Senate officials said Wednesday that there would be no investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee into Sen. Ted Cruz’s debate remarks concerning a U.S. counterintelligence program.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), the committee’s chairman, had told reporters before noon that his staff would be looking into the Cruz’s comments. “Any time you deal with numbers,” he said, “…the question is, ‘Is that classified or not?’ Or is there an open source reference to it?”
“I would be a lot more worried if he was in fact a member of the committee,” added Burr, “but to my understanding this subject matter was not one where any members outside of the committee had been briefed on it.”
well that's an awkward about-face: Senate Intel no longer "investigating" Cruz's NSA comments pic.twitter.com/bZyB2oYFgQ
— John Hudson (@John_Hudson) December 16, 2015
A few hours later, Burr issued an elucidatory statement, which reads in its entirety: “The Committee is not investigating anything said during last night’s Republican presidential debate.” The letter was cosigned by Sen Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the committee’s vice chair.
It was during an exchange with Marco Rubio that Cruz allegedly repeated some classified details aloud in front of 18 million home viewers. First Rubio argued that America is up against the “most sophisticated terror threat we have ever faced,” and that the bulk collection of metadata “was a valuable tool no longer at our disposal.”
Cruz countered by saying Rubio knew full well “that the old program covered 20 percent to 30 percent of phone numbers to search for terrorists. The new program covers nearly 100 percent.”
Rubio, who sits on the intelligence committee with Burr, responded: “Let me be very careful when answering this, because I don’t think national television in front of 15 million people is the place to discuss classified information.”
Story here is NOT that Cruz leaked classified info.
Burr let Rubio leak classified info, but now wants to go after Cruz for rebutting.
— emptywheel (@emptywheel) December 16, 2015
Marcy Wheeler, author of the national security blog emptywheel, noted that Burr didn’t raise any flags when Rubio mentioned to Fox News more than a week ago that a “large and significant number of companies” had been approached for records by the intelligence community—information Wheeler says she’s certain is classified.
Photo via Gage Skidmore/Flickr (CC BY ND 2.0)