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Former Head Of NSA Michael Hayden Overheard On Train, Twitter World ‘Listened’

October 25, 2013

This is one of those stories that could open a great spy thriller.

It was just a background conversation on the Acela train ride north on Thursday.

Or so thought Michael V. Hayden, the former head of the National Security Agency, as he chatted away with three journalists who called him for comment on the recent reports of N.S.A. eavesdropping on the leaders of France and Germany.       

What Mr. Hayden did not realize was that a passenger a few seats away was doing some eavesdropping of his own.       

Tom Matzzie, a former Washington director of the political group MoveOn.org, was so intrigued by the tidbits he heard from Mr. Hayden, who is also a former C.I.A. director, that he pulled out his cellphone and started posting Twitter messages.       

“Former NSA spy boss Michael Hayden on Acela behind me blabbing ‘on background as a former senior admin official,’ ” Mr. Matzzie wrote. “Sounds defensive.”       

For the next several minutes, Mr. Matzzie dashed out occasional — and detailed — updates about Mr. Hayden’s conversations.       

“Michael Hayden on Acela giving reporters disparaging quotes about admin,” Mr. Matzzie wrote.       

“ ‘Remember, just refer as former senior admin.’ ”       

Within minutes, Mr. Matzzie ignited a small uproar on Twitter.       

Reached Thursday night on the Acela home to Washington from a speech in Newark, Mr. Hayden said, “I cannot recall a single disparaging comment I made about the administration,” disputing Mr. Matzzie’s post. “I wasn’t saying anything sensitive or classified. These were just routine conversations. I can’t believe you guys are making such a big deal out of this.”

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