Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard M. Burr said his staff was reviewing comments about the Patriot Act's metadata program made by Sen. Ted Cruz during Tuesday's GOP presidential debate.
Burr said that any time there are specific references to numbers related to intelligence programs it sets off concerns among those who handle classified information, but a review is necessary to determine if there was an open source for the data.
"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 that number independently," the North Carolina Republican said.
Cruz's comments on stage during the CNN debate did include numbers about the coverage of telephone information collected by the old National Security Agency metadata program.
Burr said the panel did not have a record of providing the information in question to Cruz.
"I'd be a lot more worried if in fact he was a member of the committee," Burr said. "But, to my understanding, the subject matter was not one where any members outside of the committee had been briefed on it, though we're open to briefing on anything. We didn't have a record of him being over there."
The Intelligence Committee generally keeps records of members visiting the committee's offices.
Cruz's Senate office directed Roll Call to just the kind of public source that Burr indicated the committee staff would be seeking.
The Washington Post reported in February 2014 that the amount of phone records scooped up under the old bulk collection program was somewhere "less than 30 percent," citing both current and former government officials.
Late Wednesday afternoon, a joint statement by Burr and Intelligence ranking member Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., stated simply, “The Committee is not investigating anything said during last night’s Republican Presidential debate.”
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