For a few hours Wednesday, political observers jumped all over a suggestion from the chairman of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee Richard Burr that his staff would look into whether Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, disclosed classified information during Tuesday night’s GOP presidential debate.
Sen. Burr, R-N.C., told a group of reporters Wednesday that his staff would review the debate transcript, according to reports from the Associated Press and others. That prompted speculation of a possible intelligence probe into whether Cruz’s comments revealed sensitive or classified information about the National Security Agency’s phone surveillance program.
Cruz’s campaign pointed out Wednesday that the figures the Texas senator cited have already been publicly reported.
Later, Burr’s office released a statement along with Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the intelligence panel, saying there would be no inquiry into Cruz’s comments.
“The committee is not investigating anything said during last night’s Republican presidential debate,” the statement read.
Questions arose about whether Cruz uttered classified information during a face-off between the Texas senator and fellow GOP presidential hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. The two sparred Tuesday night on stage over the new USA Freedom Act – legislation Cruz supported and Rubio opposed.
Cruz said the surveillance agency is now able to scrutinize “nearly 100 percent” of phones numbers to check for terrorist activity. He said the NSA previously only had access to up to 30 percent of phone numbers under the U.S. Patriot Act.
Rubio followed Cruz’s comments by saying national television was not the appropriate venue to talk about classified government information, without directly accusing his foe of leaking sensitive details.
The Associated Press reported that Cruz’s campaign said Wednesday the statistics the senator described related to NSA’s surveillance capabilities that had already been publicly reported and mentioned during Congressional testimony.