The story of NSA spying on cable host Tucker Carlson may have turned a shade of Russiagate, as the Fox pundit said the alleged surveillance followed efforts to set up an interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Carlson took to his show on Wednesday night to confirm an Axios report published hours earlier, which stated that he had reached out to “US-based Kremlin intermediaries” about an interview with the Russian leader. While the story stopped short of substantiating Carlson’s charges of NSA spying, it claimed that “US government officials” had learned of his plans for the interview, citing anonymous “sources familiar with the conversations.”
“Late this spring I contacted a couple of people I thought could help get us an interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin. I told nobody I was doing this other than my executive producer,” Carlson said.
.@ggreenwald & Tucker Carlson Discuss The Implications Of The NSA Leaking His Communications To JournalistsGlenn: “It is one of gravest crimes in the US code for the NSA to leak the contents of communications that it intercepts between a foreign official & an American citizen.” pic.twitter.com/pbJB2QgoJa— The Columbia Bugle 🇺🇸 (@ColumbiaBugle) July 8, 2021
He added that while he “wasn’t embarrassed” about the possible sit-down, he nonetheless kept the efforts quiet, assuming that “any kind of publicity would rattle the Russians and make the interview less likely to happen.”
However, “the Biden administration found out anyway by reading my emails,” Carlson went on, also alleging that a whistleblower had told him the NSA planned to leak the communications to hostile media outlets in order to paint him as a “disloyal American” and a “Russian operative.”
Earlier in the day, Carlson appeared on a Fox Business show and revealed that a journalist in Washington had quoted him the contents of one of his emails, saying the NSA had leaked it to reporters.
“You can’t have a free press if the intel agencies are secretly spying on you and using that information to threaten you and control you,” Carlson told Maria Bartiromo, denouncing a “totally dysfunctional, out-of-control third-world system” that he said the Biden administration was using to target its political opposition.
When Axios reached out to the NSA for comment, the agency pointed to its earlier statement that Carlson was not a “target” of their surveillance, and that their mandate was to spy on foreigners, not Americans. Carlson had rejected their response as “an infuriatingly dishonest formal statement, an entire paragraph of lies” written for the benefit of NSA “lackeys” at rival networks CNN and MSNBC.
Critics of the most-watched US cable host initially dismissed his claims about NSA surveillance, saying he was making them up or trying to deflect from incoming negative press coverage.
Over the Fourth of July weekend, CNN openly compared Carlson to Alex Jones, a conspiracy-minded commentator they successfully pressured Silicon Valley into deplatforming back in 2018.
Based on the new revelations, however, some observers likened Carlson’s case to that of retired General Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump’s first national security advisor. Flynn was pressured into resigning just two weeks into the job, after the contents of his run-of-the-mill conversations with the Russian ambassador were leaked to the Washington Post and presented as potentially treasonous.
The American public never found out who in the Obama administration ordered Flynn “unmasked” – revealing his name, normally anonymized under NSA foreign surveillance protocols. After being dragged through the courts for years on spurious charges, Flynn was pardoned in November 2020.
We are now learning Tucker Carlson was unmasked the same way as General Flynn— Jack Posobiec 🇺🇸 (@JackPosobiec) July 7, 2021
As Axios explained, the NSA might have legally spied on “Kremlin intermediaries” Carlson was speaking with if they were foreign nationals on foreign soil at the time, but his name would have been “masked” in that case.
The revelation prompted former acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell to accuse Democrats of “weaponizing” US intelligence agencies, specifically pointing the finger at House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff (D-California).
Others predicted that the official narrative was about to shift from ‘there was no spying’ to ‘well, since Russia was involved he had it coming.’
Watch libs go from Tucker wasn’t spied on to oh well he wanted to interview Putin so he should have been spied on.— Cernovich (@Cernovich) July 7, 2021
The next spin cycle is about to be "Well, Tucker wanted to interview Putin so spying on him was justified"The left is wildly predictable. Get ready for Russia, Russia, Russia all over again.https://t.co/kls7rel3Ow— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) July 7, 2021
Journalist Glenn Greenwald received exactly that argument from a detractor on Twitter – calling Carlson a “noxious TV personality” who was “dabbling in foreign contacts” and “ran afoul of legitimate surveillance” – shortly before he was due to appear on Carlson’s show to comment on the affair.
Imagine if this story happened during the Trump years and someone leaked the contents of Jim Acosta or Rachel Maddow's conversations to Fox News which then reported on them.— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) July 7, 2021
The potential involvement of Russia or Putin per se would not make spying on US journalists and leaking their names to the media legal. The Russian president has previously given interviews to Fox – back in 2018 – and the NSA never unmasked anchor Chris Wallace. Nor has there been any talk of spying on NBC News, whose interview with Putin aired ahead of the summit with US President Joe Biden in Geneva last month.
Far-left NBC News secured an interview with Putin. Did the Biden administration spy on NBC News when they tried to set up an interview? If not, it's pretty clear they were weaponizing the Intelligence Community to go after Tucker for political purposes. https://t.co/ihSKfAYO2o— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) July 7, 2021
In effect, some conservative commentators said, the spying on and unmasking of Carlson itself constitutes proof the Fox News host – a vocal critic of the current administration – may have been targeted for political purposes.
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