A few weeks ago, I testified in the House Judiciary Committee on the surveillance of journalists in a long series of scandals from the Bush to the Obama to the Trump to the Biden Administrations. These scandals have occurred with almost seasonal regularity. There was a rare sense of bipartisanship in the hearing as both parties called for investigation and new legislation to address this ongoing problem. However, there has been a notable silence among members and the media after Tucker Carlson went public with an allegation that his emails were not just intercepted by the National Security Agency (NSA) but that they were shared with members of the press by intelligence officials. Now, there appears confirmation that the communications were mentioned on intercepts and, as some of us assumed early in the coverage, Carlson was “unmasked” by Biden Administration officials. Yet, the response continues to be crickets from the media and members of Congress.
When the story broke, I stated that it was likely that the communication was not a direct targeting but either an incidental interception (when targeting a foreign intelligence subject) or the gathering of the information when it was discussed by third parties on an intercept. It would then have to have been “unmasked” by an official with such authority. The latest coverage would suggest that it was likely the later circumstance of the communication was discussed or read during an interception and later unmasked.
This is once again an example of how bias continues to distort coverage. Many in the media dislike Carlson and the feeling is obviously mutual. However, what Carlson described on his show was extremely serious and concerning. He said that a journalist and a third party both contacted him to say that his emails were being leaked. He said that one email (where he was seeking to secure an interview with Russian President Vladimir) was literally read back to him.
That should have been sufficient to raise calls for investigation and transparency. Whether the email was intercepted directly, incidentally, or merely discussed in a different intercept is not determinative on why the information would have been circulated or why Carlson’s name was unmasked.
Now, Fox News (who I work for as a legal analyst) is condemning reports in The Record that Carlson was “unmasked” at the request of Biden Administration officials. The NSA had previously denied Carlson’s claims. Now, two sources are being cited as saying that Carlson’s communications were discussed in intercepts and then his identity was unmasked.
There remain very serious questions. Who unmasked Carlson’s name and why was there an unmasking? Moreover, how would such information be discussed with reporters or third parties, if the original allegations are true?
You do not have to like Carlson (any more than other media figures subject to such actions) to be concerned over such alleged unmasking and distribution. This should be part of the bipartisan inquiry discussed in the Judiciary Committee.