Security Experts:

Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

SecurityWeekSecurityWeek

Tracking & Law Enforcement

Ex-NSA Chief Overheard in ‘Off-record’ Interviews on Train

WASHINGTON – A former CIA and National Security Agency chief was overheard criticizing President Barack Obama’s administration Thursday in what he thought was an anonymous interview, which instead ended up on Twitter.

Retired general Michael Hayden made the mistake of giving a series of interviews to reporters by phone “on background” while riding a train, in public.

WASHINGTON – A former CIA and National Security Agency chief was overheard criticizing President Barack Obama’s administration Thursday in what he thought was an anonymous interview, which instead ended up on Twitter.

Retired general Michael Hayden made the mistake of giving a series of interviews to reporters by phone “on background” while riding a train, in public.

Unbeknownst to Hayden, he was sitting near Tom Matzzie, the former Washington director of the liberal, activist MoveOn.org Political Action Committee who immediately divulged the juiciest bits of the exchanges on Twitter.

The NSA spying scandal, CIA secret prisons abroad and Obama’s smartphone were all topics of conversation.

Word of Hayden’s comments came just hours after reports that the US government has spied on 35 world leaders.

It also follows recent damaging revelations that the United States tapped German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone, triggering global outrage amid a widening NSA spying scandal.

“Former NSA spy boss Michael Hayden on Acela behind me blabbing ‘on background as a former senior admin official’ Sounds defensive,” Matzzie tweeted at 4:20 pm, more than an hour after the express train had left Washington, headed towards New York.

“On Acela listening to former NSA spy boss Michael Hayden give ‘off record’ interviews. I feel like I’m in the NSA. Except I’m in public.”

Hayden was being interviewed by several reporters, likely including Time magazine’s Massimo Calabresi according to Matzzie, and asked each time that he only be interviewed as a “former senior administration official.”

The former spy chief spoke with the journalists about allegations the US spied on foreign allies, a “famous Blackberry” (Obama’s) and was “bragging about rendition and black sites,” said Matzzie, who once led US activist campaigns to end the war in Iraq.

An increasingly nervous Matzzie worried he would be found out by Hayden.

“Phone ringing. I think the jig is up. Maybe somebody is telling him I’m here. Do I hide?” he asked some 15 minutes after he started tweeting about Hayden’s conversations.

“New call. I am totally busted I think.”  

Although Hayden’s office did apparently call him to inform him of the tweets, the former spy chief “graciously” offered Matzzie an interview.

The pair discussed foreign spying and the US Constitution’s Fourth Amendment barring unreasonable searches and seizures as they sat in the train’s first car from the back, according to Matzzie.

“I just had a very nice conversation with Michael Hayden. He was a gentleman and we disagree,” Matzzie said.

He tweeted a picture of the two smiling with the conservative hack Hayden wrapping his arm behind the activist’s seat. The caption read simply “Win.”

Matzzie, who now runs a renewable energy company, later tweeted: “I have to say. I’m actually a little afraid. The intelligence world is kind of dark and scary.”

Written By

AFP 2023

Click to comment

Daily Briefing Newsletter

Subscribe to the SecurityWeek Email Briefing to stay informed on the latest threats, trends, and technology, along with insightful columns from industry experts.

Expert Insights

Related Content

Cybercrime

The FBI dismantled the network of the prolific Hive ransomware gang and seized infrastructure in Los Angeles that was used for the operation.

Ransomware

US government reminds the public that a reward of up to $10 million is offered for information on cybercriminals, including members of the Hive...

Ransomware

The Hive ransomware website has been seized as part of an operation that involved law enforcement in 10 countries.

Cybercrime

No one combatting cybercrime knows everything, but everyone in the battle has some intelligence to contribute to the larger knowledge base.

Cybercrime

The owner of China-based cryptocurrency exchange Bitzlato was arrested in Miami along with five associates in Europe

Cybercrime

Russian Vladislav Klyushin made tens of millions of dollars by hacking into U.S. computer networks to steal insider information.

Cybercrime

A hacker who reportedly posed as the CEO of a financial institution claims to have obtained access to the more than 80,000-member database of...

Application Security

Virtualization technology giant Citrix on Tuesday scrambled out an emergency patch to cover a zero-day flaw in its networking product line and warned that...