Former Bush National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden learned the hard way Thursday afternoon that you never know who’s listening.
Hayden was on an Amtrak Acela train reportedly attempting to give an anonymous quote to a newspaper reporter disparaging the Obama administration’s handling of the fallout from revelations that the NSA spied on U.S. allies, when a former liberal activist named Tom Matzzie began live-tweeting Hayden’s phone conversation.
Hayden, for the most part, has been a staunch critic of the current administration and a reliable defender of Bush-era national security policies–although he has defended Obama during the controversy over the NSA’s phone records program. Under Bush, Hayden oversaw the NSA’s warrantless surveillance activities before they were even made known to most of Congress, and he defended the president’s ability to conduct such surveillance even without Congressional authorization.
Hayden is a tremendously recognizable face in political circles–exactly the type of person you would expect to end up on the Acela, a business-class train. Incredibly, while arguing that Americans should meekly acquiesce to having their private data collected by the government without any evidence of wrongdoing, Hayden seemed entirely unaware that his own conversation might be overheard.
When the conversation was over, Hayden walked over to Matzzie and posed for a photo with him. Matzzie tweeted that Hayden told him the former intelligence official’s office had contacted him and warned him that his conversation was being live-tweeted. Hayden’s smiling face indicates someone trying to be a good sport–or perhaps just trying to prevent his critics from experiencing the satisfaction of seeing the former NSA director get a teeny dose of his own medicine.
Perhaps Hayden will take from this experience that everyone is entitled to a little privacy now and then.