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Citizen Eavesdrops On Former NSA Director Michael Hayden's Phone Call 390

Posted by Soulskill
from the daily-schadenfreude dept.
McGruber writes "The Washington Post has the news that former head of the NSA Michael Hayden took a call while on the Acela train between D.C. and Boston. Hayden was talking to a journalist 'on background', which means the reporter is not allowed to cite Hayden by name. Unfortunately for Hayden, another train passenger overhead the call and live-tweeted it. 'Mattzie continued to livetweet Hayden’s conversations slamming the Obama administration, all the while insisting that he be referred to only on background. The conversation also seemed to touch on Hayden’s time as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency under President George W. Bush as well. "Hayden was bragging about rendition and black sites a minute ago," Mattzie wrote. Hayden has in the past defended the use of waterboarding against detainees held in various sites around the world, and dismissed torture as a "legal term."'"
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Citizen Eavesdrops On Former NSA Director Michael Hayden's Phone Call

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  • by i kan reed (749298) on Friday October 25, 2013 @12:23PM (#45235907) Homepage Journal

    That's basically what I came to expect from Bush officials like him. I sometimes forget how bad things were.

    • by Tog Klim (909717) on Friday October 25, 2013 @12:26PM (#45235963)
      When your hangnail hurts, it is easily forgotten by smashing your toe with a hammer.
      • Your analogy sucks. Because whatever else is true, at least we're not fucking torturing people(ourselves) anymore.

        • by Dunbal (464142) * on Friday October 25, 2013 @12:36PM (#45236121)
          Right. You go on and keep telling yourself that. Not getting caught doing it is not the same as not doing it.
          • Just as having evidence something is being done is not the same as having no evidence something is being done.

        • by aeranvar (2589619) on Friday October 25, 2013 @12:39PM (#45236161)
          We're not torturing anyone anymore? I'm pretty sure the United Nations [latimes.com] disagrees.
        • by pla (258480) on Friday October 25, 2013 @12:40PM (#45236181) Journal
          Killing (without a trial), sure. Indefinitely detaining (without a trial), sure. Stalking to the ends of the Earth and forcing them to seek political asylum with countries not really known for their own human rights records, sure.

          But torturing? Goodness no! How barbaric!


          BTW, I have a bridge for sale in San Francisco - Cheap! Only one previous owner, who treated it almost like a national landmark.
          • Killing (without a trial), sure. Indefinitely detaining (without a trial), sure. Stalking to the ends of the Earth and forcing them to seek political asylum with countries not really known for their own human rights records, sure.

            But torturing? Goodness no! How barbaric!

            Are we not allowed to think all of those are terrible, or do you just take exception to people thinking torture is a special kind of evil on par with rape?

            • Re:It is barbaric. (Score:4, Insightful)

              by pla (258480) on Friday October 25, 2013 @01:52PM (#45237323) Journal
              Are we not allowed to think all of those are terrible, or do you just take exception to people thinking torture is a special kind of evil on par with rape?

              The latter - The GP stated as much bluntly - "whatever else is true, at least we're not fucking torturing people".

              Y'know, maybe Barry O has managed to drag the intelligence community kicking and screaming up to 17th century level morality. I don't believe it, but okay, lets accept the possibility.

              We still know that he has killed American citizens without a trial. We know that we still have people detained without a trial (and I can't decide if this counts as worse or not, we still have people detained whom a trial exonerated but we don't dare let them go!). We know that we have political dissidents, including domestic, foreign-but-Western, and foreign-and-Arab, all hiding out with known human rights abusers rather than risk falling into American custody.

              So yeah, "at least we don't torture" strikes me as a pretty damned weak statement.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Penguinisto (415985)

          Because whatever else is true, at least we're not fucking torturing people(ourselves) anymore.

          One small problem:

          The mainstream media had (IMHO thankfully) a bit of a hate-on for Bush, so every little thing his administration did wrong was broadcast loud and clear. They don't seem to have the same diligence towards the current administration, which means we the public doesn't get to see anything ugly until it becomes too big of a story to ignore, and even then it's usually quieted down or distracted from awfully quick.

          Set aside any partisan feelings you may have and let me put it this way: If the Bus

          • by evil_aaronm (671521) on Friday October 25, 2013 @01:02PM (#45236527)
            Gotta call BS on this. The media were called "message force multipliers" under the Bush administration specifically because they were so amenable to whatever Bush wanted the rest of us to hear. It was independent outlets, like McClatchey, or foreign news services, that reported what might be called "truth."
            • by Capt James McCarthy (860294) on Friday October 25, 2013 @01:06PM (#45236589) Journal

              Gotta call BS on this. The media were called "message force multipliers" under the Bush administration specifically because they were so amenable to whatever Bush wanted the rest of us to hear. It was independent outlets, like McClatchey, or foreign news services, that reported what might be called "truth."

              It is strange that you hear this on whomever is in office at the time. "The press is the mouthpiece of Yaya Adminstration."

              I guess there must be some magic key that controls the press when you get elected to the highest office to serve the people.

          • by Barsteward (969998) on Friday October 25, 2013 @01:09PM (#45236623)
            pity their hate-on bush didn't identify the financial black hole he was creating for his amusement of invading iraq etc
          • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Friday October 25, 2013 @01:31PM (#45236981)

            The mainstream media had (IMHO thankfully) a bit of a hate-on for Bush, so every little thing his administration did wrong was broadcast loud and clear.

            Not during the crucial parts of the Bush administration, where things were radically fucked up the most: the first 3 years or so of his administration, where he lied to the world about the Iraq invasion, let Osama escape in Tora Bora, legitimized torture and set up huge budget-busting tax-cuts and Medicare expansions. It took multiple, world-history-course-changing mistakes for the media to finally start questioning him.

            They don't seem to have the same diligence towards the current administration, which means we the public doesn't get to see anything ugly until it becomes too big of a story to ignore, and even then it's usually quieted down or distracted from awfully quick.

            Simply put, the mistakes haven't been as numerous or as significant, and the accomplishments have actually been more significant. We've got a long way to go before we ever get a president as bad as Bush Jr.

            Set aside any partisan feelings you may have and let me put it this way: If the Bush administration handled, say, the whole Benghazi incident exactly the same way our current administration had, would there or would there not be calls for impeachment from the likes of CNBC (as there were very loudly during much of Bush's latter years in office)?

            Uh, no, there wouldn't have. How do I know? The massive bungling of the Tora Bora offensive was never questioned while he was in office. By anybody. Contrast letting the entire reason we were in Afghanistan get away due to poor decisions by Bush himself with not optimally responding to an attack on an isolated consulate in what was still basically a war zone. Which one had more long-term ramifications? Which one could have been improved, by how much, and at what cost? That's why your comparison needs to be answered with a massive "No."

            The mainstream media (yes, including FOX) tends to be a bit kinder to our current president than the media really should be.

            You can't be serious when you include FOX News. They're basically calling him Hitler, Mao and Stalin on a daily basis, call him a Muslim, and do everything just shy of calling for someone to shoot him. Even if you just average FOX News in, it skews the average so far out that the only way to even it out is if MSNBC sends out journalists to literate fellate him under the podium.

            And that's even disregarding just the qualititative differences between the two presidencies. Obama is far from perfect - I'm actually starting to think that Clinton was the better politician and president - but he is still miles above what is the worst president in at least the last 70 years. Comparing the two should lead to a difference in treatment.

          • The mainstream media had (IMHO thankfully) a bit of a hate-on for Bush, so every little thing his administration did wrong was broadcast loud and clear.

            Except for...you know... the whole fraudulent run-up to the Iraq war.
          • The mainstream media had (IMHO thankfully) a bit of a hate-on for Bush, so every little thing his administration did wrong was broadcast loud and clear.

            Exactly what do you think the media reported on that was out of proportion to the actions taken by Bush and his administration? Under his watch we saw two unjustified wars started, illegal and immoral kidnappings and torturing and even worse arguing that these crimes were somehow justified, squandering of the first budget surplus in decades, an utterly incompetent response to a major natural disaster, and (though arguably not the administration's direct fault) the worst economic crisis in 80 years. If any

        • by EvilSS (557649)
          Can you provide proof of that assertion please...
        • at least we're not fucking torturing people(ourselves) anymore.

          That we know of. Most likely the current administration just farmed out the job to other nations who don't see a problem with it.
    • by bhcompy (1877290) on Friday October 25, 2013 @12:27PM (#45235983)
      Were? You think things are better? Our government is executing Americans overseas without a trial(even an unfair one) now.
      • NOW!

        That'll IMPROVE his advocacy!

        Oh, and BTW:

        Thanks, Obama! Thanks for the CHANGE!

      • by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Friday October 25, 2013 @12:42PM (#45236215) Journal

        Were? You think things are better? Our government is executing Americans overseas without a trial(even an unfair one) now.

        It so happened that it was under Obama that whistle blowers are being persecuted

        Both Manning and Snowden blew their whistle during the Obama years, and both are being punished by the same administration.

      • Our government is executing Americans overseas without a trial(even an unfair one) now.

        I see you've never heard of trial by combat. Of course, the Hellfire missiles make it just a tiny little bit one-sided...

      • Were? You think things are better? Our government is executing Americans overseas without a trial(even an unfair one) now.

        There's a lesson to be learned from this exchange in the movie Unforgiven [wikipedia.org] and, think what you will of me, I don't believe these overseas Americans of which you speak have learned it:

        • Little Bill Daggett: Well, sir, you are a cowardly son of a bitch! You just shot an unarmed man!
        • Will Munny: Well, he should have armed himself if he's going to decorate his saloon with my friend.
        • Are our "inalienable" rights suddenly "alienable" because we're overseas?
          • Are our "inalienable" rights suddenly "alienable" because we're overseas?

            If someone turns their back on what another has to offer, should the offer remain? Besides, I'm pretty sure our "inalienable" rights don't include a trial; that is granted by the Constitution/Bill of Rights... If you mean "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" - as stated in the Declaration of Independence - then I would ask when do those rights of the one supersede those same rights of the many?

            It may be arguable whether killing overseas Americans acting with enemy combatants is wrong/acceptable

          • by BobMcD (601576) on Friday October 25, 2013 @01:30PM (#45236965)

            It's a really interesting question, because the Constitution doesn't do a thing to inhibit the rights of individuals at all. Every single thing in it is a restriction on the government it describes. So this should mean that those restrictions are in place for the protection of all people, everywhere.

            SCOTUS would disagree, but logically it doesn't quite add up.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Are our "inalienable" rights suddenly "alienable" because we're overseas?

            You want to know the truth about your rights?

            They don't exist.

            Your belief in a "right to life" will not stop a bullet entering your skull and killing you. Your belief in a "right to liberty" will not stop a government agent from torturing you.

            In the Declaration of Independence, the American Founders stated that they held certain rights to be inalienable. The King of Great Britain did not so hold. The debate was settled on the battle

            • by qbast (1265706)
              Why the downmodding? That's exactly how it is - without power to back up your rights, you have no rights at all.
      • by tapspace (2368622)

        It's pretty hard to choose a dog in the fight of torturing vs execution without trial. They're both morally heinous. There is no other word. One thing the US used to have was a moral imperative in its actions. We need that back. Moral outrage.

      • Our army is constantly killing people. After all, we are at WAR with TERRORISM. That's what you get in a war. Bring it back to a police action against murderous thugs, and we can talk about executions. Otherwise, you're just unhappy that the wrong color team is doing the shooting.

    • by sl4shd0rk (755837) on Friday October 25, 2013 @12:42PM (#45236211)

      I sometimes forget how bad things were.

      Not sure things got better. We basically flipped the sh#t sandwich over and are eating it from the other side now.

    • Except he was also a Clinton official and an Obama official.

    • by moxley (895517)

      were?
      WERE?

      Are you paying attention? This guy we have in the whitehouse has continued and expanded prety much all of Bush's troubling policies, and has some of his own that could have come from the sick mind of Dick Cheney himself.

        In fact, our p-residient has taken positions on things that are more fascistic than even Bush/Cheney would have dared to do...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 25, 2013 @12:26PM (#45235969)

    This might help the situation. If government officials were subjected to the same scruitny and privacy violations the rest of the have-nots suffer, we might be able to straighten this train wreck of a country out.

    • This is not a privacy violation. He did this outside his home, in public. He has no expectation of privacy. Crow.
      • by BobMcD (601576)

        That's not quite true, ethically. Legally, okay sure. But ethically, it is considered inappropriate to eavesdrop. You have a number of options, and the least someone could do is notify the speaker that they are not in private. Even a knowing glance would do. Like you or I would do for a normal person.

        Liveblogging everything you catch isn't typically expected behavior.

        Not saying the 'dose of your own medicine' thing isn't awesome, because it is. But it does come up a bit unclean.

        • And the NSA's position is that mass-evesdropping on millions telephone conversations is legal, ethics be damned, and so they shall.

          I'm going the own-medicine route here.

  • I bet it'll change his outlook.

    • by _UnderTow_ (86073)
      I was wondering the same thing. I wonder how fast his position on waterboarding would change if he was subjected to it for a while.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 25, 2013 @01:13PM (#45236689)

        His approval of waterboarding is specific to a context. It is done to enemies of his government, generally ones who are not themselves aristocrats.

        He is vehemently opposed to government officials being waterboarded (his for sure, and probably rival governments as well). He would consider that an egregious offence against propriety to do such a thing.

        Waterboarding him will not change his position one bit. He knows it is horrible, and that is exactly what he likes about it. That is also why he thinks it is appropriate for them but not us.

        If he was suddenly stripped of power, permanently, and put in a position where he might be randomly water boarded by the authority above him, you can bet your bottom dollar he would advocate against it. But THAT will never happen, so his position will never change.

      • by prisoner-of-enigma (535770) on Friday October 25, 2013 @01:32PM (#45237001) Homepage

        Speaking as a former Marine who *has* been waterboarded (as an exercise, not as part of an interrogation) I can say it's a thoroughly terrifying ordeal. It's probably the scariest experience I've ever had during my entire time in the Corps despite the fact that I *knew* no permanent harm was being done to me. And that's exactly why I support it. Fully. Without any reservations whatsoever. Terrifying someone's mind into complying with interrogation is orders of magnitude better than, say, ripping out fingernails, branding with hot irons, or other things that permanently damage and cripple the subject, don't you think?

        And don't give me any crap about how we should just leave these people alone and they'll leave us alone. The world's too small and our ideologies are too diametrically opposed for that. Britain, France, and the U.S. tried leaving Nazi Germany alone and that didn't work out so well in the end.

        • by sI4shd0rk (3402769) on Friday October 25, 2013 @01:53PM (#45237333)

          Terrifying someone's mind into complying with interrogation is orders of magnitude better than, say, ripping out fingernails, branding with hot irons, or other things that permanently damage and cripple the subject, don't you think?

          "Doing X is better than doing Y" is not a justification for doing X.

        • I see what you're saying, and I understand, and I agree that, objectively speaking, being waterboarded is probably 'better' than being, say, branded with hot irons.

          The problem is, being tortured doesn't get people to speak truth. It gets people to speak whatever will make the hurting stop. It's not a means of information extraction. There are FAR more effective and safe ways of extracting information.

          No, torture is proving a point. And it's not a point that any decent person/group should be making.

        • Nazi Germany was an aggressive imperialist state arming itself on their doorstep, not a bunch of whackos on the other side of the world who wouldn't give two shits about the US if they weren't propping up Israel and 'defiling' their holy sites in Saudi Arabia.

  • Fascinating. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Obfuscant (592200) on Friday October 25, 2013 @12:31PM (#45236031)
    Of course, it would be worth a lot more if we got more than someone's probably biased interpretation of one side of a phone call. Like, actual quotes would be a lot better. Even then, who knows what the questions were.
  • but that doesn't make its referent any less barbaric or useless. Also, the irony of this article is pretty.

  • by StickyWidget (741415) on Friday October 25, 2013 @12:32PM (#45236039)
    Even took a picture with him afterwards.
  • by Phoenix666 (184391) on Friday October 25, 2013 @12:37PM (#45236131)

    This is exactly what is required. We all need to out these people, all of them who work for the NSA and CIA, and subject them to constant surveillance, harassment, and ostracism. Perhaps an open source project to map and publicize the personnel of these agencies, as an exercise in democratic resistance to creeping tyranny. Heck, we can even enlist the assistance of kindly freedom-loving people around the world to ensure it will be impossible to shut down. The American government needs to understand the American people are onto them and deem them the enemies of freedom they are. Whether further, more stringent measures are required remains to be seen.

    • Perhaps an open source project to map and publicize the personnel of these agencies, as an exercise in democratic resistance to creeping tyranny.

      They'd throw you into a black hole and you'd never be seen again.

  • .... to actively listen in on other people's conversations, even if you *can* incidentally hear them?

    Okay sure... it's not illegal, but really

    And while I know that sometimes you can't help but overhear stuff that's happening in a nearby conversation, that still doesn't mean you have to pay enough attention to what you heard to actually do something about it.

    • Is that a problem? "Politeness" is a social virtue we cultivate to make our interactions with others smoother and more pleasant, particularly the 'others' who are too distant for friendship but close enough that interaction is necessary. It isn't some sort of iron law. When dealing with someone who is both of considerable public interest and wouldn't deserve to be spit upon if he were on fire, why would you consider it?
    • by gstoddart (321705) on Friday October 25, 2013 @01:11PM (#45236647) Homepage

      to actively listen in on other people's conversations, even if you *can* incidentally hear them?

      You know, if you're a former security official sitting on a train discussing this kind of stuff in the clear -- rude has ceased to apply.

      It's not about privacy and politeness -- it's about being an epic asshole discussing things you shouldn't be discussing on a train with other people listening.

      And if you're someone who has called torture 'a legal term', you should probably be subjected to it yourself. People who sit behind desks and play semantic games about what constitutes torture are just thugs with official badges.

      In fact, those people could be called war criminals in some contexts.

      • If you're recognizable and discussing something that occurred in your time as a public official in a crowded train, your expectation of anonymity is gone. I don't care whether you're a huge douchebag or not at that point.

    • by pitchpipe (708843) on Friday October 25, 2013 @01:12PM (#45236659)

      Isn't it a bit rude to actively listen in on other people's conversations, even if you *can* incidentally hear them?

      Congratulations! You are now starting to understand the problem of indiscriminate surveillance.

      On a side note: if Hayden has nothing to hide, he should be fine with people listening in to his conversations, right?

      • by Dahamma (304068)

        And isn't a bit terrifying that the former director of the NSA *and* CIA doesn't realize that a PUBLIC phone conversation can be overheard? I mean, even second rate TV screenwriters have figured that out...

      • by rwyoder (759998)

        Dammit; No mod points today.
        Hey! Someone please mod the parent up!!!

  • How the heck ... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Friday October 25, 2013 @12:49PM (#45236321) Homepage

    How the heck does a former NSA director come to be talking about such things in public?

    It's like fight club, you don't talk about it in front of other people.

    I should think sitting on a train conducting this interview would be an epic breach of both his secrecy agreements, and his common sense.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday October 25, 2013 @12:59PM (#45236491) Journal
      Isn't it entirely reasonable for Hayden to have grown a sense of arrogant impunity almost large enough to have its own event horizon?

      To have had his career, and walked away scot-free and with a chest full of medals, if that doesn't tell you that you are untouchable, you clearly fail at empiricism...
    • Worth remembering that the only evidence is the guy who was tweeting. Who do you trust, the head of the NSA, or some guy who tweets? The answer is neither.
      • Re:How the heck ... (Score:5, Informative)

        by gstoddart (321705) on Friday October 25, 2013 @01:23PM (#45236853) Homepage

        Worth remembering that the only evidence is the guy who was tweeting. Who do you trust, the head of the NSA, or some guy who tweets? The answer is neither.

        Horseshit.

        See, the fact that Hayden has actually responded to this and asserted the guy was a liberal activist [calgaryherald.com] who misunderstood him

        Someone eventually tipped off Hayden, who finished a call, stood up and walked over to Matzzie.

        "Would you like a real interview?" Hayden asked.

        "I'm not a reporter," Matzzie replied.

        "Everybody's a reporter," Hayden said.

        The Post said the two then talked about the U.S. Constitution's s Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, and NSA surveillance, and then Hayden posed for a photo with Matzzie.

        Hayden told the Post later he wasn't disparaging Obama or his administration. Matzzie "got it terribly wrong," Hayden said, dismissing the tweets as an inaccurate "story from a liberal activist sitting two seats from me on the train hearing intermittent snatches of conversation."

        "I didn't criticize the president," Hayden said. "I actually said these are very 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 (for current officials) is going to be more robust. It wasn't a criticism."

        I trust the fact that it happened, I trust the fact that Hayden responded to it, and I don't trust Hayden at all. This is a guy who has claimed that torture was merely a legal definition which could be skirted around -- which in my books makes him a bit of a sleazebag.

        Are you suggesting there is evidence this never happened? Or that the guy overhearing truly got it all wrong? People like this love to try to weasel on what they actually said and what it actually meant, but I find it much more plausible than "guy sitting on train makes up conversation between NSA former director and someone else".

        • by gstoddart (321705)

          And since he then proceeded to pose for a picture [ibtimes.co.uk] with the guy, I'd say evidence this actually happened is pretty incontrovertible.

          Then it comes down to whose version of events you believe.

      • by BobMcD (601576)

        There is some corroboration by the photo to be considered. And if the tweets had been libelous then they would be actionable. So either the guy decided not to (threaten to) sue, or he knew he couldn't win a suit, logically speaking.

    • by BobMcD (601576)

      I'd guess the simplest explanation is true: He's probably just a busy guy. Don't you work on the train, too?

  • by WillAffleckUW (858324) on Friday October 25, 2013 @12:51PM (#45236347) Homepage Journal

    Reporting on how our government ignores our Rights under all the amendments in the Bill of Rights and the Geneva Conventions.

    Everyone is a reporter now.

    Everyone.

    Hit Record.

    • by spacepimp (664856)

      Not everyone is a journalist however. That is the dangerous part. Where a blogger is not granted the same protections under the law/constitution as a journalist there is no true civilian reporter. We need to be watchful of the courts and how they rule on bloggers rights, as the repercussions will be extremely important in the future.

  • by PineHall (206441) on Friday October 25, 2013 @12:53PM (#45236383)
    I think we are moving toward a transparent society where privacy for all is minimal. Right now it is pretty one sided but I think openness and transparency for the government and large corporations will also happen. Technology will force them to open up. David Brin wrote a book called The Transparent Society [davidbrin.com] that talks about this.
    • by gl4ss (559668)

      he could have gone to the toilet.

      speaking in public is rude, but I guess the guy is pretty rude to begin with. and not only that but stupid too.

      oh and guilty of talking shit about the system to reporters too, so why isn't he being held for treason?

      • he could have gone to the toilet.

        speaking in public is rude, but I guess the guy is pretty rude to begin with. and not only that but stupid too.

        oh and guilty of talking shit about the system to reporters too, so why isn't he being held for treason?

        I don't think he works for the system anymore. And why not talk in the clear about his opinions. He's afforded his opinion is he not? Right or wrong, that is/was the beauty of the free speech thing we tried for a while...You could have an opinion.

        • by mjwalshe (1680392)
          The NSA is one of those organizations you dont stop working for and woudl have have not on oath agreed not to speak about work related matter.
  • by mjwalshe (1680392)
    an ex senior NSA guy is talking in public to a hack FFS how did this guy get any job at the NSA with such a poor gasp of security 101 - and you dont do an OTR briefing in public for flips sake.
  • by TheRealHocusLocus (2319802) on Friday October 25, 2013 @02:31PM (#45237969)

    OBSERVATION: When given the means and opportunity to make an actual audio recording of Mr. I-Listen-To-You that would have been admissibly real, capable of rendering into a complete transcript, with real historical value... instead choosing to tap out 3rd party observations.

    CONCLUSION: Twitter causes brain damage.

    The jury is still out on Slashdot.

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