Jul 11, 2021 - Politics & Policy

First look: Rand Paul seeks Tucker Carlson investigation

Sen. Rand Paul is seen walking down a hallway in the U.S. Capitol.
Sen. Rand Paul. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call Inc. via Getty Images

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is requesting an investigation into allegations by Tucker Carlson that the National Security Agency was spying on him, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The senator sent a letter to Gen. Paul Nakasone of the National Security Agency, casting doubt on the NSA’s public denial of spying on Carlson and defending the Fox News host as a journalist who should be protected by the First Amendment.

Between the lines: Paul, who sits on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, wrote that he is “open-minded” to believe the NSA may be telling the truth.

  • However, he argues a “long train of abuses” committed by the agency must elicit more than a “carefully worded” tweet of denial to be trusted.
  • Paul requests the agency answer specific questions, including whether it will investigate if Carlson’s allegations are true.
  • He asks for lawful justification of any unmasking if it, indeed, occurred.

The backstory: Carlson recently alleged on his show that his identity was “unmasked” and leaked as he was seeking an interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

  • He said earlier the NSA was monitoring his emails, prompting a rare public denial from the agency.
  • It's unclear why Carlson, or his source, would think any media outreach to Putin would be the basis for NSA surveillance or a motive to have his show canceled, Axios’ Jonathan Swan wrote last week.

Be smart: Fox’s lawyers and a federal judge have argued in the past that in his role as a show host, Carlson’s words should not be taken as fact — the bedrock for journalists and the First Amendment protections they claim.

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