Last week Fox News propagandist Tucker Carlson claimed that a whistleblower had tipped him off that the NSA had been spying on him. The NSA doesn’t surveil Americans unless they’re plotting with foreign adversaries. So either Carlson was lying, or the NSA happened to pick him up while he was speaking with a foreign target who was under surveillance. Now it turns out it might actually be the latter.
Axios is reporting tonight that around the time Tucker Carlson claimed the NSA was spying on him, he was in fact in communication with Kremlin intermediaries about setting up an interview with Vladimir Putin.
It’s not illegal for a media figure to try to set up an interview with a foreign leader, even if the media figure is as disreputable as Carlson, and the foreign leader is as disreputable as Putin. But it would explain how Carlson’s voice could have accidentally ended up on an NSA wiretap, as it’s entirely plausible that the NSA was indeed (lawfully) spying on the Kremlin intermediaries in question.
If this Axios story is correct, it raises a number of questions. First, why was Tucker Carlson trying to set up an interview with Putin? Pro-Trump right wingers always insist that the rest of us are overplaying their connections to Russia, yet everytime we turn around, their actions lead right back to Russia.
Second, if someone in government did warn Tucker Carlson that his voice had shown up on an NSA wiretap, then that person is a leaker not a whistleblower, and is in serious legal trouble. Will the Feds now try to force Carlson to give up the name of the leaker?
Finally, what did Tucker Carlson hope to gain by going public with this? The NSA would never have taken any action against him if it simply happened to overhear him trying to set up a media interview with a foreign leader. The whole thing would have gone nowhere, and we wouldn’t even be hearing about it. By going public with a clearly dishonest version of events, Carlson has brought himself attention – but is it going to turn out to be the kind of attention he wants? We’ll see. It feels like there’s going to be more to this story.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report