Idaho Sen. Jim Risch, who has endorsed Marco Rubio for president, suggested on CNN today that rival GOP candidate Ted Cruz revealed classified information during last night’s Republican presidential debate. Cruz was talking about telephone surveillance programs aimed at detecting terrorism. After he said the new program is more effective than the previous one, Rubio responded, “I don’t think national television in front of 50 million people is the place to discuss classified information."
CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Risch, “Was any classified information released last night?” Risch said, “I’m going to let the committee make that decision. I really don’t want to wade into that. There was a discussion on certain numbers. When you get that specific on numbers involving a program or a system, you’ve got to be really careful because most of that is classified.”
Blitzer then played a clip from the debate, in which Cruz said, “What he knows is that the old program covered 20 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.” Blitzer then asked Risch, “You’re privy to all these intelligence…” and Risch quickly responded, “I am, and the only place I’ve heard those numbers discussed is in classified settings. So I think Marco was on solid ground saying I’m not going to confirm or deny the numbers that have just been laid out. I think that was appropriate.”
Risch also told Blitzer, “All of us that give these kind of interviews and speak publicly about classified issues have to be very, very careful about what they say. You hear so much, lot of times you can’t remember whether it was in a classified setting or not. One has to be cautious. Over the years, I’ve seen some pretty bad blunders, really, where people have stumbled and given out classified information. It can be dangerous.”
Both Risch and Rubio serve on the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Cruz isn’t on either. The CNN clip is online here.