Fresnans not surprised by National Security Agency's snooping

The Fresno BeeJune 16, 2013 

News that the National Security Agency can keep tabs on average Americans via their cellphone calls, text messages and email accounts came as no surprise to many Fresnans who weighed in on the topic over the weekend.

"Does it surprise me the United States is using fear tactics to take the rights away of citizens? No, it doesn't," said John Aguirre, 65.

That was the bottom line for Aguirre and others enjoying the spring sun on Sunday at River Park, who shared concerns about the possibility of government intrusion, but said it's hardly news that federal agencies collect personal information.

Jamie, 50, a food service worker who declined to give her last name, said she's so concerned that she forgoes using digital television and the Internet to avoid possible surveillance.

Jenelle Jacobs, 24 and a nurse, said she puts little trust in the government. She's worried, she said, that there isn't a "healthy balance" between protecting national security and data-grabbing.

"If something went wrong and it got caught on tape, it can serve for justice," she said. "But I think being able to monitor everything we do is an invasion of privacy."

Some blasted individuals for making their own information public on social media sites and other online outlets. Fred Huffman, 79, a machinist, said many people relinquish their own privacy on a daily basis without a second thought.

" 'Who cares?' That's people's attitude, and people's apathy worries me more than anything else," he said.

Fresno State English professor Ruth Jenkins, 54, said companies that falsely claim to protect users' privacy are the ones that deserve blame.

Reports from the Washington Post and The Guardian newspaper published earlier this month detail the access phone and Internet giants like Google, Facebook and AT&T gave to the NSA through a top-secret data collection program. Jenkins said she feels "betrayed" by the companies that complied when the NSA asked to mine their customers' data.

"What's most troubling is the kind of wholesale way in which they've been gathering information, opposed to targeting something that seemed to have a potential threat," Jenkins said.

Nonetheless, she doesn't feel she's personally targeted by government snooping.

"Although, how can one know?" she added. "It makes one pause about what you've done, or thought or said."

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6412, hfurfaro@fresnobee.com or @hannahfurfaro on Twitter.

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