- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The House on Wednesday overwhelmingly renewed a surveillance law that allows the government to monitor conversations of foreign spies and terrorist suspects abroad, while requiring approval from a secret court when Americans are targeted anywhere in the world.

Supporters emphasized that the bill is aimed at foreigners overseas, not Americans. The vote was 301-118 to extend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act monitoring provisions for five years.

Opponents said the legislation does not adequately protect Americans from unintentional interception of their communications. Several opponents said they would support a three-year extension of the law, which expires at year’s end, while more information is gathered about threats to Americans’ civil liberties.

The may run into problems in the Senate where Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat, has used a procedural tactic to prevent a vote. He is one of several senators who have unsuccessfully tried to learn how many Americans were caught up in the surveillance.

House supporters, however, assured Americans that their rights are protected.

“This is about foreigners on foreign soil. It’s not a dragnet,” said Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

He said Americans’ rights “are alive and well here. This is one of those programs that has an inordinate amount of oversight to make sure we are not targeting Americans.”

CALIFORNIA

GOP congressional candidate backs off abortion remark

SACRAMENTO — A Republican congressional candidate in California is backing off remarks he made that women who have abortions are more likely to get cancer.

The Sacramento Bee reports that Doug LaMalfa made the statement Monday during a debate, then repeated them to KRCR-TV.

A link between abortion and breast cancer has been the subject of medical studies, but groups such as the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute concluded no scientific evidence backed such claims.

Mr. LaMalfa’s campaign said in a statement Tuesday that he was misinformed. His consultant says the 1st Congressional District front-runner relied on information he read several years ago.

A fellow Republican running in Missouri, Senate hopeful Rep. W. Todd Akin, made headlines this summer for his comments that women could thwart pregnancy in cases of what he called “legitimate rape.”

FLORIDA

Former president basks in increased popularity

MIAMI — Bill Clinton has found the ex-president sweet spot.

His popularity is the highest it has ever been. The public is longing for the flush economy he presided over. And President Obama, once a political rival, needs Mr. Clinton’s help to win re-election.

Sure, Mr. Clinton would still get attention for his humanitarian work or by simply being a former president. But this is the spotlight he wants — the final stretch of a tightly contested race for the White House.

But the freshly minted political alliance between Mr. Obama and Mr. Clinton comes with risks for both men. Mr. Clinton risks denting his sky-high favorability ratings by jumping back into the political fray. And some Democrats fear the popular Mr. Clinton could overshadow Mr. Obama.

But Obama aides either dismiss those risks or say they’re worth taking.

CAMPAIGN

Facebook plays role in getting out the vote

Here’s something most politicians can “like.”

A new study suggests Facebook friends may have played a significant role in getting hundreds of thousands of people to vote in the 2010 congressional elections.

Researchers found that Facebook users who got messages on Election Day that their friends had voted were a bit more likely to go to the polls than those who didn’t get the same reminder.

They say the effect multiplied and likely increased turnout by as many as 340,000 voters in 2010.

Outside experts say the new study fits with other research on get-out-the-vote drives. But they say the numbers may be a bit high.

The study is reported in Thursday’s issue of the journal Nature.

FAA

Passengers not feeling effects of new overhaul

A high-tech overhaul to the nation’s air traffic control system is mostly on track toward completion, but has yet to produce the benefits that airlines and passengers were told to expect, federal investigators say.

Progress in moving from preparation to execution has been slow as the Federal Aviation Administration replaces its World War II-era radar technology with a GPS-based system, Transportation Department inspector general Calvin Scovel said in remarks prepared for a hearing Wednesday before a House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee.

Lacking return on their investment, airlines are reluctant to continue making the multibillion-dollar equipment upgrades needed for the new system to work.

After years of delays and cost overruns, the FAA has improved its handling of the modernization program, known as NextGen, Mr. Scovel said. But the agency still hasn’t established its overall costs or timeline.

Plus, completion of a program to better coordinate areas near big cities with multiple airports has been pushed back 15 months. Eight cities, including New York, have been dropped from the program.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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