Tucker Carlson on Wednesday night revealed that his emails and texts trying to secure an interview with Vladimir Putin (bottom) had been intercepted by the National Security Agency (NSA) – and his communications shared around Washington.
The Fox News host (top) said that he believed the interview request – which he did not publicize, for fear of dissuading the Russians from talking to him – was going to be twisted and used against him.
‘The point, of course, was to paint me as a disloyal American, a Russian operative,’ he told his viewers. ‘I’ve been called that before. A stooge of the Kremlin, a traitor doing the bidding of a foreign adversary.’
Carlson demanded to know why, as the law dictates, his identity was not kept secret. While foreign citizens can in certain cases by eavesdropped on, U.S. citizens cannot have their identity known and their names must be redacted – unless approval to ‘unmask’ that person is granted by the top intelligence officials.
Carlson demanded that Paul Nakasone, the NSA director (inset) explain why his name was ‘unmasked’. Carlson added: ‘You can’t have a democracy in a place where unaccountable spy agencies keep people in line by leaking the contents of their emails, discrediting them with their own emails which they thought were private.’
Trying to secure an interview with a world leader is routine journalistic practice, and should not have raised alarm.
Indeed, his Fox News colleague Chris Wallace won Fox News its first Emmy nomination for his 2018 Putin interview.
Shortly before Putin met President Joe Biden in Geneva, NBC’s Keir Simmons sat for a lengthy interview with the Russian leader, which aired on June 14, scooping Carlson.
‘I told nobody I was doing this other than my executive producer, Justin Wells,’ Carlson said.
‘I wasn’t embarrassed about trying to interview Putin. He’s obviously newsworthy. I’m an American citizen, I can interview anyone I want, and I plan to.
‘But still in this case I decided to keep it quiet. I figure that any kind of publicity would rattle the Russians and make the interview less likely to happen.
‘But the Biden administration found out anyway by reading my emails.’
Carlson said that, despite telling no one, apart from his producer, news of his efforts soon spread around Washington DC.
‘I learned from a whistle-blower that the NSA planned to leak the contents of those emails to media outlets,’ he said. Earlier on Wednesday he said he had been approached at a funeral in Washington DC by someone who told him of the spying.
‘Why would they do that? ‘Well, the point, of course, was to paint me as a disloyal American, a Russian operative. I’ve been called that before, ‘ he said.
‘A stooge of the Kremlin, a traitor doing the bidding of a foreign adversary.’