I think there is a fundamental disconnect between people who don't understand the technology of the internet and the people who do. Folks involved with technology see this as being a direct attack on their economic well being, the security ( a very small part of it ) of our nation, etc. It's easy for folks who aren't involved in that industry to dismiss concerns as alarmist, over inflated, and the product of a skewed perspective.
In many ways it is the product of a skewed perspective. And, the actions the NSA has been caught up in are difficult to believe are possible much less being accomplished. Most people don't understand the capabilities the NSA is developing because it's all just science fiction to them.
There are plenty of people out there who just don't know how bad it is that people ask you for your social security number, or photocopy your ID. They don't understand that when they swipe their credit card at target, they've just given target a facsimile of their wallet. It's just not something many people have exposure to. Educating them is difficult, and the NSA relies on the fact that they and the president are a more 'credible' source, and a voice of 'reason' to try to wash away concerns over what is a program that should be investigated.
What I think people do not understand is that someone ( cough michael hayden ) created a program that has damaged national military and economic security deeply. We need to triage this. Figure out how this happened, what safe guards we can put in place to stop this from ever happening again. But, instead we have a united effort by our elected officials to downplay the issue in the extreme and present the whistleblowers as extremists. And I can see how someone might buy that line. It's definitely bullshit. Everyone in tech knows how destructive this program was. But it's hard to explain how that might affect joe insurance claims adjuster or susie dentist and especially jimbo wendy's employee of the month.
I think what really hurts people about this exchange is that Bill Maher usually tries to delve into these issues and expose those concerns. But instead he's attacking messengers. He may have all the legitimate and best reasons in the world. But, I think what it comes down to is that he's a cynical old bastard who has given up the idealistic hopes and dreams that someone like snowden represents.
It's sad, more than anything else.