All About Eavesdropping: LIFE Magazine’s Eerily Prescient Story From 1966

Nearly 50 years ago, A LIFE cover story warned that the government is snooping on Americans far too much. Some of that story could have been written this week, amid revelations that the Obama administration is collecting Americans' phone records.

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“Nobody is listening to your telephone calls,” President Obama assured the nation Friday following reports that the FBI and National Security Agency have been collecting phone records from millions of Americans. But Big Brother has always been listening. In a LIFE cover story from May 20, 1966, the magazine examined just how prevalent Federal wiretapping and eavesdropping had become. “The government has been electronically spying on its citizens for years,” John Neary wrote of the latest surveillance techniques. “Despite the protection against invasion of privacy afforded by the fourth Amendment to the Constitution, bugging is so shockingly widespread and so increasingly insidious that no one can be certain any longer that his home is his castle—free of intrusion.” As for safeguarding our privacy, Neary concluded, “The technology of snooping has so outdistanced the law that controls are all but nonexistent.”