early and awkward

Tom Matzzie on Why He Live-Tweeted a Former CIA Director’s Private Conversation, and Whether That Made Him Nervous

Tom Matzzie and Michael Hayden.

Earlier today, Tom Matzzie, a former Washington director for MoveOn and current “clean energy entrepreneur,” live-tweeted a confidential conversation he overheard former NSA chief and CIA director Michael Hayden having with reporters on an Acela train. We e-mailed Matzzie to find out more about why he did it, what he heard, and whether he’s totally paranoid now. 

So you’re on the train, and you just start overhearing this private-sounding conversation about national security stuff, or what? How did this start?
He was talking very loudly and using words like “rendition” and “black sites.” My ears perked up. At first I didn’t recognize him. Then I thought he was James Clapper. Then I realized he was Michael Hayden.

What motivated you to blow Hayden’s cover? You’re a former MoveOn guy — was this a protest or political statement of some kind? Or was it more just that it was a funny thing to do?
What cover?  He was 7-8 feet away talking very loudly. I thought the former head of NSA and a retired general attacking the president on background was lame. Say it in a book like everyone else.

Did you hesitate at all about about whether you should do it?

What kinds of things was Hayden talking about? Was is super-duper-secret, or just kind of secret?
Beats me. It had the tone of “hey reporter I’m talking to you in confidence.”

Who was he criticizing in particular?
The president and his blackberry.

It’s surprising that Hayden would be having such a sensitive conversation on a crowded train. Could everyone else hear it too?
It was loud. He was three seats away from me. My seatmates and I discussed it.

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.

So after his conversations are over, Hayden gets a phone call from his office informing him that you’ve been tweeting about him. Were you listening as this phone call happened? Were you getting nervous?
Yes. I was nervous. The dude approved waterboarding.

What did Hayden say when he approached you?
“So, would you like a real interview?”

Did he at any point joke about droning you or putting poison in your soup or something?
No. He was a gentleman.

Even if he was being outwardly calm and friendly, did it seem like he was seething, deep down, underneath?
Maybe a little nervous. Not seething.  I feel a little sorry for him.

Are you paranoid right now? Did you go home and clear your search history?
No. Email login didn’t work for a minute.  But that was just ALL CAPS.

Are you a hero or a traitor?
Is that really a question?


Q&A: Tom Matzzie on Tweeting Hayden’s Convo