Greenwald: NSA had ‘legal obligation’ to conceal Tucker Carlson’s identity from intercepted communications

Greenwald reacts to report NSA identified Tucker Carlson via communications about Putin interview pitch

Investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald reacted to claims by Fox News host Tucker Carlson that the National Security Administration (NSA) wrongfully identified him through communications intended to set up an interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin Wednesday on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”

On Wednesday, Carlson alluded to an Axios report that laid out such allegations about the NSA.

Carlson explained that only he and his executive producer were in the loop about his intention to try to get an interview with the Kremlin leader earlier this year. The host noted that he is not the first U.S. journalist to seek an interview with the leader of Russia. 

NBC News reporter Keir Simmons was able to interview Putin in advance of the G7 conclave this year, and Fox News’ own Chris Wallace – anchor of “Fox News Sunday” – received an Emmy nomination for his incisive interview with the ex-KGB agent in 2018.

“If NSA captures information sent privately by the American citizen, they have to keep that citizen’s identity secret unless they go through a process to ‘unmask’ it,” Carlson told Greenwald on Wednesday. “It seems very clear they did exactly what they are not allowed to do.”

Greenwald replied that there are two important components to the case: The likelihood Carlson’s communications had been intercepted with “legal authority” because he was communicating with either the Russian government, or a “target in the United States who [he] was using as an intermediary”.

Glenn Greenwald: People in Washington are 'petrified' of the security state

“[If] they learned that way that you were communicating with the Russians about the possibility of an interview with Putin, they have the legal obligation to conceal your identity and make sure that nobody knows that you were the one that was speaking to the Russians,” he said.

“The intelligence that [the NSA] cares about is that the Russians were doing something, not with whom they were speaking — so clearly there was either a failure to hide your identity as required by law, which is illegal or an attempt to unmask it after it was minimized.”

“They’ve been operating in secret and with no democratic accountability for eight or nine decades now,” said Greenwald, adding that President Dwight Eisenhower, upon leaving office in 1961, warned of the pitfalls posed by the national security state.


“The remedy here is for Congress — it’s Congress’ responsibility to exercise oversight on how the executive branch spies on people and for so long Congress has been either afraid of the NSA and the CIA or worse, subservient to them,” the journalist claimed. 

“It has been the Republican Party along with Democrats that has long venerated these agencies and only under Trump did they start to realize actually these agencies interfere in our politics and threaten our democracy and really pernicious ways and that they need to take that knowledge that they learned over the last five years and use it to get to the bottom of what happened here.”

Carlson said that the NSA’s director, Gen. Paul Nakasone – a Trump nominee – would “know the answer” on these claims.

Late last month, the agency responded to Carlson’s first report on this matter with the following statement:

“Tucker Carlson alleged that the National Security Agency has been ‘monitoring our electronic communications and is planning to leak them in an attempt to take this show off the air.’ This allegation is untrue. 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.

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.”


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