Congress pressures US spy agencies as Tucker Carlson feuds with NSA

Congress pressures US spy agencies as Tucker Carlson feuds with NSA
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U.S. intelligence officials face bipartisan congressional pressure to explain their use of surveillance powers, following a rebuke from a federal judge and Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s high-profile dispute with the National Security Agency.

“Our institutions are only as good as the American public’s confidence in them,” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio wrote a top intelligence official, requesting an investigation of Carlson’s allegation the NSA violated his privacy. “The NSA publicly responded to Mr. Carlson’s allegations with a statement on Twitter that frankly only created more questions.”

Rubio, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, did not dispute the NSA’s denial of wrongdoing in Carlson’s case. Yet, Rubio’s request for “a formal inquiry” into Carlson’s complaint coincided with a sharper rebuke of the FBI, which has drawn bipartisan ire due to a federal judge’s revelation of “pervasive” misuse of data collected by the NSA.

“We each share an obligation to protect Americans’ civil liberties,” Indiana Republican Rep. Victoria Spartz and California Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren wrote in a Tuesday letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray. “However, the FBI has repeatedly violated the civil liberties of Americans through widespread misuse of Section 702 data.”

TUCKER CARLSON'S NAME IN NSA INTERCEPTS REVEALED THROUGH 'UNMASKING': REPORT

Section 702 is a provision of federal law that allows the NSA to collect the communications of foreign targets overseas without a warrant. That surveillance authority looms over both controversies, as a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge revealed FBI officials have failed to follow the rules designed to prevent the Section 702 program from being used in violation of the Fourth Amendment rights of Americans.

“The FBI’s failure to properly apply its querying standard when searching Section 702-acquired information was more pervasive than was previously believed,” the judge wrote in a November 18, 2020, opinion that the Office of the Director of Intelligence published in April.

Carlson, for his part, has accused President Joe Biden’s administration of “spying” on him and planning to leak his plans to interview Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I wasn't embarrassed about trying to interview Putin. He's obviously newsworthy,” Carlson said last month. “But still, in this case, I decided to keep it quiet. I figured 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.”

NSA officials denied that Carlson was a “target” of surveillance, while his account spurred outside analysts to surmise the U.S. spy agencies tasked with monitoring the communications of Putin’s associates detected Carlson’s interview request — a phenomenon known as “incidental” collection.

“By law, I should have been identified internally merely as a U.S. journalist or American journalist,” Carlson said. “But that's not how I was identified. It was identified by name. I was unmasked.”

Rubio, following Carlson’s demand for an explanation from National Intelligence director Avril Haines and NSA Director Paul Nakasone, urged Haines to coordinate with the NSA to launch a “formal inquiry” into both aspects of the controversy: the initial information gathering and the alleged unmasking.

However, the senator did not dispute the NSA’s denial and suggested a transparent investigation might clear the air.

“Our institutions are only as good as the American public’s confidence in them,” Rubio wrote to Haines. “As such, it is essential that the IC – under your leadership – hold itself to account if misconduct has occurred, and convincingly reassure an American public increasingly attuned to the perception of widespread misconduct where it has not occurred.”

Spartz, Lofgren, and 15 other House lawmakers took up the FISA court judge's findings rather than Carlson's complaint. They signaled to Wray they are confident the FBI is guilty of “misuse of raw Section 702 data,” although they did not refer to Carlson. They set a deadline for the FBI chief to schedule a classified briefing on the controversy.

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“The FBI has systematically failed to comply with Section 702 restrictions and its own regulations to protect Americans’ civil liberties,” Spartz, the Indiana Republican, said Tuesday in a statement accompanying the release of the Aug. 2 letter. “The core function of the government is to protect our constitutional rights, and members of Congress should be briefed by FBI officials regarding the bureau’s efforts to remediate this issue.”

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Tags: News, Foreign Policy, National Security, Tucker Carlson, Russia, Marco Rubio, NSA, Avril Haines

Original Author: Joel Gehrke

Original Location: Congress pressures US spy agencies as Tucker Carlson feuds with NSA

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