Fox News host Tucker Carlson has accused the National Security Agency of seeking to smear him by supposedly leaking details about his recent attempt to interview Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Mr. Carlson said on his TV program Wednesday evening that he had quietly tried to arrange for an interview with Mr. Putin this year and was later told by a source that the NSA was aware of his efforts.
“I learned from a whistleblower that the NSA planned to leak the contents of those emails to media outlets,” the host of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” said near the start of his latest show.
“Why would they do that?” Mr. Carlson asked. “Well, the point — of course — was to paint me as a disloyal American.”
The NSA has denied targeting Mr. Carlson. A spokesperson did not immediately respond to a message seeking the intelligence agency‘s reaction to his latest claims.
Mr. Carlson, a conservative commentator fiercely critical of President Biden, has claimed for over a week that his private emails were allegedly collected by the NSA under the current administration.
He did not describe the contents of that correspondence until Axios reported earlier Wednesday that they involved efforts to arrange an interview with Mr. Putin, however.
Mr. Carlson had been trying to set up the interview through “U.S.-based Kremlin intermediaries,” Axios reported. Mr. Carlson later said he spoke to “a couple of people I thought could help” to make it happen.
The NSA, headquartered in Fort Meade, Maryland, protects U.S. national security interests by collecting foreign intelligence, such as electronic communications between Americans and foreign powers.
Nonetheless, Mr. Carlson argued malfeasance occurred because he was allegedly “unmasked” by the NSA and his identity and efforts were supposedly disclosed to a journalist.
“By law, the NSA is required to keep secret the identities of American citizens who have been caught up in its vast domestic spying operations,” Mr. Carlson said on his show. “So, by law, I should have been identified internally merely as a U.S. journalist or American journalist. That’s the law. But that’s not how I was identified. I was identified by name. I was unmasked. People in the building learned who I was, and then my name and the contents of my emails left that building at the NSA and wound up with a news organization in Washington. That is illegal.
“We cannot have intelligence agencies used as instruments of political control,” he continued. “We need to find out how this happened. Who did it? Who allowed it?”
Previously, the NSA issued a statement denying it ever targeted Mr. Carlson as he suggested as much on his popular Fox News program on June 29.
“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 NSA said in the statement.
“NSA has a foreign intelligence mission. We target foreign powers to generate insights on foreign activities that could harm the United States,” the statement said. “With limited exceptions (e.g. an emergency), NSA may not target a US citizen without a court order that explicitly authorizes the targeting.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, said on June 30 that he asked the top GOP member of the House Permanently Select Committee on Intelligence to investigate the matter, meanwhile.