October 25, 2013

(h/t Scarce at VideoCafe)

You would think if you were the head of one of the largest intelligence agencies in the world that you would know how to be discreet in public.

But that's not how Michael Hayden rolls.

Former MoveOn activist (and founder of Ethical Electric Company) Tom Matzzie was taking the Amtrak train Acela in Washington DC when he recognized a familiar face: former NSA chief Michael Hayden. Hayden was multi-tasking during his commute, taking the time to talk to various journalists, complaining about the President, his Blackberry and bragging about rendition and black sites

Former NSA Director Michael Hayden doesn't seem too thrilled about having his anonymous conversations with reporters tweeted out for the world.

Progressive activist Tom Matzzie found himself on a train sitting near Hayden on Thursday, and quickly sent out tweets describing the former director's conversation. Matzzie wrote on Twitter that Hayden was "blabbing 'on background as a former senior admin official.'"

When HuffPost asked Hayden over email whether Matzzie's version of his phone conversation was faithful, Hayden replied that the depiction was "not especially accurate." Hayden didn't respond to another email asking for specifics.

Matzzie told HuffPost that during the fateful Acela ride, he couldn't believe what he was hearing, but Hayden "just kept on saying stuff."

"He talked about Obama's BlackBerry a bunch when he was talking about foreign leaders," Matzzie recalled.

President Barack Obama famously uses a BlackBerry to make phone calls -- not the more popular iPhone, because of security concerns. Phone tapping is front and center right now because of the revelation that the NSA spied on 35 world leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"He was suggesting that the administration should have known that this was going on, the foreign intelligence eavesdropping," Matzzie alleged Hayden said on the train. "He was suggesting to reporters that the administration was naive. It reminded me of that scene from 'A Few Good Men' -- 'You can't handle the truth.' He was casting himself as Colonel Jessep."

At some point, someone called Hayden to let him know his actions were being live-tweeted and he went up to Matzzie and offered to give him an interview directly. Being an energy entrepreneur, Matzzie declined, but did get a picture. Matzzie characterized the exchange as gracious, though with an undercurrent of nervousness.

Now while most people would expect the a head spook would value the ability to be circumspect in public, this is not the first time that Hayden has been more than a little indiscreet:

MICHAEL HAYDEN: Look, everyone has secrets. Some of the activities that nation states conduct in order to keep their people safe and free need to be secret in order to be successful. If they are broadly known, you cannot accomplish your work. Now look, I’m going to be very candid, alright? We steal secrets. We steal other nations’ secrets. One cannot do that above board and be very successful for a very long period of time.

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