Watchdog to probe 'alleged NSA targeting' after Tucker Carlson claim

Watchdog to probe 'alleged NSA targeting' after Tucker Carlson claim
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The National Security Agency's Inspector General will open an investigation into what it described as an "alleged targeting" of a U.S. member of the media after Fox News host Tucker CarlsonTucker CarlsonGraham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks Kyle Rittenhouse: No money exchanged for Tucker Carlson interview, documentary series Taibbi: Media should learn from coverage of Kyle Rittenhouse MORE claimed the agency spied on him earlier this year. 

The inspector general said in a statement Tuesday that it was "examining NSA’s compliance with applicable legal authorities and Agency policies and procedures regarding collection, analysis, reporting, and dissemination activities, including unmasking procedures, and whether any such actions were based upon improper considerations. If circumstances warrant, the OIG will consider other issues that may arise during the review." 

In late June, Carlson said on his nightly prime-time program that a whistleblower had contacted his show and told him that President Biden's administration was “spying” on him in an effort to “take this show off the air.”

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“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,” he added. “There’s no other possible source for that information, period.”

Hours later, in a rare rebuke, the NSA issued a statement shooting down the host's claims. 

“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,” the agency wrote in a statement. “NSA has a foreign intelligence mission. We target foreign powers to generate insights on foreign activities that could harm the United States.”

But the top-rated host doubled-down on his claim, suggesting the agency had in fact conducted surveillance on him and saying the NSA's statement did not deny his allegations. 

In early July, Axios reported that Carlson and his team had been communicating with Kremlin intermediaries in the U.S. about obtaining an interview with Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinMore than 50 dead, one rescued in Russian mine explosion NATO to discuss ways to deter Russia: Lithuanian official Putin says he took experimental nasal COVID-19 vaccine MORE

A few weeks later, cybersecurity news outlet The Record reported the agency had conducted its own review of Carlson’s accusations, determining there is no evidence to support this claim. The outlet also reported Carlson's name was mentioned in communications between third parties and was eventually revealed through “unmasking.”

Fox News slammed the NSA when revelations that its highest-rated host had been unmasked, calling it “entirely unacceptable.”

“We are gratified to learn the NSA’s egregious surveillance of Tucker Carlson will now be independently investigated," the network said in a statement Tuesday. "As we have said, 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.”

Last week, Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioRubio: Dropping FARC from terrorist list threatens Colombians, US security This Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead Human rights groups sound alarm over Interpol election MORE (Fla.), the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote a letter to the director of national intelligence to investigate the reports that Carlson had been unmasked by the federal government. 

Updated at 1:16 p.m.