Are US Spy Services Monitoring the Opposition’s Communications?

July 2, 2021 Updated: July 7, 2021


Fox News host Tucker Carlson has reported during the last week about a whistleblower who told him that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been monitoring his electronic communications with the intention of leaking them to get his show taken off the air. While most of the prestige press has dismissed Carlson’s claims, the whistleblower may have struck just the tip of the iceberg—it’s possible that along with Carlson, much of the leadership of the American opposition movement is also under surveillance.

The NSA denied that Carlson is “an intelligence target of the Agency.” It explained on its Twitter account that the “NSA has a foreign intelligence mission. We target foreign powers to generate insights on foreign activities that may harm the United States. With limited exceptions … NSA may not target US citizens without a court order that explicitly authorizes the targeting.”

As absurd as it sounds, it’s not hard to imagine U.S. officials presenting phony evidence to a secret court to try to show that an American TV star is actually a foreign spy. They did it when the former host of “The Celebrity Apprentice” ran for president in 2016. It’s worth noting that the same guild of national security experts and corporate media personalities who ridiculed Donald Trump’s claim that the Barack Obama administration spied on his 2016 campaign are the same people now mocking Carlson.

Last May, Trump’s Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell released a list with names of dozens of senior Obama officials who spied on the Trump circle through transcripts of foreign intelligence intercepts provided by the NSA. The long, yet incomplete list is evidence that the Obama White House nurtured a culture of surveillance and espionage at the highest levels of government.

Many of those Obama officials have been named to senior posts in the Biden administration, which is only logical. Since they weren’t held accountable for violating their fellow citizens’ constitutional rights, and likely illegal activities, they were rewarded for their part in a successful operation to destroy officials from the opposing party.

Samantha Power is President Joe Biden’s head of the U.S. Agency for International Development. As Obama’s U.N. ambassador, she was an avid reader of foreign intelligence intercepts. Those classified documents are redacted by intelligence analysts to protect the privacy of U.S. persons (American citizens and permanent U.S. residents) and entities.

Requests from senior officials to provide the names of Americans whose identities are minimized in transcripts are rare, but Power frequently asked the NSA to unmask Americans, perhaps several hundred times, according to news reports. Former Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy called her the “largest unmasker of US persons in our history.” Among other Trump officials she unmasked during the 2016–17 presidential transition period was incoming national security adviser (ret.) Gen. Michael Flynn.

So did Susan Rice, now Biden’s director of the Domestic Policy Council. Under Obama, she unmasked Flynn’s name as well as those of Trump aides Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon, from a transcript of a foreign intelligence intercept. As vice president, Biden also unmasked Flynn’s name from a transcript that apparently documented a phone call with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

Since Obama officials leaked the transcript of Flynn’s call to the press—a felony offense for which no one was charged—Carlson has good reason to believe that the Biden administration was planning to leak details of his communications, too. Indeed, because so many of the Obama administration’s spies are now working for Biden, it’s not hard to guess how the new team is likely monitoring Carlson—by using the same method they employed to capture Flynn’s communications.

Typically, it’s the Justice Department and the FBI that go to court to obtain a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant, which allows them to task the NSA to collect the communications of the person they’re targeting. The easiest way to spy on Americans is to leave their names out of it and simply use reverse-targeting—that is, collect the communications of a foreign national with whom the American is in contact. To get Flynn’s communications, they zeroed in on a foreign official whose communications were already of keen interest to senior officials, and with whom the incoming national security adviser would obviously be in touch—Russia’s ambassador to Washington.

As a journalist, Carlson is likely in contact with a number of foreign nationals, and if you wanted to spy on him, you’d just watch his show and zero in on one of his foreign guests, like the president of El Salvador, whom he interviewed earlier this year. There are probably all sorts of people Biden law enforcement officials could choose, but here is one possible scenario:

In September 2020, Carlson interviewed for the first time a Chinese scientist who fled to the United States early during the pandemic. Dr. Yan Limeng told the Fox News host that COVID-19 didn’t originate in nature, but alleged it was engineered in a Chinese government lab in Wuhan with which she was once affiliated.

The lab-leak hypothesis, which was labeled a conspiracy theory when relayed by Trump and Republican officials such as Ted Cruz and Tom Cotton before the 2020 election, is now accepted in mainstream American political discourse as a plausible explanation of the origins of the pandemic. But Yan went even further. She said the coronavirus was intentionally “spread to the world” by the Chinese government.

This sent America’s globalist oligarchs into a frenzy—after all, the source of the political and corporate elite’s wealth, power, and prestige is its relationship with Chinese Communist Party elites. Yan’s assessment, therefore, stung Big Tech as much it did Beijing. Yan’s Twitter account was suspended, while Facebook and Instagram flagged her interview with Carlson as fake news.

In the current political environment, where “disinformation” is the catchword for anything not endorsed by the establishment media and the spy services, this would have suited federal law enforcement’s case for collecting her communications. They would say they need to know if she’s part of a foreign intelligence operation—perhaps working with one of China’s rivals, or people inside China.

The political rationale for wanting to know what she knows and might say is obvious—COVID-19 was the Democratic candidate’s on-ramp to the White House. Biden’s handlers used the pandemic to legitimize the use of widespread mail-in-voting, which both parties previously insisted was a recipe for voter fraud. Further, Biden ran on the promise that he’d handle COVID-19 better than Trump.

But if it came to pass that China had turned a bioweapon loose on the world, and U.S. spy chiefs either missed that fact or buried it to hurt the incumbent while hundreds of thousands of Americans died, that’s bad news for the administration and its allies in the intelligence bureaucracy. So even if they aren’t officially spying on Yan, who has become a frequent guest on Carlson’s broadcasts, it’s certain they’re watching her.

But she’s still not as worrisome to them as Carlson is. With Trump pushed to the sidelines, for the time being anyway, the 52-year-old journalist is the America First movement’s leading voice. His nightly monologues are seen by millions of Americans as essential reporting and commentary on the corruption, criminality, and incompetence of the ruling class. Regardless of what the NSA says through its Twitter account, there’s no doubt the oligarchy wants to shut down his show, evidenced by the fact that advertisers are constantly pressured to shun it. Getting him canceled would blow up an important channel through which the leadership of the opposition communicates with each other and to its rank and file.

Spying on the opposition’s top journalist to destroy him is bad enough, but it may be even worse. If they’re collecting Carlson’s communications through his contacts with a foreign national, it’s important to know that in accordance with the so-called two-hop rule, FISA also allows the spy services to monitor the communications of those with whom Carlson is in contact. It was because the FBI had a FISA on Trump 2016 campaign volunteer Carter Page that it was able to sweep up the communications of the entire Trump team, likely including the candidate, and later president.

So Carlson’s sources and guests—that is, the political, intellectual, and cultural leadership of the opposition—may also be under surveillance. And that’s the question that needs to be asked of Attorney General Merrick Garland—is the FBI collecting the communications of the opposition, starting with its most prominent leader?

Lee Smith is a senior fellow at America’s Future, and the author of the recently published book “The Permanent Coup: How Enemies Foreign and Domestic Targeted the American President.”

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Lee Smith
Lee Smith is a veteran journalist whose work appears in Real Clear Investigations, the Federalist, and Tablet. He is the author of "The Permanent Coup" and "The Plot Against the President."