my executive producer, Justin Wells,’ Carlson said.
‘I wasn’t embarrassed about trying to interview Putin. He’s obviously newsworthy. I’m an American citizen, I can interview anyone I want, and I plan to.
‘But still in this case I decided to keep it quiet. I figure that any kind of publicity would rattle the Russians and make the interview less likely to happen.
‘But the Biden administration found out anyway by reading my emails.’
Carlson then claimed he was at a funeral in Washington DC when someone told him the NSA was aware of the contents of his emails
Carlson said that, despite telling no one, apart from his producer, news of his efforts soon spread around Washington DC.
‘I learned from a whistle-blower that the NSA planned to leak the contents of those emails to media outlets,’ he said.
He argued that even if his emails and texts were incidentally intercepted – and that he himself was not a target – his identity should have been kept secret.
He demanded that Paul Nakasone, the director of the NSA, or Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence, explain who requested the ‘unmasking’ of him, and why.
The interview with Putin never materialized.
Carlson said he had been approached at a funeral in Washington DC by someone who told him of the spying.
‘Why would they do that? ‘Well, the point, of course, was to paint me as a disloyal American, a Russian operative. I’ve been called that before, ‘ he said.
‘A stooge of the Kremlin, a traitor doing the bidding of a foreign adversary.’
Axios reported that Carlson could potentially have been monitored, if the US government submitted a request to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor him and protect national security. Such a request would be highly unusual.
Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican Leader, said that Carlson’s claims ‘raise serious questions about the NSA’s practices’ and called on Devin Nunes, the Ranking Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, to investigate
More likely was that Carlson was communicating with people whose email and phones were being monitored by the NSA.
Carlson’s identity would have been secret, unless someone requested his ‘unmasking’, to better understand the communications.
Two sources familiar with Carlson’s communications told Axios his two Kremlin intermediaries live in the United States, but the sources could not confirm whether both are American citizens or whether both were on U.S. soil at the time they communicated with Carlson.
The site reported that it mattered because if one of them was a foreign national and on foreign soil during the communications, the U.S. government wouldn’t necessarily have had to seek approval to monitor their communications.
Carlson’s claims set off a firestorm among conservatives.
Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican Leader, said that Carlson’s claims ‘raise serious questions about the NSA’s practices’ and called on Devin Nunes, the Ranking Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, to investigate.
Nunes has previously launched a probe into unmasking which found no evidence of wrongdoing.