There's more than one way to uncover state secrets

NSA's ex-director tastes his own medicine when a passenger on the same train tweets his off-the-record statements

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One of Matzzie's more alert Twitter followers (@bonkydog) tracked down one of those "background" quotes that sounds an awful lot like the conversations Matzzie described, this one to Foreign Policy Magazine about the reaction of German and Brazilian officials to NSA wiretap revelations:

"There's a mixture of hypocrisy and feigned outrage along with real objections here," said a former senior intelligence official. "I don't know where the line is. The idea that political leaders are out of bounds for foreign intelligence is amusing. But on the other hand this business about trusting allies is a big thing. My guess is there's a real annoyance here" on the part of foreign allies.

What's interesting is that what Hayden was doing isn't much different than what Jofi Joseph (aka @NatSecWonk) was doing via Twitter: anonymously trashing the administration's national security policies. The only real differences were that a) Hayden is now a former, not current, employee, b) he was using a phone, not Twitter, and c) his statements were not instantly published to the masses (though by talking to national reporters, Hayden's comments probably found their way to a larger audience than NatSecWonk's 1,600 followers).

For what it's worth, Hayden told the Washington Post later that Matzzie's account was a "[bull----] story from a liberal activist sitting two seats from me on the train hearing intermittent snatches of conversation." Then again, this is the former director of national intelligence speaking. Is there a less credible person on the planet right now?

As the Post's Ezra Klein tweeted:

You'd think the guy who ran the NSA would be more conscious of the fact that people might be listening to his conversations...

Or maybe he just doesn't care. Because what's doing to happen to him? He doesn't have to worry about getting renditioned to some third-world hellhole. At worst, Hayden may lose his favorite table at The Palm.

Spook the spooks

Still, this could have a far greater impact than, say, gathering on a lawn and watching public speakers preach to the converted for hours on end. There's nothing a good spy hates more than publicity.

Congress can ignore a problem for years until it starts happening to them, then they're all over it. The same has to be true of the industrial surveillance complex. We need a citizen spy agency -- people like Matzzie who will eavesdrop and report on what the spooks are really doing and saying. If we can't legally tap their phones, we can make everything they do in public, well, public. I think that's only fair. What do you think?

Should we spy on the spies? Post your secret plans below or email me: cringe@infoworld.com.

This article, "There's more than one way to uncover state secrets," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, follow Cringely on Twitter, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

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