Psst! Anybody Listening?

Few people today have had the experience of using a party-line telephone—that wonderful institution our grandparents enjoyed. You never said anything over it that you wanted kept secret.

During World War II there were signs in schools, factories, churches, and restaurants: A SLIP OF THE LIP MAY SINK A SHIP. They were a constant reminder that our enemies might be listening, and that a careless conversation could have disastrous consequences. The same is true today. Many of us are sharing a party line with Russian spies who regularly listen in on long-distance phone conversations. Overheard gossip could adversely affect someone in the electronics industry, the space program, or the military.

There is a positive side to this situation. If Russian spies are listening to our phone conversations, we can use the opportunity to give them a message. For example, when you call Aunt Millie or Uncle Jack in Sheboygan, you can discuss how thankful you are to live in a country where men and women are free to travel, to change jobs—and where free speech and a free press are a reality. You could emphasize the fact that Americans admire the Polish people, decry what has happened in Afghanistan, and are well aware of what Russia is doing with yellow rain. Discuss things that will tell the spy that many Americans are morally strong and spiritually committed. If you complain about food prices, be sure you also mention how thankful you are that there is plenty of food on supermarket shelves.

You might want to try a more direct approach: “Hello, Aunt Millie,” and “Hello, Russian. Why don’t you stop eavesdropping?” Or, “Hi, Comrade. Aren’t you glad you’re here in the good ol’ U.S. of A.?” Take advantage of the opportunity ...

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