Accused by Fox’s Tucker Carlson of snooping through his emails, the National Security Agency insisted the host is not “an intelligence target” in a carefully worded reply that was blasted by critics as deliberately vague.
The spy agency took to Twitter on Tuesday to respond to Carlson’s charges that he was surveilled – made during a segment of his show the night prior – calling the allegations “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,” it said, adding that it has a “foreign intelligence mission” and is prohibited from spying on American citizens barring explicit authorization.
The agency did not elaborate, however, on whether such authorization was issued with respect to Carlson, or if any of the cable news host’s associates might have been monitored instead, leaving room for speculation.
The response mirrored earlier comments from White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, who told reporters on Tuesday that the NSA “focuses on foreign threats,” brushing away Carlson’s claims while directing further questions to the agency itself.
On Monday, Carlson said that a government whistleblower had approached his team with evidence of illicit NSA spying, claiming the insider provided details about his personal communications that could only have been gleaned from his texts and emails. He added that the organization sought to leak that information in an effort to have his show pulled off the air.
The host followed up on the charges during a segment on Tuesday night, rebuffing the NSA’s public response and stating that he also spoke with the agency directly.
“Just minutes before air tonight, the NSA sent us an infuriatingly dishonest formal statement, an entire paragraph of lies written purely for the benefit of the intel community’s lackeys at CNN and MSNBC – all those people they hire with their titles on the screen,” Carlson said.
While Carlson noted that he tried to contact NSA Director Paul Nakasone, he said he could not get through. He was eventually able to reach lower-level officials, but said they declined to answer his questions directly.
“Orwellian does not begin to describe the experience,” Carlson said of his exchange with the agency, adding that the officials “refused to say” whether they had spied on his communications.
The message was clear: ‘We can do whatever we want. We can read your personal texts, we can read your personal emails, we can send veiled threats your way to brush you back if we don’t like your politics. We can do anything.’
Tucker Carlson responds to the NSA:"We made a very straightforward claim: NSA has read my private emails without my permission... Tonight's statement from the NSA does not deny that instead it comes with this non-sequitur: Tucker Carlson has never been an intel target." pic.twitter.com/gGiP4HNtxw— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) June 30, 2021
Other observers also weighed in online, some deeming the NSA’s statement evasive, suggesting the intel agency’s wording left the door open for some form of surveillance on the Fox host, whether direct or indirect.
“Don’t know whether NSA is *specifically* spying on Carlson, but this statement is worthless,” said former Republican Representative Justin Amash. “[First], it denies a compound allegation re ‘monitoring’ *and* taking [Carlson’s] show off air. [Second], it says he’s not a ‘target,’ which is a term of art. Real danger is so-called ‘incidental collection.’”
Don’t know whether NSA is *specifically* spying on Carlson, but this statement is worthless. 1st, it denies a compound allegation re “monitoring” *and* taking show off air. 2nd, it says he’s not a “target,” which is a term of art. Real danger is so-called “incidental collection.” pic.twitter.com/xfKP5DGdML— Justin Amash (@justinamash) June 30, 2021
Classic non-denial denial. Notice they say "never a target", no "plans" to remove from the air, and that they legally may not "target" such a person. What they do NOT say is that they are not intercepting his communications. In other words, they are. https://t.co/juUXXrgtnC— Robert Barnes (@barnes_law) June 30, 2021
Tucker isn’t the target—only incidental to the target.The NSA doesn’t *currently* have plans to shut down his show.The Tucker quote is two allegations, but NSA denies it as one, the motte and bailey technique. ✅ This statement is consistent with Tucker being monitored. https://t.co/jp9WFUVEhV— Andrew Kloster (@ARKloster) June 30, 2021
Journalist Glenn Greenwald – a major NSA critic who helped to publish a massive trove of the agency’s documents leaked in 2013 by contractor Edward Snowden – took corporate media outlets to task for their coverage of the controversy. He slammed “CNN and NBC personalities who never heard of ‘incidental’ collection,” referring to a practice by which intelligence agencies can collect information on American citizens indirectly, so long as their primary target is based abroad.
A major scandal at the time, the Snowden leak revealed the NSA had engaged in illegal mass surveillance of Americans, as well as foreign allies, for years on end, despite repeat denials from US officials.
First, it's bizarre that @NSAGov allow no replies.Second, NSA has used this same deceit for years: they can spy on US citizens' communications without "targeting" the American. Third, NSA has extremely broad authorities to collect communications without "targeting" a person. https://t.co/vAgaSS0x1k— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) June 30, 2021
Even some of those skeptical about Carlson’s accusations asked for a more direct response from the NSA, apparently deeming its statement too vague. Other critics remained unconvinced about the pundit’s charges, however, saying they “require more evidence” and have not been substantiated beyond Carlson’s claim of a still-unnamed whistleblower.
I tend to doubt the NSA is collecting Tucker Carlson’s info but...I need to hear them say “we are not collecting his info, even incidentally or pursuant to some other target”— Kyle Smith (@rkylesmith) June 30, 2021
If NSA is reviewing Carlson's private emails, that is a serious matter indeed. Which is why it appears even his peers at the network require more evidence than him saying so on an opinion-driven show that Fox's own lawyers have defended this way...https://t.co/6pDQs4wtZmhttps://t.co/aZfYZeeGyd— David Folkenflik (@davidfolkenflik) June 30, 2021
Former MSNBC pundit and fervent Fox critic Keith Olbermann took some extra poetic license with the NSA statement, calling it “obvious” proof that Carlson was in contact with a “foreign entity trying to harm the USA.”
BREAKING: @TuckerCarlson claims @NSA is reading his emails. NSA promptly denies...he or any American is a target.Somehow Tucker doesn't see the obvious: the NSA believes he's emailing with a FOREIGN ENTITY TRYING TO HARM THE USA!Tucker Carlson: Foreign Asset? Stooge? pic.twitter.com/bieJ9h6GLB— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) June 30, 2021
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