Politics

Man live-tweets former NSA chief's overheard phone call on train

Oct. 25, 2013 at 3:29 PM ET

Video: TODAY’s Willie Geist, Natalie Morales and Al Roker chat about former NSA director Michael Hayden giving an “on background” phone interview to a reporter while traveling on a train and how another passenger live-tweeted the details.

A man eavesdropping on a public phone conversation by a former national security official took "overheard on the train" to a new level on Thursday. 

Tom Matzzie was riding on an Acela Express headed from Washington to New York City when he started live-tweeting details from what he said was a loud phone conversation of the passenger two rows behind him — former National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden. Matzzie, the owner of a renewable energy company and a former Washington director of the political group MoveOn.org, claimed Hayden could be heard bashing the Obama administration while giving "off-the-record" interviews and discussing covert sites. 

It wasn't until about a half hour into the ride that Matzzie realized it was Hayden on the phone, after initially believing it was current Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. 

"After probably the third phone call, I looked back one more time and said, 'That's not Clapper, that's Michael Hayden,''' Matzzie told Peter Alexander on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports" on Friday. "At some point I felt compelled to share what I was experiencing, so I took to Twitter."







Hayden soon got wind of Matzzie's tweets and paid him a visit, even taking a picture with him. Hayden declined comment when reached by TODAY. 


"There was definitely a moment of kind of...I clenched myself,'' Matzzie told Alexander. "He's not just the former head of the NSA, he's also the former head of the CIA, so there was a little bit of that. I suspected he was probably going to be a gentlemen, and we'd have a conversation and that's what happened.

"The first thing he said was, 'Would you like a real interview?' I said, 'Well I'm not a reporter,' and then he said, 'Everybody is a reporter,' which I guess in the age of Twitter is true."

The two then launched into a discussion about the Fourth Amendment, warrant-less wire-tapping, and eavesdropping on foreign leaders, according to Matzzie. He also recalled overhearing Hayden say something about President Barack Obama's famous BlackBerry. 

"The implication I got was he should know we're spying on these foreign leaders because we told him not to use a Blackberry, implying that we're listening to every other cell phone conversation int he world,'' Matzzie said. 

Matzzie believes he was not invading Hayden's privacy by live-tweeting his phone conversations. 

"First of all, I don't think it's a fair characterization,'' he said. "He was in public. There's no reasonable expectation of privacy when you're on the train blabbing like that. The right thing for him to do would've been to stand up, walk to the end of the train to one of the more private areas, and he would at that point be kind of cloaking himself in a presumption and expectation of privacy, and I would've been violating his privacy at that point to do those tweets." 

TOP