The Administration released a White Paper on Friday that summarized its claimed legal basis for the bulk collection of telephony metadata, also known as the Associational Tracking Program under section 215 of the Patriot Act, codified as 50 U.S.C. section 1861. While we’ll certainly be saying more about this analysis in the future, the paper makes one central point clear:
There is no direct authorization for the Associational Tracking Program in section Patriot Act section 215.
Nowhere does the statute say that the NSA may conduct bulk collection and analysis of the phone records of nonsuspect, nontargeted Americans on an ongoing basis, including requiring the production of records that haven’t even been produced yet.
It could, of course. Congress could have said that bulk collection is allowed and a properly drafted statute would also define “bulk” collection in a way that everyone can understand and isn't full of word games. That statute would not have been constitutional (since the program isn't constitutional), but would at least say what the the Administration wishes section 215 did.
More at link: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/08/10-0