Ted Cruz may have leaked classified information during Tuesday’s GOP debate when Cruz was discussing legislation that allowed surveillance over counterterrorism. As a result, it was reported that the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr of North Carolina, asked his staff to look into the incident to determine if the information he shared was, in fact, secret information.
Approximately 18 million people viewed the debate on CNN, including those outside the country, which ups the stakes for Cruz’s possible gaffe. Burr, like other government officials, has simply expressed some concern about the possible security breach.
The slip-up occurred during a lively back-and-forth debate between Senator Cruz and Marco Rubio. They were discussing the USA Freedom Act.
At one point, Cruz stated, “Nearly 100 percent of phone numbers could be checked for ties to terrorism under the new program, compared with just ’20 percent to 30 percent’ under earlier Patriot Act provisions that had expired. That gives us greater ability to stop acts of terrorism, and he knows that’s the case.”
This slip up didn’t go unnoticed by Rubio, who immediately suggested that Cruz may have shared some highly sensitive information with the millions of viewers, saying, “Let me be very careful in answering because I don’t think national television in front of 15 million people is the place to discuss classified information.”
It didn’t take long for the Senate Intelligence Committee to note his mistake. Becca Glover Watkins, the communications director for Senator Burr, immediately tweeted, “Cruz shouldn’t have said that.”
Cruz shouldn't have said that.
— Becca Glover Watkins (@beccaglover) December 16, 2015
Deirdre Walsh, CNN Senior Congressional Producer, later shared, “Sen Intel Chair Burr says he asked staff to review Ted Cruz’s comments from debate to see if he released classified info.”
Sen Intel Chair Burr says he asked staff to review Ted Cruz's comments from debate to see if he released classified info -h/t @tedbarrettcnn
— Deirdre Walsh (@deirdrewalshcnn) December 16, 2015
This intel was confirmed by Burr himself.
“The question had been raised. Therefore, I asked them to look at it and see if there was any validity to it,” Burr said.
When asked why the process would take so long, Burr added, “It’s not as clear as just reading what he said. We’ve got to search all sorts of media outlets to see if anyone had reported that number independently.”
In addition, Burr admitted that he hadn’t watched the debate at all, so he wouldn’t have been able to catch Cruz’s mistake in the act.
“‘The Voice’ was on,” he said. “It was the final episode.”
After much backlash from the media and, no doubt others in the political sector, Cruz took to making a formal comment on the incident.
“What I said last night has been widely reported. It’s been saturated in the public sphere. And what has been said over and over again, what the intelligence community told Congress, was that the USA Freedom Act expanded their ability to target terrorists. And listen, this is another example of the Rubio campaign trying to spread misinformation.”
After a surface investigation, it was eventually revealed that the committee has no plans to investigate the matter further.
“The Committee is not investigating anything said during last night’s Republican presidential debate,” Burr said the day after the debate.
This came after a brief overview of what was said. Burr didn’t comment more, but apparently, Cruz did not leak any information he shouldn’t have.
[Image via Ethan Miller/Getty Images]