Fox News Channel personality Tucker Carlson shocked his audience last month with the allegation that the National Security Agency had spied on his private communications in an apparent effort to damage his reputation and career.
Now, a report seems to have bolstered his complaint, showing that the NSA came across Carlson’s name and communications through a process known as “unmasking.”
Background on Carlson’s claim
According to the Washington Examiner, the process occurs when an American citizen’s name is mentioned in communications between foreign nationals already under NSA surveillance.
Although such conversations are typically redacted to protect privacy, identities can be unmasked and revealed at the request of a federal official — usually in order to gain a better understanding of the intercepted foreign communications.
The latest update came in a report by The Record, which detailed an internal NSA review demanded by elected Republican officials in regard to Carlson’s allegations.
According to two anonymous sources, the agency’s review concluded that Carlson had not been formally targeted by the agency nor were his private texts and emails “incidentally collected” amid surveillance of a target that he might have contacted.
Instead, Carlson’s name and communications had presumably been mentioned in communications between other foreign nationals and leaked by some unknown federal official.
The latest details
One unnamed former government official speculated that the Fox News host might have learned of the NSA interest in his communications after being offered a “defensive briefing” from an FBI warning, which is a type of warning that foreign nationals were discussing him by name.
For his part, Carlson asserted that he had been informed by a friendly “whistleblower” within the government that the NSA had been surveilling his private electronic communications and were intent on leaking the information to discredit him and ultimately lead to his show being canceled.
Axios reported about a week after Carlson’s initial claim that the communications in question involved his effort to arrange an interview with Russian leader Vladimir Putin through a U.S.-based Kremlin-affiliated intermediary.
The Examiner noted that there is nothing inherently wrong with trying to book an interview with a high-power foreign leader and that reporters for other outlets had made similar arrangements with Putin. In a carefully worded statement, the NSA asserted that Carlson was not a “target” of the NSA without denying that the agency had possession of his communications.
A Fox News spokesperson denounced the spy agency’s alleged actions, declaring: “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.”