Sen. Rand Paul is calling for the National Security Agency to launch an investigation into Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s allegations the agency was spying on him and leaking his private emails.
In a letter to NSA Director Gen. Paul Nakasone, the Kentucky Republican “demanded” a probe be launched into the matter, stating that he feels “any leaks of his private emails from the NSA to other reporters” should also be probed, asserting he believes Carson should be protected under the First Amendment.
“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,” he wrote.
“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 Putin, but also that the NSA unmasked his identity and leaked his private emails, which identified him by name, to others in the press.”
Axios first reported last week that Carlson was in contact with Kremlin intermediaries about potentially interviewing Vladimir Putin. Carlson first launched the allegations on his show last month, alleging the agency was “monitoring our electronic communications and is planning to leak them to take this show off the air.”
The NSA has vehemently denied it has spied on the Fox News personality, issuing a statement after Carlson’s initial accusation pushing back on the claim.
“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 in June.
“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.”
While Paul alleged the NSA has a history of abuses, he said he is “open-minded” that the agency could be telling the truth.
“I am open-minded enough to believe, if given convincing evidence, that the NSA may be telling the truth, 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 letter said.
Paul called for the agency to provide answers on whether Carlson has ever been an NSA target or if the NSA “incidentally colleged his electronic communications” relating to the interview request. He also inquired into whether the agency feels it is complying with federal law “requiring the use of minimization procedures when conducting surveillance to protect a U.S. persons’ identity, whether the agency did unmask Carlson and if it has justification to do so and whether it would investigate whether Carlson’s allegations are true.
Paul is not the first lawmaker to call for a probe; House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) also recently called for Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee to investigate the matter.