GOP Senate Intelligence chairman now investigating if Ted Cruz revealed classified info during CNN debate

Sen. Richard Burr says he isn't sure what was discussed during last night's debate because "'The Voice' was on"

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published December 16, 2015 5:50PM (EST)

  (AP/John Minchillo)
(AP/John Minchillo)

Someway, somehow, North Carolina Senator Richard Burr has ascended to wield the gavel as the chairman of the prominent Senate Intelligence Committee and with such power, the two-term senator is now looking into whether his Republican colleague and presidential candidate, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, improperly discussed classified information during last night's Republican presidential debate.

While battling Florida senator and security state hawk Marco Rubio over the NSA's recently expired bulk data collection program on CNN's Las Vegas debate stage last night, Cruz argued that the replacement program wasn't actually limiting the massive security apparatus as "nearly 100 percent” of phone numbers can be checked for terror ties under the new program, compared with “20 percent to 30 percent” under the old regime.

"That gives us greater ability to stop acts of terrorism, and he knows that that's the case," Cruz asserted.

Asked by reporters today if Cruz improperly revealed classified details of the spying programs after his communications director tweeted as much during the debate, Burr revealed that he is actually "having my staff look at the transcripts of the debate right now" to investigate.

"The question had been raised therefor I asked them to look at it and see if there was any validity to it," Burr told reporters, according to the Associated Press. "Anytime you deal with numbers, and I think it dealt with numbers, the question is: Is that classified or not or is there an open source reference to it. So it's not as clear as just reading what he said. We've got to search all sorts of media outlets to see if anybody had reported the number independently."

"To my understanding this subject matter was not one where any members outside of the committee had been briefed on it," he said, noting that unlike Rubio, Cruz is not actually a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "I would be a lot more worried if he was in fact a member of the committee," he added.

According to NBC News, Burr has assigned this task of vetting a presidential candidates' potential exposure of classified information on national television for political gain to his staff because he, of course, did not actually watch the debate himself.

"I didn't watch it. 'The Voice' was on," he admitted to reporters, adding "It was the final episode."

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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