Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is demanding an investigation into allegations made by Fox News host Tucker Carlson that the National Security Agency spied on his electronic communications and then leaked material to the media.
Last week, Axios reported that government officials had learned Carlson was reaching out to contacts in the U.S. who have ties to the Kremlin in order to set up an interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Carlson had learned that the government was aware he had tried to contact the Kremlin, and this was the basis for his accusation that the NSA had spied on him.
After Axios' report was published, Carlson said that not only was he spied on, he was unmasked by the NSA and his communications had been leaked to journalists.
During his July 7 monologue, Carlson called out NSA Director Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, demanding that he immediately "explain who asked for that unmasking."
Two days later on July 9, Sen. Paul sent a letter addressed to Nakasone requesting an investigation into "alleged spying and unmasking" of Carlson, "as well as any leaks of his private emails from the NSA to other reporters."
"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," wrote Paul. "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.
"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. 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," he continued.
Paul asked several questions of Nakasone, including whether it was true that Carlson was an NSA target or whether the NSA had incidentally collected his communications regarding the attempt to interview Putin. Paul wants to know if the NSA followed federal law that requires the agency to protect the identities of U.S. persons when conducting surveillance. If Carlson was unmasked, Paul wants the agency to give the lawful justification for doing so and to explain whether any of Carlson's communications were leaked to the media.
The NSA denied Carlson's allegations in late June, though critics have pointed out that the careful wording of the NSA's public statement did not rule out that Carlson's communications were collected by the agency.