Rand Paul requests probe into allegations NSA spied on Tucker Carlson

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulUp next in the culture wars: Adding women to the draft The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators Only two people cited by TSA for mask violations have agreed to pay fine MORE (R-Ky.) is requesting the director of the National Security Agency conduct an investigation into Fox News host Tucker CarlsonTucker CarlsonDon Lemon defends Tucker Carlson amid confrontation video Fox News blasts 'ambush' of Carlson at Montana fly-fishing store Psaki says Biden admin 'needs' Fox News in order to fight vaccine misinformation MORE's claims that the agency has been spying on him. 

“Mr. Carlson is a journalist, who currently hosts the popular news program Tucker Carlson Tonight, and as such he is to be afforded the freedom of the press protections guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution,” Paul said in a letter to Gen. Paul Nakasone. “As you are undoubtedly aware, Mr. Carlson recently alleged on his television show that the NSA not only read his private emails relating to his attempt to interview Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinIs Ukraine Putin's Taiwan? Democrats find a tax Republicans can support Biden officials pledge to confront cybersecurity challenges head-on MORE, but also that the NSA unmasked his identity and leaked his private emails, which identified him by name, to others in the press.”

In a rare response, the NSA denied Carlson's claims after he first went public with them in late June. 

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“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 said in a statement late last month. “NSA has a foreign intelligence mission. We target foreign powers to generate insights on foreign activities that could harm the United States. With limited exceptions (e.g. an emergency), NSA may not target a US citizen without a court order that explicitly authorizes the targeting." 

Paul said he is "open-minded enough" to believe, if given convincing evidence, that the NSA "may be telling the truth" about if it had monitored the host's private communication. 

"But when a long train of abuses conducted by the NSA evinces a consistent design to evade the law and violate the constitutionally-protected liberties of the people, the NSA must do more than tweet a carefully worded denial to be trusted," the senator wrote to Nakasone. "As the head of the NSA, you can help restore credibility to your agency by being completely honest with the American people and explaining in detail whether the NSA conducted surveillance on Tucker Carlson in his role as a journalist, whether you or anyone else within the federal government approved his alleged unmasking, and whether Mr. Carlson’s private emails were shared with any other reporters or news organizations." 

Following the NSA's denial, Carlson doubled down on his assertion on his program one night later. 

"Did the Biden administration read my personal emails? That’s the question that we asked directly to NSA officials when we spoke to them about 20 minutes ago in a very heated conversation," Carlson said. "Did you read my emails? And again, they refused to say ... 'We can’t tell you, and we won’t tell you why we can’t tell you.' My emails. And the message was clear: 'We can do whatever we want.' "

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After Axios published a story last week citing sources familiar with the conversations that the Fox host had been communicating with Kremlin intermediaries in the U.S. about scheduling an interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Carlson confirmed the outlet's reporting. 

“So, it is not in any way a figment of my imagination. It’s confirmed. It’s true,” Carlson said, arguing that the Biden administration is attempting to gain “leverage” to threaten “opposition journalists.”

“Why would they do that? Well the point, of course, was to paint me as a disloyal American. A Russian operative, been called that before. A stooge of the Kremlin, a traitor doing the bidding of a foreign adversary,” he said.