“But what I know for sure,” he tweeted, “is that this is NSA’s non-denial denial, using the same false framework they always use to mislead the public.”
On Tuesday, attorney Harmeet Dhillon went on TUCKER CARLSON TONIGHT to talk about the National Security Agency’s abuse of Americans’ civil liberties –- specifically, their alleged monitoring of Tucker’s electronic communications. Wednesday, she posted this colorful mark-up of the statement the NSA had released, showing the problems she had with it.
If a cynical senior partner redlined your draft crisis management … pic.twitter.com/4vuISx58K0
— Harmeet K. Dhillon (@pnjaban) June 30, 2021
Let’s go through the pathetic inadequacies of this statement, as pegged by Dhillon and also by us. (We’ll admit, some of her scribbled handwriting is hard to read.) Keep in mind that such statements are very carefully crafted, word by word, by slick federal attorneys. First, here’s the brief two-paragraph statement from the NSA:
“On June 29, 2021, Tucker Carlson alleged that the National Security Agency has been ‘monitoring our electronic communications and is planning to leak them in an attempt to take this show off the air.’ This allegation is untrue. Tucker Carlson has never been an intelligence target of the Agency and the NSA has never had any plans to take his program off the air.
“NSA has a foreign intelligence mission. We target foreign powers to generate insights on foreign activities that could harm the United States. With limited exceptions (e.g., an emergency), NSA may not target U.S. citizens without a court order that explicitly authorizes the targeting.”
Is that a denial? It is not. Let’s break it down, looking at what is said but also what is not said. It is true that Tucker Carlson, on June 29, 2021, made allegations against the National Security Agency. There are actually three allegations mentioned in this statement. As Dhillon points out, the first of these, that the NSA has been monitoring the show’s electronic communications, is not denied by the NSA. We know this because it’s only after listing all three allegations that they say, “This allegation is untrue.” Which allegation do they mean? They don’t tell us. They give us fuzzy-talk, designed by lawyers to be unclear.
The second allegation is that they’re planning to leak the spied-on communications. We would point out that in practice, the NSA just “shops” for the communications intercepted by the phone companies, which are now required by law to keep it. The directive for this would likely have come from top FBI or “Justice” Department officials, who would decide when and where to leak it, not the NSA. Judging from the FBI’s behavior during “Crossfire Hurricane,” THE NEW YORK TIMES and the WASHINGTON POST are outlets they’d typically leak it to. Right, Andy McCabe? Right, James Comey?
The third allegation in their statement is that this was done to try to get Tucker off the air. Even if they’re denying this part, which is not clear, it wouldn’t be the NSA trying to take him off the air, anyway, but the FBI and/or DOJ. Or maybe –- who knows? –- someone even higher or more behind the scenes. The NSA might not even know or want to know about that part, which would give them what in some administrations has been called “plausible deniability.”
When they say that “Tucker Carlson has never been an intelligence target,” Dhillon notes that this is “oddly specific.” That’s because it doesn’t matter. He can be set up to be intercepted, as Mike Flynn was in his conversation with the Ukrainian ambassador. Technically, a foreigner was targeted, not Flynn, but Flynn’s communications were swept up.
“NSA has a foreign intelligence mission,” they say in their statement. This is true, but, again, it doesn’t matter. It tells us nothing about what other communications they scooped up or if they might have coordinated with the FBI, which handles domestic intelligence.
“We target foreign powers to generate insights on foreign activities that could harm the United States.” That’s fine, but, again, whether or not the NSA specifically targeted Tucker tells us nothing about whether or not his communications were being intercepted and read.
The NSA may not target American citizens without a court order, the statement says, but there are “limited exceptions (e.g., an emergency).” Dhillon notes that these are “BIG exceptions.” As for “an emergency,” she asks, “COVID?” So now we’re wondering: Is the pandemic being used as the “emergency” to justify deviating from standard procedure? And if it’s not the pandemic that qualifies as the “emergency,” what might it be? The NSA included that word “emergency” in their statement for a reason.
Other notes from Dhillon that express her feelings about this baloney include, “But if we ‘happen’ to get your data, we can keep it and mine it!” and “But we also capture U.S. citizen data, WHOOPS!”
The NSA’s statement says they would require a court order that “explicitly authorizes” the targeting. That’s if they’re targeting, which, again, doesn’t matter. I like Dhillon’s comment: “We would never lie!!”
If the NSA could have denied what Tucker alleges, they would have, of course. So we learn from this that Tucker is telling the truth and that his source, whom Tucker says “is in a position to know,” was right.
A look at real-journalist Glenn Greenwald’s recent tweets also tells the tale. Recall that Greenwald was at the forefront of the reporting on Edward Snowden and the NSA’s mass surveillance activities, so he recognizes the legal hair-splitting they do to hide what they’re doing. Of the NSA’s statement, he said: “First, it’s bizarre that @NSAGov allowed no replies. Second, NSA has used this same deceit for years: they can spy on US citizens’ communications without ‘targeting’ the American. Third, NSA has extremely broad authorities to collect communications without ‘targeting’ a person.”
He said he’s not accusing the NSA of doing this; he simply doesn’t know. “But what I know for sure,” he tweeted, “is that this is NSA’s non-denial denial, using the same false framework they always use to mislead the public.”
First, it’s bizarre that @NSAGov allow no replies.
Second, NSA has used this same deceit for years: they can spy on US citizens’ communications without “targeting” the American.
Third, NSA has extremely broad authorities to collect communications without “targeting” a person. https://t.co/vAgaSS0x1k
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) June 30, 2021
Greenwald appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show Wednesday night.
Key excerpt: “…Here we are, after the Trump years, and we know that the Democratic Party and journalism in general has aligned with the CIA, the NSA and the FBI, and has aligned and merged with the security state,” Greenwald said. “And so in response to the report that you did, you would think other journalists — just out of self-interest, even if they dislike your ideology and you — would say, ‘We want to know whether the NSA is abusing their powers in order to spy on journalists they dislike,’ and instead they mocked it, they said that, oh, he has to be paranoid in order to think this.”
Greenwald is right; they accepted the NSA statement uncritically, even though it’s designed to mislead as we have shown.
I would add that if the NSA had NOT done this, their statement would’ve read something like this: “On June 28, 2021, Tucker Carlson alleged that the NSA had been monitoring his electronic communications. Mr. Carlson is mistaken; the NSA adamantly denies that this has ever taken place.”
But that’s not even close to what they said. So, YES, they spied on a journalist working on a story, got caught, and won’t come clean. Next question: why?
Mike Huckabee was the 44th governor of Arkansas and a 2016 Republican candidate for president.
Follow him at MikeHuckabee.com