Tom Matzzie, political and media strategist talked to CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield about his eavesdropping and live tweeting of Ex-NSA Director’s telephone call.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: So the last guy you would think would fall victim to eavesdropping might be the head of the — or the former head of the National Security Agency itself, but no.
It turns out there was a mole riding the Acela train yesterday, listening in on just about every word that Michael Hayden was saying on a cell phone call, and that conversation was about some security issues in the United States.
That mole was Tom Matzzie, and he was sitting in a seat nearby the former NSA chief. So what did he do with the information that he was overhearing? He started live tweeting it out to the world.
Here are some highlights of the conversation. “Former NSA spy boss Michael Hayden on Acela behind me blabbing ‘on background as a former senior admin official.’ Sounds defensive.”
Next one, “Hayden was bragging about rendition and black sites a minute ago.”
Next one, “Michael Hayden on Acela giving reporters disparaging quotes about admin. Quote, ‘Just remember, refer as former senior admin official.'”
“On Acela, former NSA spy boss just ended last of handful of interviews bashing admin.”
“On Acela listening to former NSA spy boss Michael Hayden give ‘off record’ interviews. I feel like I’m in the NSA. Except I’m in public.”
“On Acela, phone ringing, I think the jib is. Maybe somebody is telling him I’m here. Do I hide?”
Well, that guy in that teeny-tiny picture is now sitting right beside me here on the big TV screen.
Tom Matzzie, nice to see you. Thanks for coming in.
TOM MATZZIE, POLITICAL AND MEDIA STRATEGIST: Very nice to see you.
BANFIELD: I’m not sure how I feel about this, I have to be honest. A, I’m fascinated by what you were overhearing and the fact that a man like that was talking that loud.
But B,” I think you kind of sounded like a “mean girl” who shouldn’t have been doing what you were doing?
MATZZIE: Who me –
MATZZIE: — or the former head of the NSA?
MATZZIE: Why — what did I do that’s wrong? He had no ex-expectation of privacy. He’s the loud guy on the bus, the loud guy on the train, the loud guy talking on his phone in the middle of the restaurant, and he’s saying things that are newsworthy.
It’s actually newsworthy whether or not the former head of the NSA is making disparaging comments about the president of the United States.
BANFIELD: Maybe it’s just me and the Twitter because I’ve got to be honest. We just had a tweet mole that was leaked out of the White House the other day who was really nasty in the things that he said.
MATZZIE: Yeah, they were nasty comments.
BANFIELD: And there’s a notion now that people who are tweeting aren’t necessarily magnanimous about it. Maybe their motives are different.
Why not write the piece as a journalism piece? Why tweet it out live like that?
MATZZIE: I’m not a journalist. I run a renewable energy company, and I sometimes tweet, and that’s really the context for it.
I think, you know, the news here is he was making comments, he was trying to use all the credibility that has been invested in him for 40 years as a leader in the intelligence community to push off blame for all this NSA debacle that’s unfolding.
And you know, there’s been great damage done to relationships between the United States and our foreign allies in part because of policies that Michael Hayden pursued when he was the head of the NSA.
BANFIELD: You say you’re not a journalist, but you’re a political and media strategist for — and you’re the former Washington director of MoveOn.org, so that’s partially journalist. That’s why I say that.
You have a bigger role in public education, public information, than perhaps you just let on when you said that. That’s why I –
MATZZIE: I was an activist for several years.
BANFIELD: So here is my other question. If that’s the case, he offered you an interview. He — when he discovered that, he offered you an interview. You declined. You said no, no, no —
MATZZIE: No, I didn’t decline. No.
So he walked up to me after his office had called him. He said, Would you like a real interview? And I said, I’m not a journalist. He said, Everybody is a journalist.
BANFIELD: With the Twitter.
MATZZIE: I think Twitter is going to do very well as a result of their great work over the last couple of years.
But the — and then we sat down and we had a conversation. I wouldn’t call it an interview. It was a real conversation. It was, OK, you have your perspective, I have my perspective.
BANFIELD: So do I have it wrong? Do I truly have it wrong when it says that —
MATZZIE: I asked him for the photo at the end.
BANFIELD: He offered you an interview, but you asked for a photo instead. Is that incorrect reporting?
MATZZIE: That is incorrect. We sat down and had a conversation.
BANFIELD: OK. Can I ask you something else? We were all talking about this, whether it was in the true — again, we want to know the spirit of your actions.
Was he really talking loud or —
MATZZIE: Oh, yes.
BANFIELD: — was there any element of you feeling bad about — and I’m just going to have to lean on camera, doing one of these.
Because we all want to, and we know we shouldn’t. What part of that were you?
MATZZIE: Very little. So I was in the second seat from the front door of the train, and he was in the fourth, which is like seven or eight feet back, if you’re familiar with —
BANFIELD: That far?
MATZZIE: That far.
And he was talking very loudly. And I got on the train at 3:00. It was a 3:00 train leaving D.C. The first tweet was at 4:20.
So there was multiple phone calls that had already happened by the time I decided to tweet it, and you know —
BANFIELD: I didn’t know he was that far away.
I want to read a statement that Michael Hayden had sent out. It’s important that he has his say in this as well.
BANFIELD: He says, “Had a nice chat with my fellow Pittsburgher.”
BANFIELD: That’s you. “Not sure what he thinks bashing the administration means. I didn’t criticize the president. I actually said there are difficult issues.
“I said I had political guidance, too, that limited the things that I did when I was director of NSA. Now that political guidance is going to be more robust. It wasn’t criticism.”
Your reaction to that?
MATZZIE: Well, there was a very direct criticism he made, which is he joked about the president insisting on using a BlackBerry after he came into office.
And he was implying that the administration should have known we’re eavesdropping on all of these foreign leaders because we told him, this BlackBerry device is not secure. We’re going to try to protect your communications.
So I think, you know, the comments about the BlackBerry were the most clear thing to me that —
BANFIELD: Maybe that’s why I feel the way I do, because I have two BlackBerries.
Thomas Matzzie, it’s good to see you.
MATZZIE: Thank you.