December 16, 2015 / 5:32 PM / 2 years ago

Senator reverses on intelligence probe of Republican debate

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Senate Intelligence Committee said it is not investigating a possible breach of classified information during Tuesday night’s Republican presidential debate, hours after the committee’s chairman said he was looking into remarks by Senator Ted Cruz.

“The committee is not investigating anything said during last night’s Republican presidential debate,” Chairman Richard Burr and the committee’s top Democrat, Dianne Feinstein, said in a joint statement.

But earlier in the day, Burr, a Republican, said he was looking into remarks Cruz made about the National Security Agency.

“I‘m having my staff look at the transcripts of the debate right now,” Burr told reporters, according to The Hill, a political website. “Any time you deal with numbers ... the question is, ‘Is that classified or not?’ or is there an open source reference to it?”

The line in question concerned the percentage of telephone numbers covered by the NSA’s monitoring program after legislative changes were made earlier this year. Cruz, in an exchange with Senator Marco Rubio during the debate, argued that the new version of the program covers “nearly 100 percent” of phone numbers to search for terrorists.

Cruz’s campaign dismissed the possibility that the Texas senator had said anything out of line.

“There was nothing that Senator Cruz said or talked about in the debate that was classified,” campaign spokesman Rick Tyler said. “Those figures have been widely reported and are saturated in the public domain.”

During the debate, Rubio appeared to raise concerns that Cruz’s remarks were classified.

“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 said.

Rubio is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Cruz is not, but as a member of the Senate he has access to some classified information.

Reporting by Ginger Gibson; Editing by Leslie Adler, Jonathan Oatis and Steve Orlofsky

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