One of the leading GOP candidates is now being investigated for comments he made during last night’s GOP debate. Sen. Ted Cruz’s comments about the comprehensiveness of the National Security Agency’s coverage of monitoring phone numbers sparked an immediate reaction from rival Marco Rubio, who suggested Cruz may have just revealed classified information to the public.
Here’s what Cruz said that sparked concerns about the revelation of classified info:
“What [Rubio] knows is that the old program covered 20 percent to 30 percent of phone numbers to search for terrorists. The new program covers nearly 100 percent. That gives us greater ability to stop acts of terrorism, and he knows that that’s the case.”
Now, a key Senate Republican says he is looking into the matter.
As The Hill reports:“I’m having my staff look at the transcripts of the debate right now,” Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, told reporters. “Any time you deal with numbers … the question is, ‘Is that classified or not?’ Or is there an open source reference to it?” Cruz raised eyebrows during an exchange with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) over the National Security Agency’s surveillance program, when he said that the old program covered “20 or 30 percent of phone numbers” while the new program covers roughly 100 percent.
Becca Glover Watkins, Burr’s communications director, suggested on social media that Cruz might have said something he shouldn’t have, though she didn’t specifically reference his comments.
Cruz shouldn’t have said that.
— Becca Glover Watkins (@beccaglover) December 16, 2015
Burr added on Wednesday that while he hadn’t heard Cruz’s comments, “the question had been raised, therefore I asked them to look at it.”
He suggested that his staff would need to search through media reports to see if the numbers had been reported independently before.
Burr also pointed out that it was unlikely Cruz would’ve had access to such classified info, given that Cruz was not actually a member of the Intelligence Committee.
“I would be a lot more worried if he was in fact a member of the committee, but to my understanding this subject matter was not one where any members outside of the committee had been briefed on it,” he said.
Already, people are coming to Sen. Cruz defense, citing examples where the numbers he revealed were indeed already out in the public domain, such as here and here. Of course, if the data is already out there in the public domain, Cruz didn’t in fact release classified information in his comments last night.
So, indeed, it could turn out to be concern about nothing.
The North Carolina senator didn’t specify what — if any — consequences Cruz could face if his staff determines that the Texas Republican did discuss classified information.
Even if, as it increasingly appears, what Ted Cruz said last night was not classified — in other words, a non-issue — the incident does raise another question. Would a Republican, such as Cruz, suffer the same consequences that someone like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has endured (yes, sarcasm) for her knowing and willful mishandling of top secret information from the highest levels of our government? Somehow, I doubt the treatment would be even close to comparable.
I’m pretty sure, too, that had it been a Democrat candidate on stage last night — even someone other than Hillary Clinton — a Democrat chair of the Intelligence Committee wouldn’t be so quick to investigate.
Certainly, the disclosure of classified information should be of the utmost importance to our leaders. If only it seemed to be the case amongst Democrats — especially when it comes to their own presumptive presidential nominee.
[Note: This article was written by Michelle Jesse, Associate Editor]