A report released Wednesday is shedding further light into Tucker Carlson’s bombshell allegation that the National Security Agency (NSA) obtained his private communications.
The Fox News host and Daily Caller co-founder was communicating with U.S.-based Kremlin intermediaries regarding a potential interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to Axios, which reportedly spoke to two sources “familiar with Carlson’s communications.”
“As I’ve said repeatedly, because it’s true, the NSA read my emails and then leaked their contents. That’s an outrage, as well as illegal,” Carlson told Axios in a statement.
New: Tucker Carlson was talking to U.S.-based Kremlin intermediaries about setting up an interview with Putin shortly before he accused the NSA of spying on him. U.S. gov’t officials learned of this outreach … but that’s where details get cloudy. https://t.co/5kbjMJnQ2r
— Jonathan Swan (@jonathanvswan) July 7, 2021
Carlson first made the allegation last week on his show, saying that a whistleblower inside of the federal government told him the NSA was monitoring his private communications with the intention of leaking them to target his show.
An NSA spokesperson declined to comment on the report, instead directing Axios to the statement they issued last week after Carlson made the allegation in which they said he has never been an intelligence target but did not confirm or deny obtaining his emails.
It is not out of character for a journalist to seek to interview the Russian president, as NBC News just two weeks ago interviewed Putin ahead of his widely anticipated meeting with President Joe Biden.
The intelligence community also routinely monitors the communications of foreign assets living in the U.S. but if Carlson had spoken to one such person, his identity as a U.S. citizen would have been protected in the reports and only could have been revealed if an official in the intelligence community requested it to be unmasked.
Former NSA Director Mike Rogers explained how the unmasking process works in a 2017 congressional testimony.
“Number one, you must make the request in writing. Number two, the request must be made on the basis of your official duties, not the fact that you just find this report really interesting and you’re just curious. It has to tangibly tie to your job,” and “the basis of the request must be that you need this identity to understand the intelligence you’re reading,” Rogers testified.
Carlson also told Maria Bartiromo today on Fox Business’ “Mornings With Maria” Wednesday that he was contacted by a journalist who told him the contents of his emails were being leaked to the media by the NSA. Carlson said that the only other person who knew of the communications in question was his executive producer, Justin Wells.
“I didn’t mention it to anybody else, including my wife,” Carlson continued.
It is not clear how the assertion that Carlson was seeking an interview with Putin got to Axios, which cited anonymous sources. However, leaking intercepted communications is a felony by way of 18 § 798 of the U.S. Code, which states that an offender “shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.”
In 2016, then President-Elect Donald Trump’s incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn had his identity unmasked in intercepted communications he had with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak. The contents of that phone call were later leaked to the Washington Post. (RELATED: Here Is Everything You Need To Know About ‘Unmasking And Michael Flynn, All In One Place)