Marco Rubio Praises NSA Watchdog Investigation Into Tucker Carlson's Surveillance Claims

Senator Marco Rubio praised the National Security Agency's internal watchdog investigation into Tucker Carlson's claims that the spy agency has targeted him and his show on Fox News specifically, the Associated Press reported.

Rubio said on Tuesday the inspector general's review "is an important step toward ensuring public confidence. It is important that this review is as transparent as possible so it doesn't fuel further public suspicion and distrust."

He also criticized the NSA's statement for side-stepping the question of whether the agency had intercepted Carlson's communications and was a target of an investigation.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Rubio Praises NSA Watchdog Investigation
Senator Marco Rubio praised the National Security Agency for its watchdog investigation to Tucker Carlson's claims that the agency has targeted him and his show. Rubio speaks during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing May 26, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Stefani Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images

The NSA's internal watchdog said Tuesday it would investigate allegations that the agency "improperly targeted the communications of a member of the U.S. news media" following Fox News host Tucker Carlson's claims that the NSA tried to shut down his show.

The announcement puts the NSA's inspector general at the center of a politically volatile issue. Conservatives have for weeks demanded an investigation into Carlson's claim that a major U.S. spy agency targeted his show, an allegation for which he has provided no evidence.

According to a statement, the review by Inspector General Robert Storch will examine NSA's "compliance with applicable legal authorities" and the agency's own policies on collecting and sharing information it collects. The inspector general will also examine whether any of the agency's actions were based on "improper considerations."

The inspector general's office can open an investigation on its own or in response to a request from lawmakers or others who have reported alleged wrongdoing.

"This will clear the air," said Glenn Gerstell, who served as NSA's general counsel from 2015 to 2020 and worked closely with Storch. "I think it's entirely appropriate for the inspector general to take a look at any allegations and, in this case, put them to rest."

Carlson initially claimed in late June that the NSA was "monitoring our electronic communications and is planning to leak them in an attempt to take this show off the air." He said an unnamed whistleblower had contacted his show with details about a possible story that he said could only have come from reading his text messages and emails.

That prompted a rare statement from the normally reclusive NSA denying his claims. "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.

The NSA collects signals intelligence — emails, text messages, and other electronic communications — on foreign targets for a range of purposes including counterterrorism and cybersecurity. It is supposed to target U.S. citizens only in rare instances.

Americans mentioned in collected intelligence must have their identities withheld unless U.S. officials with proper clearance and a good reason ask for their names to be revealed, a process known as "unmasking."

NSA last month notified the House and Senate intelligence committees that Carlson's name was mentioned by unknown third parties and unmasked at the request of an official, The Record and CNN reported. Axios has reported that Carlson was seeking an interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin and speaking to U.S. based intermediaries. It's not clear whether that reported outreach led Carlson's communications to be captured by U.S. authorities.

More than 9,000 people's identities were "unmasked" in 2020, according to an intelligence review published earlier this year. While there is nothing illegal about the unmasking process, former President Donald Trump repeatedly assailed the unmasking of his associates prior to his inauguration by officials in the Obama administration. National security officials under Trump routinely used the unmasking process themselves as part of their work.

The Justice Department last year assigned a federal prosecutor to investigate unmasking, but that prosecutor, John Bash, left the government months later without announcing any criminal charges or producing any public report.

A spokesman for the agency said Tuesday that NSA "remains fully committed to the rigorous and independent oversight provided by the NSA Inspector General's office."

Fox News said in a statement that the network was "gratified to learn the NSA's egregious surveillance of Tucker Carlson will now be independently investigated."

Rubio Praises NSA's Watchdog Investigation
The National Security Agency’s internal watchdog said Tuesday it would investigate allegations that the agency “improperly targeted the communications of a member of the U.S. news media” following Fox News host Tucker Carlson's claims that the NSA tried to shut down his show. Pictured, Carlson, host of "Tucker Carlson Tonight," poses for photos in a Fox News Channel studio, in New York. Richard Drew/Associated Press