The National Security Agency has gotten a lot of well-deserved attention over the past few months for its massive surveillance program, including an eavesdropping campaign involving hundreds of thousands of phone calls — some of those belonging to prominent politicians such as German chancellor Angela Merkel — so there was likely more than a little Schadenfreude when a passenger on the Washington-New York commuter train started live-tweeting a conversation by former NSA chief Michael Hayden.
The former spy chief, who also used to run the CIA, was apparently giving interviews to a number of journalists and other sources while sitting on the train — interviews in which he criticized the government, and asked to be referred to as a “former senior admin.” Tom Matzzie, a political strategist who used to work for MoveOn.org, recognized Hayden and began posting updates about his conversations:
At one point, Matzzie noted on Twitter that he isn’t a journalist — but he might as well be, because his live commentary was quickly picked up by dozens of political and news outlets as it was happening. His actions fall into a category that some call “citizen journalism” and others see as just an expansion of the eyewitness-to-news phenomenon that has always existed. Some, like NPR digital editor Andy Carvin, like to call what Matzzie did “random acts of journalism.”
Unlike some of the NSA’s surveillance targets, Hayden didn’t seem to mind when he heard from his staff that Matzzie was posting live Twitter updates on his interviews: in fact, he stopped by Matzzie’s seat and had his photo taken with him. He told the Washington Post later, however, that the interpretation of his calls were just a “bull**** story from a liberal activist.”
Thumbnail photo courtesy of Shutterstock / Lightspring