Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Burr all but confirms that Cruz leaked classified information at last night’s debate

During last night’s debate, Ted Cruz got into a bit of a tiff with Marco Rubio over the USA Freedom Act, a bill that, among other things, updates the government’s program of collecting phone metadata.

In doing so, Cruz probably leaked classified information. As Roll Call wrote immediately following the debate:

Rubio said that in transitioning to a system without bulk collection of phone metadata that existed under the Patriot Act, the intelligence community lost tools to prevent terrorist attacks. That prompted Cruz, a Texas Republican, to snap back.

“What he 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,” said Cruz, who supported the bipartisan bill that changed the program, known as the USA Freedom Act, that became law earlier this year.

“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,” Rubio responded. “So let me just be very clear. There is nothing that we are allowed to do under this bill that we could not do before.”

However, as Marcy Wheeler points out, those who are worried that Cruz leaked classified information could just as easily be pointing to this passage, where Cruz says of the USA Freedom Act:

GOP Sen. Ted Cruz, one of the authors of the government shutdown to kill Obamacare.

Ted Cruz’s official Senate photo.

It strengthened the tools of national security and law enforcement to go after terrorists. It gave us greater tools and we are seeing those tools work right now in San Bernardino.

And in particular, what it did is the prior program only covered a relatively narrow slice of phone calls. When you had a terrorist, you could only search a relatively narrow slice of numbers, primarily land lines.

The USA Freedom Act expands that so now we have cell phones, now we have Internet phones, now we have the phones that terrorists are likely to use and the focus of law enforcement is on targeting the bad guys.

Following that exchange during the debate, Becca Glover Watkins, communications director for Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R – NC), raised a red flag:

And today, Burr has confirmed that his office is looking into whether Cruz did, in fact, leak classified information.

However, as Wheeler continues, by confirming that his office is looking into whether Cruz’s comments constitute a leak of classified information, he’s all but confirmed that the information Cruz disclosed was classified:

Of course, that means Burr — who has the most privileged access to this information — just confirmed for ISIS and anyone else who wants to know (like, say, American citizens) that the IC is targeting “Internet phones” as well as the the more limited set of call records the Section 215 phone dragnet used to incorporate, and in doing so getting closer to 100% of “calls” (which includes texting and messaging) in the US.

Not only is this problematic for Burr (to say nothing of Cruz), it’s also flagrantly hypocritical. As Wheeler has shown before, Rubio has been given free passes on numerous occasions after disclosing information on national television that was almost certainly classified.

Burr’s likely-selective enforcement of investigating his colleagues for improper information disclosures underscores the fact that Cruz, who has built his campaign on a hatred of “the Washington cartel,” is practically universally hated in Washington. While the national security hawks in the Republican Party may be willing to bail one of their own out in a pinch — especially Rubio, who represents the party establishment’s last best hope of nominating someone with the slightest chance of winning in November — Cruz should expect no such mercy. Thus far, Cruz’s rocky relationship with his colleagues has been a plus for him, given a Republican electorate that feels betrayed by their elected leaders. However, running afoul of the national security establishment could lead Cruz to look around the Senate hallways and wish he had a few more friends.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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21 Responses to “Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Burr all but confirms that Cruz leaked classified information at last night’s debate”

  1. Moderator4 says:

    Butch1 is a very, very long-time commenter here, and his positions are well known to the rest of the long-timers.
    You, however, have not been around that long, and have apparently not read Butch’s many previous comments over the past number of years.
    Tone it down, No One Important. You have totally misconstrued Butch1.
    This is a warning.

  2. Butch1 says:

    You appear to be new here. This “high-and-mighty” liberal has been complaining about Obama ever since he entered the White House pretending to be a moderate democrat and then revealing himself to actually be a moderate republican. It didn’t take him long to deride his “liberal base” when they started complaining about him choosing republicans to join his cabinet when there were equally qualified liberals that could fill those positions. This same “democrat” was the one who put Social Security, a main talking point plank of the Democratic Party on the chopping block when negotiating the debt ceiling with the republicans even surprising them, something they wouldn’t even do. This same “democrat” came up with the Chained-CPI, his answer to pay down the national debt; nothing but an euphemism for robbing the seniors of their Social Security AND the Disabled Veterans of their Benefits and not asking the 1% rich to help pay one small thin dime.

    I have been on his case many times and only voted for him once when I fell for his flim-flammery and lies the first time around.

    We had to force him to move on the gay rights issues. He and his administration were actually writing amicus briefs AGAINST us for many of the cases coming up the Federal courts to the Supreme Court and in California. We had to embarrass him publicly because he was saying one thing to the press and doing another thing in the court system and we exposed him for it. I’m talking about ACT UP and others. His administration and their lawyers were using out-dated material from homophobic sites as their data to base their amicus briefs upon! When we were able to prove it, he stopped. Eventually, he found it was better to support us.

    Same problem with DADT. It was too close to election season in 2011 and he didn’t want to “rock the boat.” There never was a good time, we went ahead without him and went through the Congress. It embarrassed him and when he saw it was going to pass he jumped on board, but he slowed it down with splitting the power to sign off on it among three people AFTER a questionnaire was given to all of the spouses of the enlisted personnel. They tried every trick they could to swamp DADT and keep it on the books. Big surprise, No one had a problem with it. Everyone eventually signed off on it and it went away. Obama was an impediment and wasn’t in favor of this passing like everybody would like to believe.

    You may be a newbee around here, but I’ve been here for years. Perhaps YOU should tone it down a bit and try and learn who the regulars are here first before you insult them.
    If you would pay attention you would realize that I am not an Obama fan in the least. You would have known that if you had been around here long enough, but you came in stomping around like you own the place. Perhaps a few manners when you debate here would improve your discourse.

    One more thing; I like to argue the issues and you are going into dangerous territory of ad hominem. Be careful.

    Hummmm?

  3. No One Important says:

    Your bullcrapola about violating national security – “it’s ok if you’re a republican”. . . .my point to you was Obama has betrayed this nation beyond words with his “leaks”. . . And no one has done anything about it. . . .A republican didn’t violate national security just because some liberal claims he did. . . .so where was this high-and-mighty liberal when Obama did the things I mentioned?Hmmmm?

  4. Butch1 says:

    “Leaky Leahy’s” wings are clipped when no one does a darned thing, save roll over when threatened. Why have our pilots been “bombing” the desert for over a year without any success against ISIS and in steps Russia; within a few weeks they punch a huge hole in the Armies of ISIS, disrupt their oil caravans that they take pictures of, (which we lie about saying we knew nothing about them or we couldn’t find them) this is absolute BS when we have the best Satellites orbiting the earth and can read your credit card if you show it to them.

    Russia attacked them as well punching a hole in it and disrupting the flow of their oil traveling to Turkey of all places. Turkey has been playing both sides of this war it seems and this would explain why perhaps they flew into Syria (not their space) to down the Russian plane.

    Why are you so interested in shutting me up? The idea is to dispense the information, not suppress it; so no, I will not “shaddup.”

    We do agree about Obama should be in prison especially for his Drone program. He still is silent as to why he murdered a sixteen year old American visiting his grand parents in Yemen only because he was the son of the alleged “terrorist” who was born in the United States and an emam dispensing propaganda and nothing else in Yemen. They killed him by drone a week or two before, then decided to murder his son and have not given a real reason.

  5. No One Important says:

    Ohhhhhhhhh shaddup. . .”Leaky Leahy” still has his seat.What about what Obama has repeatedly revealed?Leaked a secret plan to retake Mosul.
    Leaked the origins of the Stuxtnet and flame viruses.
    He leaked the “secret” Israeli airbase agreement in Azerbaijan on Iran’s borders.
    He leaked the secret missile base (Arrow 3) we were helping Israel build.
    Leaked that the Mossad were helping Mujahideen-e-Khalq against Iran.

    Published an assessment report about Israel’s nuke capabilities
    Leaked who the head CIA station chief in Afghan was. . . . .Shaddup about who “leaks” and doesn’t leak and who isn’t punished for it. . . .Obama should be in prison. . ..

  6. No One Important says:

    The bigger point here is, Rubio was lying to the American people. . . .again. . . . Just like he lied about the “Gang of 8 bill” – Rubio attempted to lie about what Cruz did, what has been done, and what is being done right now.Rubio attempted to mislead the people watching, based on the people’s “ignorance” about what was “classified” and people didn’t know.So he sought to “play” on the nation’s ignorance. . .to lie about Cruz and others and the ramifications of the patriot act data grabs that expired. . . ..

  7. SerfCityHereWeCome says:

    It’s truly breathtaking the extent to which the RINO Traitor Establishment will go to help the leftists destroy the country and keep a conservative out of power.

  8. Butch1 says:

    I understand nothing is going to be done about it, though. It’s okay when you are a republican.

  9. woodroad34 says:

    So he gets upset and blabs state secrets as a senator. What will he do as president when some nasty ol’ Russian president or ISIS leader calls him a girly man? Tell them who are all our agents in their countries? He’s not a great thinker and he’s obviously emotionally unfit.

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  11. goulo says:

    In fairness, I doubt whether many people didn’t already suppose that the government is surely continuing its unfettered surveillance. It’s not as if this leak of classified info was telling anything particularly surprising or unexpected, so I can’t see that it caused any particular harm, realistically speaking.

    (Other than the meta-harm of showing again that politicians are usually not held accountable when they break rules and laws…)

  12. cinorjer says:

    Right now, Republicans in D.C. are all saying “Damn, why wasn’t that a Democrat that blabbed top secret information to the world? We’d be able to conduct hearings and demand charges. Oh, well. Nothing to see here. Move along.”

  13. Demosthenes says:

    So Sen. Cruz, on national television, illegally leaked classified data. It’s time for the GOP Congress to spend months investigating him because . . .

    Yeah, I’m kidding. Mr. Cruz’s colleagues may hate him, but they only spend taxpayer money investigating Democrats.

  14. FLL says:

    But isn’t that what the folks in Teabagistan are squawking about regarding Hillary’s private email server? That some emails store on that server were classified? Pot, meet kettle.

  15. BeccaM says:

    “Those who would give up essential liberty–”

    Oh, fuck it, we’re well past that point, since it is now obvious people don’t give a damn that the government is doing whatever the hell it wants on mass surveillance without probable cause. Even the obvious abuses, such as non-government analysts rummaging through the records of celebrities, draw no more than a raised eyebrow and a collective titter.

    The Fourth Amendment clearly died on 11 September 2001. And I can’t believe the crass DoubleSpeak oozing from their naming this freedom-infringing bill the USA Freedom Act. Everything about it is the opposite of ‘freedom.’

  16. Ol' Hippy says:

    If not before, it should be obvious now that the govt does what they want,(spy on us) with impunity. And now they are wanting even more. Every time we get attacked, they demand even more access to our privacy. They can’t find stuff now because there’s too much stuff to search through. It’s not very far off that any kind of discourse will be available for the govt to use as they see fit, Just hope things don’t change too much because the information can be used as an excuse to “round” us up.

  17. Jon Green says:

    gah thanks!

  18. Jonas Grumby says:

    Typo in headline. “Intelligence”

  19. Hue-Man says:

    ” It gave us greater tools and we are seeing those tools work right now in San Bernardino.”

    If those tools really worked, there wouldn’t have been a “San Bernardino.” Even if you’re an accountant and want everything tied up with a pretty bow, more domestic snooping doesn’t seem to have provided any useful tools.

  20. LanceThruster says:

    So much chest thumping, so much stupidity.

  21. The_Fixer says:

    I think Tail-Gunner-Ted did that on purpose, and in his arrogance, he thought that nothing would come of it. After all, others have done the same thing – why shouldn’t he get away with it?

    Because he’s Ted Cruz, and people hate him. With good reason, I might add. The question becomes if he’ll see any more pain than a slap on the wrist? We know he won’t suffer with those who have drunk the Kool-Aid. What about his ‘colleagues’, though?

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