October 25, 2013 / 12:30 AM / 6 years ago

Former NSA director Hayden gives background interview, but in public

Retired U.S. Air Force General Michael Hayden is pictured in his office in Washington May 1, 2013. Picture taken May 1, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former National Security Agency director Michael Hayden gave a series of background interviews on Thursday afternoon but chose an unusually public place to do it - an Amtrak train, according to fellow passenger Tom Matzzie.

Matzzie, whose Twitter feed describes him as the founder of Ethical Electric Company, regaled followers with a string of tweets describing Hayden’s comments to reporters. Hayden was also director of the CIA for three years.

“Former NSA spy boss Michael Hayden on Acela behind me blabbing ‘on background as a former senior admin official,’ sounds defensive,” tweeted Matzzie. “Michael Hayden on Acela giving reporters disparaging quotes about admin. ‘Remember, just refer as former senior admin.’”

And a few minutes later: “Hayden was bragging about rendition and black sites a minute ago.”

Under the CIA’s controversial rendition program after the September 11 attacks, terrorism suspects would be captured and held at undisclosed locations or “black sites” outside the United States.

Hayden’s office became aware of the tweeting and called his cellphone to warn him, Mattzie tweeted. Matzzie then spoke to him. “I just had a very nice conversation with Michael Hayden. He was a gentleman and we disagree,” he tweeted.

Afterward, in a statement to Reuters, Hayden said that in the briefing he “didn’t criticize” President Barack Obama.

“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 is going to be more robust. It wasn’t a criticism,” he said.

Hayden is now with the business consultants Chertoff Group. He got off in Newark, New Jersey, Matzzie said. The Acela, a high speed train, runs between Washington and Boston.

Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Philip Barbara

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