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Former NSA Head's Private Conversation Revealed When He Shouts It On A Train

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So here's one of the weirder "guy uses social media to break news" stories out there: Tom Matzzie, a "clean-energy entrepreneur," was riding on the Acela between Washington DC and New York, and he overheard some guy talking on his cell phone. Pretty quickly, he realized who the guy was: former NSA directorMichael Hayden, giving a series of interviews to reporters "on background," saying all sorts of unkind things about the Obama administration. And so Matzzie got on his Twitter machine to share what he was hearing. It created something of a sensation, because it's not every day you overhear a former spy guy reminding somebody -- loudly -- that he only wants to be identified as "a former senior admin official."


Matzzie's one lucky guy. The most interesting conversation we've ever overheard on public transportation was a passionate argument about whether a lightsaber could cut through mithril armor.

New York magazine has collected the tweets; they make for some pretty interesting reading, but there's not exactly any high-value intelligence being revealed. Just some cattiness, something about Obama's blackberry, and a vague mention of Hayden "bragging about rendition and black sites a minute ago." More than anything, it's a glimpse into the sausage factory where they cook those stories that cite "a former administration official." Still, Matzzie was clearly aware of just how weird the whole thing was:

As the story spread over Twitter and the political blogosphere, somebody in Hayden's office eventually got ahold of him, and instead of calling in a team of special operators for some wet work, Hayden introduced himself and took a picture with Matzzie:

Hayden even asked Matzzie, "Would you like a real interview?" Then when Matzzie said that he wasn't a reporter, Hayden replied, "Everyone's a reporter." And we're all living in the Panopticon, too...

Hayden later said that Mattzie had gotten some stuff wrong, and denied that he had criticized the president;

“I didn’t criticize the president,” Hayden told the Post. “I actually said these are very difficult issues. I said I had political guidance, too, that limited the things that I did when I was director of NSA. Now that political guidance [for current officials] is going to be more robust. It wasn’t a criticism.”

He said he told [Time Magazine's Massimo] Calabresi that Obama's decision to use a Blackberry put his communications at risk from foreign spy services, and the NSA decided they needed to make his device more secure.

Matzzie, Hayden said, "got it terribly wrong." He dismissed the tweets as a "[bull----] story from a liberal activist sitting two seats from me on the train hearing intermittent snatches of conversation."

On the whole, Matzzie seems to be having a fine old time with his 15 minutes, bemusedly posting shots of news stories about his tweets, treating the tide of new readers of his Twitter feed to the occasional mention of his renewable energy business and urging people to read about global warming. We know we usually don't mean it when we say this, but he actually seems nice. Consider his answer to this speculation about what might really have been going on:

Do you think it’s possible that Hayden wanted to be overheard? That’s what would happen in Homeland.

I have no idea. I mostly watch Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood with my kid.

Wonder how long he has before some James O'Keefe wannabe starts camping out across from his home?

[WaPo / New York / Twitter]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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