Eyder Peralta of NPR quotes the opinions of some legal scholars on the legality of the NSA Verizon order, here. Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program is one of those interviewed. She does not think the order complies with the letter of the law:
The government apparently has obtained orders, issued by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), requiring the major American telecommunications companies to produce records regarding all of the telephone calls of all of their subscribers. According to the Director of National Intelligence, the government does not actually “query” this information unless it first demonstrates to the FISC that the subject of the query may be associated with a foreign terrorist organization. But section 215 of the Patriot Act does not permit this “collect now, establish relevance later” approach. It requires the government to “show,” in its original application to the FISC, that “the tangible things sought” — all of them — “are relevant to an authorized investigation … to obtain foreign intelligence information … or to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.” The FISC judge may issue an order only if this requirement is met. Needless to say, all the telephone records of all Americans are not relevant to a specific foreign intelligence or counterterrorism investigation.
Read more on NPR.