A new report from a left-of-center news organization on Wednesday gave new information about the explosive claim that the Biden administration has been spying on Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
“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,” Axios reported. “U.S. government officials learned about Carlson’s efforts to secure the Putin interview” and subsequently “Carlson learned that the government was aware of his outreach.”
During the last week in June, Carlson said on his show:
Yesterday we heard from a whistleblower within the U.S. 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. … The whistleblower, 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 for that information, period. … The NSA captured that information without our knowledge and did it for political reasons. The Biden administration is spying on us. We have confirmed that. This morning we filed a FOIA request — Freedom of Information Act request — asking for all information that the NSA and other agencies have gathered about this show.
The NSA responded in a carefully crafted statement that was widely criticized online as it seemed evasive to many on answering the question of whether the agency had spied on Carlson.
The NSA refused to answer questions from Axios about whether they intercepted communications from Carlson. Far-left NBC News interviewed Putin a few weeks ago; it’s unclear whether the Biden administration intercepted any communications from employees at NBC News.
Experts that Axios spoke to outlined several scenarios that could have explained what happened, including the following two scenarios (which they deemed most likely):
- A more plausible scenario is that one of the people Carlson was talking to as an intermediary to help him get the Putin interview was under surveillance as a foreign agent. In that scenario, Carlson’s emails or text messages could have been incidentally collected as part of monitoring this person, but Carlson’s identity would have been masked in any intelligence reports. In order to know that the texts and emails were Carlson’s, a U.S. government official would likely have to request his identity be unmasked, something that’s only permitted if the unmasking is necessary to understand the intelligence.
- In a third scenario, interceptions might not have involved Carlson’s communications. The U.S. government routinely monitors the communications of people in Putin’s orbit, who may have been discussing the details of Carlson’s request for an interview. But under this scenario, too, Carlson’s identity would have been masked in reports as part of his protections as a U.S. citizen, and unmasking would only be permitted if a U.S. government official requested that his identity be unmasked in order to understand the intelligence. And it’s not clear why that would be necessary here.