Yes, NSA Spying Is a Big Deal Your liberties are disappearing even if you haven't noticed, Elizabeth Goitein argues By Kevin Spak, Newser Staff Posted Aug 1, 2013 1:50 PM CDT 59 comments Comments Hundreds of demonstrators protest against NSA surveillance during a rally in in Berlin, Germany, July 27, 2013. (AP Photo/dpa, Wolfgang Kumm) (Newser) – Half of America seems outraged by the NSA's surveillance activities. But the other half seems to be heeding Harry Reid's advice to "just calm down." A court approved this stuff, and Congress knew about it, so what's the big deal? "The most obvious answer is that these programs may be illegal," as they appear to violate even the Patriot Act's restrictions, argues Elizabeth Goitein at the Christian Science Monitor. But more importantly, they represent a threat to privacy and another step in "the quiet erosion of Americans' civil liberties." That erosion has been happening rapidly ever since 9/11. Most Americans probably haven't noticed, but "that may be the problem. Free societies tend to take their freedom for granted. But our liberties do not derive from the innate trustworthiness of our elected representatives." They derive from institutional protections. Curtailing those must always be a conscious, solemn choice, not a "passive acquiescence to a secret expansion. When that choice is taken away from the citizenry, it is no occasion to 'calm down.'" Click for her full column.