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NSA watchdog opens investigation into Carlson spying claims

The NSA’s inspector general announced on Tuesday that it has opened an investigation into Tucker Carlson’s allegations that the spy agency targeted his communications.

The watchdog office is “examining NSA’s compliance with applicable legal authorities and Agency policies and procedures regarding collection, analysis, reporting, and dissemination activities, including unmasking procedures, and whether any such actions were based upon improper considerations,” NSA inspector general Robert Storch said in a statement. It does not mention Carlson by name, but refers to a member of the U.S. media.

“If circumstances warrant, the OIG will consider other issues that may arise during the review,” Storch added.

The NSA has previously denied any wrongdoing.

"NSA remains fully committed to the rigorous and independent oversight provided by the NSA Inspector General's office. The OIG plays a critical role in our Agency's mission by overseeing the activities of NSA/CSS and providing recommendations that continue to promote effectiveness, efficiency, and accountability within the Agency," a spokesperson for the NSA told The Record.

The Record first reported that an internal review by the country’s premier electronic spy agency of its intercepts found that Carlson was mentioned in communications between third parties and eventually “unmasked.” The Fox News host accused the NSA of spying on him in an effort to knock him off the airwaves. 

“We are gratified to learn the NSA’s egregious surveillance of Tucker Carlson will now be independently investigated. As we have said, for the NSA to unmask Tucker Carlson or any journalist attempting to secure a newsworthy interview is entirely unacceptable and raises serious questions about their activities as well as their original denial, which was wildly misleading,” a Fox News spokesperson said.

Carlson, who had been pursuing an interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin around the time he made his allegations, learned that he was mentioned in a classified intelligence product through a leak somewhere in the national security apparatus, a source familiar with the matter told The Record last month.

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee are also looking into Carlson’s charges. However, the party-line effort has stumbled to produce anything.

Last week, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, asked Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines to conduct a “formal inquiry” into the matter.

Rubio told The Record last month that “multiple people” in the upper chamber shared his concerns.

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Martin Matishak

Martin Matishak is a senior cybersecurity reporter for The Record. He spent the last five years at Politico, where he covered Congress, the Pentagon and the U.S. intelligence community and was a driving force behind the publication's cybersecurity newsletter.