Yesterday, allegations made by Fox News' Tucker Carlson that the NSA had gathered his communications and that they were going to be leaked for partisan gain were confirmed. While we don't know exactly who leaked the emails, which simply showed Carlson attempting to set up an interview with Vladamir Putin (who NBC News had interviewed just two weeks prior), we know it had to be someone involved in unmasking him. That leaves the Biden administration as the most likely source.
Of course, before yesterday, a litany of figures called Carlson a liar for even claiming what he claimed last week. Now, those same people are attempting to spin their way out of the corner they painted themselves in by making a variety of stupid, obtuse claims.
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) July 7, 2021
Here's the thing – the NSA's denial was an entire paragraph of lies. It was carefully crafted, just as many of us pointed out (and were called conspiracy theorists at the time), to try to make the irrelevant distinction of whether Carlson was the “target” of the surveillance or not. But that doesn't negate the fact that Carlson was spied on. When you intercept someone's communications, even under the auspices of it being indirect, unmask their name, and then leak those communications to the media, that's spying.
Yet, as per our usual arrangement, none of the most outspoken critics of Carlson's original allegations are willing to just admit they got it wrong. Instead, boots are being licked because it's apparently preferable to defend an overbearing, politicized intelligence apparatus than to just admit what happened to Carlson was wrong.
This aged well
— Bonchie (@bonchieredstate) July 7, 2021
Of course. Why admit your original take was misleading and purposely obtuse when you can argue that the NSA gathering Tucker’s emails and leaking them isn’t “spying.” No one cares about whatever technical distinctions you are hiding behind. You’d could just say “this was wrong.”
— Bonchie (@bonchieredstate) July 8, 2021
And that's really the crux of the issue. Those that got this so wrong now want to hide behind government-defined technical distinctions that don't actually excuse what happened. Frankly, I do not care how the NSA defines “spying.” The entire point of them defining their own terms is so they can abuse them at will, which is exactly what you saw in their prior denial. If you are demanding people play a game where the other team gets to set all the rules when talking about the weaponization of the intel community, you are giving the government deference it has not earned. That used to be something all conservatives could agree on. That it's not anymore is a sad testament to how much the Trump era broke so many people.
In short, it's simply cowardice to hide behind semantic arguments when the bottom line is that what happened to Carlson was an illegal and disgusting abuse of power. Bad-faith actors can call it “incidental surveillance” if it makes them feel better, but it does not change the fact that government officials spied on an American journalist and then illegally leaked his communications for clearly partisan reasons. If that's something Goldberg or anyone else wants to defend, they should just come out and defend it directly instead of hiding behind cheap, obtuse arguments that eschew the extent of what happened.