First look: Rand Paul seeks Tucker Carlson investigation
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.
- “The 'general tenor' of the show should then inform a viewer that (Carlson) is not 'stating actual facts' about the topics he discusses and is instead engaging in 'exaggeration' and 'non-literal commentary,’” wrote U.S. District Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil's in a court opinion last year.