Obama urges police to respect protesters in Ferguson


President Barack Obama called on police Thursday to respect demonstrators in Ferguson, Mo., in an attempt to defuse tensions after four nights of often-violent protests over the police killing of an unarmed black teenager.

“There is never an excuse for violence against police or for those who would use this tragedy as a cover for vandalism or looting,” Obama said a televised remarks.

“There's also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protesters or to throw protesters in jail for lawfully exercising their first amendment rights,” he told the press from Edgartown, Massachusetts, near where he is vacationing with his family.

Following the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in the mostly black St. Louis suburb on Saturday, dozens of protesters have been arrested, and officers in body armor have used SWAT vehicles, riot gear, stun grenades, smoke bombs, tear gas and rubber bullets to break up protests.

Since Sunday, there have been peaceful vigils and demonstrations – with protesters holding their hands in the air and chanting “hands up, don't shoot” – as well as episodes of looting, vandalism and violence.

Missouri lawmakers urged Governor Jay Nixon to step in on Thursday and change the police tactics used in Ferguson, which, they said, were causing an escalation of violence.

“My goal has been to try to move out some of the military responses that they have been embracing and see if we can't get back to good, solid police work that keeps the protesters safe,” U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill said during a visit to Ferguson on Thursday.

Nixon told community members at a church near Ferguson that he would make operational shifts so that people would feel a different tone from police on the streets. He did not specify what steps would be taken.

He was due to make an announcement Thursday afternoon.

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson told reporters the police would work to “facilitate” protests and not escalate tensions, but added that police had to react to crowds that turn violent.

The tactical chief of the police operations at the protests has been the St. Louis County SWAT commander, he said.

Authorities also said Thursday they might rethink their decision to withhold the name of the police officer who was involved in the shooting.

Protesters have said a lack of transparency by police investigating the incident – including the refusal to release the officer's name – had stoked already-high tensions.

They have also called for St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCullough to be removed from the case.

Early on Thursday, a member of the Anonymous hacker activist collective, using the Twitter name @TheAnonMessage, tweeted a name, alleging it was the police officer who shot Brown.

Police and prosecutors strenuously denied that the person named was the officer involved, saying he was not even a member of the St. Louis County Police Department or the Ferguson Police. Later, another collective member, tweeting as @OpFerguson, said the name was incorrect.

Hackers have periodically disrupted the Ferguson police website and other local government sites throughout the week.

THREE INVESTIGATIONS

The shooting and protests have shed a spotlight on race issues in the highly segregated city of St. Louis and its suburbs.

Ferguson has seen a stark demographic shift in recent decades, going from mostly white to mostly black. About two-thirds of the town's 21,000-strong population is black. Still, on a police force of 53, just three officers are black.

Civil rights groups have complained in the past that police in St. Louis County racially profiled blacks, arrested a disproportionate number of blacks and had racist hiring practices.

Amnesty International called on Thursday for a thorough investigation of the shooting of Brown, as well as the tactics used against protesters.

The U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI and the St. Louis County prosecutor's office are all investigating Brown's death.

There is little clarity on what occurred during Saturday's incident.

Police have said that Brown struggled with the officer who shot and killed him. The officer involved in the shooting was injured during the incident and was treated in hospital for swelling on the side of his face, they said.

But some witnesses have said that Brown held up his hands and was surrendering when he was shot multiple times in the head and chest.

Two reporters were among those arrested late Wednesday during protests. Ferguson Mayor James Knowles pledged on Thursday that the reporters would be treated “in a proper fashion.”

Obama said “in the United States of America police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs.”

Additional reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee and Carey Gillam in Kansas City; Writing by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Susan Heavey and Bernadette Baum

The Torah of drones: Examining the complex morality of drone warfare


In 2009, an Israeli drone flying over the Gaza Strip transmitted back to its command station an image of a telltale rocket trail streaking toward Israeli territory. Many kilometers away, a young Israeli operator, Capt. Y, quickly maneuvered the unmanned aircraft to get a look at the young Palestinian who had just launched the deadly missile. Y’s drone squadron already had authorization to take him out. In an instant, a rocket struck the hidden launch site, followed by a flash of fire.

When the smoke cleared, Y saw images of the shooter lying flat on the ground. Twenty seconds passed. And then Y saw something even more remarkable — the dead man began to move.

Severely wounded, the Palestinian began to claw his way toward the road. Y could clearly see the man’s face, and in his youth and determination Y must have recognized something of himself. So, now Y and his team had a decision to make: Would they let the wounded terrorist escape, or circle the drone back and finish him off?

Y told me this story in the lobby of the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills. He is 23, wiry and intense. When I arrived for our interview, arranged through the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, Y was sitting in a small atrium, getting in a last smoke.

For security reasons, I cannot use his real name, so I agreed to refer to the captain as Y, and to his fellow drone operator, a lieutenant, as M.

M is calmer. She is 25, has large blue eyes and wears her blond hair pulled back into a ponytail — Scarlett Johansson’s tougher twin sister.

Unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, as drones are otherwise known, have been in use militarily since World War I. In 1917, the Americans designed the Kettering “Bug” with a preset gyroscope to guide it into enemy trenches. In World War II, the Nazis deployed “the Fritz,” a 2,300-pound bomb with four small wings and a tail motor. But it is only in the past few years that UAVs have made almost-daily headlines. These days, the United States, in particular, has widely employed UAVs in the far reaches of Pakistan and Afghanistan in its fight against terrorists. As recently as Nov. 1, a U.S. drone strike killed Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud, demonstrating once again the deadly effectiveness of, and the growing reliance upon, these weapons of war.

But like all revolutionary new weapons, this success comes at a price, and it’s a price we in America prefer not to check. Just a day before I met with the two Israelis in late October, two influential human rights groups released reports asserting that the number of civilian deaths resulting from America’s largely secret “drone wars” was far greater than the government had claimed. Human Rights Watch reported that since 2009, America’s anti-terrorist drone strikes in Yemen had killed at least 57 civilians — more than two-thirds of all casualties resulting from the strikes — including a pregnant woman and three children. In Pakistan, Amnesty International found that more than 30 civilians had died from U.S. drone strikes between May 2012 and July 2013 in the territory of North Waziristan.

To Americans, news of anonymous civilians dying in faraway places may not resonate deeply, even if we are the ones who killed them. But these two humanitarian groups’ reports point to the rapid increase in the United States’ use of unmanned aerial vehicles as weapons of war, and they underline the lack of clear international ethical codes to guide that use.

Who gets to use drones? How do commanders decide whom to target, whom to spy on? If a drone operator sitting in a command room in Tampa, Fla., can kill a combatant in Swat, in northern Pakistan, does that make downtown Tampa a legitimate military target, as well?

I wanted to learn more about the morality of this advancing technology, so I talked to people who have studied drones, who have thought about their ethical implications, and who, like Y and M, actually use them. I hoped that through them I might come to understand how we, as a society, should think about the right way to use these remarkable, fearsome tools. 

I wanted to know if there exists, in essence, a Torah of drones.

From 12,000 feet up, the Heron drone Capt. Y was piloting that day during Operation Pillar of Defense offered a perfect view of the wounded Palestinian.

“You see everything,” Y told me. “You could see him lying on the ground, moving and crawling. Even if you know he’s the enemy, it’s very hard to see that. You see a human being who is helpless. You have to bear in mind, ‘He’s trying to kill me.’ But, in my mind, I hoped somebody would go help him.”

Y’s father is French, and his mother is Israeli. He lives in Beersheba, where his wife is a medical student. Y’s brother was killed in the Second Lebanon War by a Hezbollah rocket while he was piloting a Yasur combat helicopter. Y was 18 at the time.

“I believe some of the way to mourn is to go through the same experience of the man you loved,” Y said.

Lt. M’s parents both are French immigrants to Israel, staunch Zionists, and, she said, she always knew one day she’d be an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officer.

In Israel, those who cannot complete pilot-training very often enter the drone corps. It may not hold the cachet of becoming an Air Force pilot, but both of these soldiers believe drones are the future.

“I like the idea that every flight you do, you’re helping your fellow citizens,” M said.

“We feel we contribute more than other people,” Y said. “But today, in the modern day, you don’t have to take risks. If you risk your life, it doesn’t mean you contribute more.”

In the United States and Israel, where the reluctance to put boots on the ground is at a high point, the fact that drones offer significant military capabilities with far less risk accounts precisely for the tremendous increase in their use.

Israel, in fact, has led the way. Its effective use of drones during the 1982 Lebanon War rekindled American interest in UAVs. During America’s first Gulf War, in 1991, the U.S. Navy bought a secondhand Pioneer drone from Israel and used it to better aim heavy artillery. At one point during that war, a squad of Iraqi soldiers saw a drone overhead and, expecting to be bombarded, waved a white sheet. It was the first time in history soldiers had surrendered to a drone.

Today, the United States increasingly uses drones for both civilian intelligence — as in Yemen and Pakistan — and militarily. Currently, some 8,000 UAVs are in use by the U.S. military. In the next decade, U.S. defense spending on drones is expected to reach $40 billion, increasing inventory by 35 percent. Since 2002, 400 drone strikes have been conducted by U.S. civilian intelligence agencies. 

At least 87 other countries also have drones. Earlier this year, Israel announced it was decommissioning two of its combat helicopter squadrons — to replace them with drones.

“We’re at the very start of this technological revolution,” Peter Singer, author of “Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century,” told me by phone. “We’re in the World War I period of robotics. The cat’s out of the bag. You’re not going to roll it back. But you do want to set norms.”

Singer’s book, first published in 2009 when the public debate over drone ethics was nonexistent, is still the best road map to a future we all have reason to fear, but must face, in any case.

I called Singer to see where he stands on the ethical issues raised by civilian drone deaths.

Actually, he pointed out, his book dealt largely with military use of these technologies. Even he wouldn’t have predicted such widespread use of drones by surveillance agencies that are unversed in the rules of war and that operate without the safeguards built into military actions.

That, for Singer and others who parse the ethics of drones, is the rub. In the military, there are rules of engagement. There is the risk of court-martial. Strategic training is better in the military than in intelligence agencies.

“One group goes to war college,” Singer said, “the other doesn’t. And it’s very different when you’re a political appointee, rather than a military officer. Some tactics would not be allowed in a military operation.”

I asked Singer for an example. He chose one from the CIA operations just now under scrutiny by human rights groups.

“Double-tapping,” he said. “That would never make its way past a military officer.”

Double-tapping is when an aircraft, manned or not, circles back over a targeted site and strikes a second time — either to finish off the wounded or to take out forces that have rushed in to help. Exactly the ethical question Capt. Y. faced.

When Y saw that he hadn’t killed the Palestinian the first time, he and his team faced one of the most difficult, urgent questions of drone combat: Should they double-tap?

Ethical issues in drone combat come up all the time, M said — in training, in operations and, afterward, in frequent debriefing and analysis.

“I have so many examples of that, I can’t count,” Y told me.

A landmark Israeli Supreme Court decision on targeted killing provides the ethical framework for IDF drone operators.

In 2009, the court found there is nothing inherently wrong with a targeted killing — whether by an F-16, Apache helicopter or unmanned drone.

But, the court added, in order for the action to be acceptable, the soldiers must satisfy three questions:

The first is, what is a legitimate target? The target, the court said, must be an operational combatant seeking to do you harm — not a retired terrorist or someone you want to punish for past sins.

Second, has the target met the threshold level of intelligence? The drone team must have a deep knowledge that its target meets the first condition, verified by more than one source.

Finally, who is the supervising body? There must be independent oversight outside the hands of the drone operators and the IDF.

To professor Moshe Halbertal, these three conditions form the basis for the moral exercise of deadly drone force.

Halbertal is a professor of Jewish philosophy at Hebrew University, the Gruss Professor of Law at the New York University School of Law and one of the drafters of the IDF’s code of ethics.

Shortly before Halbertal came to Los Angeles to serve as scholar-in-residence Nov. 1-3 at Sinai Temple, I spoke with him about Israel’s experience with drones. From what he could tell, he said, Israel has a more developed ethical framework.

In the American attacks, Halbertal said, “The level of collateral damage is alarming.”

In Israel, he said, “There is a genuine attempt to reduce collateral killing. If this were the level of collateral damage the IDF produces, it would be very bad.”

The fact that drones are less risky is not what makes their use more prone to excesses, Halbertal said.

“Because military operations involve more risk, there is more care in applying them,” Halbertal said. “But, on the other hand, soldiers make mistakes out of fear in the heat of combat that drone operators don’t.”

The danger with drones, he said, is that because the political risks of deploying them, versus deploying live troops, are much less, they can be used more wantonly.

I asked Capt. Y if he’d had experience with collateral damage.

“It’s happened to me,” he said. “We had a target and asked [intelligence officers] if there were civilians in the area. We received a negative. Later, we heard in the Palestinian press that there were casualties. We checked, and it was true — a father and his 17-year-old son. What can we do? I didn’t have a particular emotion about it.”

The people who know the people getting killed do have emotions about it. And that grief and anger can work to undo whatever benefits drone kills confer.

“I say every drone attack kills one terrorist and creates two,” Adnan Rashid, a Pakistani journalist, told me. In the Swat Valley, where he lives, the fear of American drones and the innocent lives they’ve taken has been one of the extremists’ best recruiting tools, Rashid said.

If that’s the case, better oversight and clearer rules for drones may be not just the right thing to do but in our self-interest as well.

No war is ever clean. But that doesn’t mean drone use should increase without the implementation of the kind of national, and international, norms Singer now finds lacking.

If the United States doesn’t adopt the kinds of oversight Israel already has in place, at the very least, Singer believes, we should move the drone program from the intelligence agencies to the military. 

It’s a call that has increasingly vocal support from America to Pakistan. Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as well as the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services, argued Congress could exercise better oversight of a drone program operated by the military.

 “Since when is the intelligence agency supposed to be an Air Force of drones that goes around killing people?” McCain said recently on Fox News. “I believe that it’s a job for the Department of Defense.”

Pakistani protesters from United Citizen Action shout anti-U.S. slogans during a protest against the Nov. 1 killing of Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud in a U.S. drone strike. Photo by S.S. Mirza/AFP Photo/Newscom

 “The killing is creating more anger and resulting in the recruitment of more people to pursue revenge,” former Pakistani Minister of State Shahzad Waseem told me. “The minimum you can do is to come up openly with some kind of treaty or set of rules to give it a legal shape, mutually accepted by all sides.” 

Will Americans rise up to make a stink over this? That may be a tall order for a populace that seems to take each revelation of intelligence community overreach — from drone deaths to National Security Agency spying — with a collective yawn. Will the international community begin to create a framework that at least sets standards for drone use and misuse? 

Unfortunately, humans, particularly in developing technology, have a way of advancing faster on the battlefront than on the legal or moral fronts. It took the Holocaust, Singer pointed out, for humanity to come up with the Geneva Conventions of 1949. What fresh hell must befall us before we at least attempt to codify behavior for the Age of Drones?

And even if we set standards and nations abide by them, it seems inevitable that the very nature of drones one day will allow non-state actors — the likes of al-Qaeda — to follow the lead of Hezbollah in using them, as well.

If, in the 1940s and ’50s, the best and the brightest scientific minds went into nuclear physics — and gave us the atomic bomb — these days, those talents are all going toward artificial intelligence. At the high end, a future filled with autonomous, intelligent killing drones awaits us.

At the low end, consider this: Singer also serves as a consultant for the video game “Call of Duty,” for which he was asked to envision a homemade drone of the not-too-distant future. He and others came up with a Sharper Image toy helicopter, controlled by an iPad and mounted with an Uzi. A promotional team actually made a fully functional version of this weapon for a YouTube video, and 17 million hits later, the Defense Department telephoned, perturbed.

“Unlike battleships or atomic bombs,” Singer told me, “the barriers to entry for drones are really low.”

That doesn’t mean we should give up on establishing ethical norms for nations — or people — but we do need to keep our expectations in check.

We may be heading toward a world of what Halbertal describes, in the Israeli context, as “micro wars,” where each human is empowered with military-like capacity and must make his or her own ethical choices on the spot.

Cap. Y made his own moral choice that day during Operation Pillar of Defense. He watched as the wounded Palestinian man managed to get to the road, where a group of civilians came to his aid.

Why didn’t Y “double-tap”?

 “He was no longer a threat,” Y told me, matter-of-factly. “And several people gathered around him who weren’t part of the attack.” That was that: The rules of engagement were clear.

In a micro-war, a soldier in combat — not just generals at a central command — must determine in the heat of battle who is a terrorist and who is a civilian, who shall live and who shall die.

In his book, Singer envisions a future in which artificial intelligence will also enable us to provide ethical decision-making to the machines we create. It would be our job to program Torah into these machines — and then let them do with it as they will.

Much like Someone has done with us.

Boteach tweets of terror during N.J. mall shooting with family inside


Rabbi Shmuely Boteach tweeted “Please pray” as law enforcement scoured a New Jersey mall looking for the gunman who fired shots there while his daughter and wife took cover inside.

Boteach and three of his children were entering the Garden State Plaza in Paramus on Monday night to meet his wife and daughter near closing time when shoppers streamed through the doors shouting that there was a shooter in the mall.

Boteach ran with his children to safety, then called his wife to learn that they were holed up in a storage closest in one of the stores.

“Terror here at garden state mall in NJ and I know people inside. I left with my kids and now outside. Please pray,” Boteach tweeted. He did not indicate that his wife and daughter were among those inside until they were rescued.

Boteach’s wife and daughter were evacuated by a SWAT team about 90 minutes after the shooting began.

The gunman, identified as Richard Shoop, 20, of Teaneck, N.J., entered the mall just before 9:30 p.m. and fired his rifle at random targets, according to officials.

Shoop’s body was found early Tuesday morning in a storage area in the vast mall, which is located about 15 miles from New York City. State officials said he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

He reportedly had shot in the air and told mall patrons that he did not want to hurt anyone.

In a personal essay written after the incident, Boteach said that newly elected U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, a close friend, called as his wife was being rescued to inquire about her well-being.  Boteach had texted the New Jersey senator to inform him of the standoff.

“Still can’t sleep. have given up trying,” Boteach tweeted several hours after the incident.

Gunman kills five in Santa Monica, shot dead by police


A gunman dressed in black killed five people in a string of shootings through the seaside California town of Santa Monica on Friday before he was shot dead by police in a community college library, law enforcement officials said.

Five other people were wounded, one of them critically, in the shooting rampage that unfolded just a few miles from where President Barack Obama was speaking at a political fundraiser elsewhere in Santa Monica, west of Los Angeles.

As the gunman lay dead on a sidewalk outside the Santa Monica College library, a second individual was taken into custody near the campus and described by police as a “person of interest” in the case. He was later released.

Police initially said six people were killed by the gunman, who was described only as a man between the ages of 25 and 30.

Obama completed his remarks at his event without interruption and left for a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping near the desert resort community of Palm Springs. The bloodshed did not appear to be related to Obama's visit and the Secret Service called it a “local police matter.”

The killing spree marked the latest in string of high-profile mass shootings over the past year, including a December attack in Connecticut that killed 20 children and six adults at an elementary school and a shooting last July at a suburban Denver movie theater that killed 12 people.

Those attacks have helped reignite a national debate over gun violence in America that spurred Obama and his fellow Democrats to push for expanded background checks for gun buyers – an initiative defeated in the U.S. Senate.

Santa Monica Police said the carnage began at a home east of the college, where the gunman shot two people dead before apparently torching the home. The Los Angeles Times, citing law enforcement sources, reported that the first two victims were believed to be the gunman's father and brother.

“I was in my apartment when I heard five to seven shots, then a pause, then two shots and I knew it was guns,” neighbor Janet Carter told Reuters.

'HORRIFIC EVENT'

Carter said she walked outside and saw a woman sitting in her car with blood trickling from her head. One of the windows in the car had been blown out, and the woman was lucid and on her cell phone talking to her husband.

Carter said she and another neighbor placed cold compresses around the woman's shoulder area, where there was blood, and she noticed in the meantime that an old wood house across the street was consumed by flames.

Santa Monica Police Sergeant Richard Lewis said that after leaving the home, the gunman carjacked a woman and ordered her to drive. Along the way he fired at least several rounds at a city bus, wounding three people.

Arriving at the college, the gunman opened fire on a red sport utility vehicle in a staff parking lot, killing the driver and critically wounding his passenger, Lewis said.

The gunman, who was armed with an AR-15 style rifle and at least one handgun, then shot and killed another person at the college before he died in an exchange of gunfire with police, Lewis said.

He said investigators had not yet determined a motive for the rampage, adding: “It's a horrific event that everybody wishes never happened.”

Students at the campus library described a scene of pandemonium as the sounds of gunfire rang out, sending some scurrying for cover.

One student inside the library, Cyrus Jabari, 19, said that through a window he could see a man dressed in black with a buzz-style haircut carrying what appeared to be an assault rifle.

“The only thing between me and him was a glass door,” he told Reuters.

Rabbi Eli Levitansky, who runs Santa Monica College’s Chabad club, said he has been in touch with student locked down on campus and had not heard of any Jewish students wounded in the attacks as of 2:30 Friday afternoon.

“I am actually in contact with them [the Jewish students on lockdown] right now. I’m on the phone with them, pretty much every other minute, speaking to them, calming them,” Levitansky told the Journal this afternoon.

When the shooting occurred, Levitansky was walking en route to campus from his home as part of a regular ritual he does four times a week to help students on campus wrap tefillin. He lives only two blocks away. The sight of students running and the swift arrival of campus police alerted him to the shooting. He said he did not hear gunshots.

Levitansky described seeing SWAT teams, sheriff helicopters, ambulance trucks and dozens of police officers. “It’s like a warzone,” said Levitansky, who also serves as rabbi at the nearby Chabad of Santa Monica.

Natasha Nemanim, 24, tried to get onto the campus to turn on a final paper early Friday afternoon but turned back after seeing helicopters in the air and heavily armed security personnel at the entrance to the campus on Pico and 18th street.

“It was stressful definitely; those guns are pretty big and they make you wonder what’s happening in there,” Nemanim said. She spoke to The Journal on Friday from Kehillat Ma’arav, a Conservative synagogue about a mile from the campus.

“It appears to be controlled as long as you’re not on campus,” said Nemanim, who spent two years as a student at SMC before transferring to UCLA, where she studied psychology. “But if you were on campus, I have to imagine your cortisol levels would be through the roof.”

Police officers during a search at Santa Monica College following a shooting on campus on June 7. Photo by Jonathan Alcorn/Reuters

Reporting and writing by Steve Gorman; Additional reporting by Jonah Lowenfeld (Jewish Journal) Ron Grover (Reuters), Alex Dobuzinskis(Reuters); Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Walsh

Jewish and Arab American woman suing airline for racial profiling


A Jewish-Arab American woman is suing a U.S. airline and the federal Transportation Security Administration for removing her from an airplane and strip-searching her.

Shoshana Hebshi, whose mother is Jewish and father is Saudi Arabian, is suing Frontier Airlines and law enforcement for ethnically targeting her.

A SWAT team forcibly removed Hebshi, 36, an American citizen who lives in Ohio, and two Indian men in handcuffs from Frontier Airline flight 623 after it landed on Sept. 11, 2011 at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. She was held for hours, questioned and strip searched.

A fellow passenger had accused the three of acting suspiciously. Hebshi did not know the Indian men, who reportedly were sitting in her row.

The lawsuit was filed Jan. 22 in a federal court in Detroit. Also named in the lawsuit are the Wayne County Airport Authority, Detroit Metro Airport Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Patrol.

Hebshi said in a statement that she was” frightened and humiliated,” and that she believes she was singled out due to her ethnicity.

“The illegal arrest and strip search of Ms. Hebshi is not simply a mistake made by an airline employee or government agency, but a predictable consequence of institutionalizing racial stereotypes and mass suspicion as law enforcement tactics,” Sarah Mehta, an attorney with the ACLU of Michigan, said in a statement issued Jan. 22. “Racial profiling is unconstitutional and counterproductive. No one is safer because an innocent mother of two was dragged off a flight, strip searched and held for several hours.”

The TSA would not comment to media on pending litigation.

Pakistani girl shot by Taliban leaves British hospital


A Pakistani girl shot in the head by the Taliban for advocating girls' education has been discharged from a British hospital after doctors said she was well enough to spend time recovering with her family.

Fifteen-year-old Malala Yousufzai, who was shot by the Taliban in October and brought to Britain for treatment, was discharged on Thursday but is due to be re-admitted in late January or early February for reconstructive surgery to her skull, doctors said.

The shooting of Yousufzai, in the head at point blank range as she left school in the Swat valley, drew widespread international condemnation.

She has become a an internationally recognized symbol of resistance to the Taliban's efforts to deny women education and other rights, and more than 250,000 people have signed online petitions calling for her to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for her activism.

Doctors at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham where Yousufzai was treated said that although the bullet hit her left brow, it did not penetrate her skull but instead travelled underneath the skin along the side of her head and into her neck.

She was treated by doctors specializing in neurosurgery, trauma and other disciplines in a department of the hospital which has treated hundreds of soldiers wounded in conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Malala is a strong young woman and has worked hard with the people caring for her to make excellent progress in her recovery,” said Dave Rosser, the hospital's medical director.

“Following discussions with Malala and her medical team, we decided that she would benefit from being at home.”

Yousufzai has already been leaving the hospital on a regular basis on “home leave” in recent weeks to spend time with her parents and younger brothers, who have a temporary home in central England, Rosser said.

“During those visits assessments have been carried out by her medical team to ensure she can continue to make good progress outside the hospital,” Rosser said.

Yousufzai's father said in October he was sure she would “rise again” to pursue her dreams after medical treatment.

Editing by Robin Pomeroy

Couple suspected of aiding Toulouse killer Merah taken into custody


A man and a woman in the Toulouse area were arrested on suspicion that they helped Mohammed Merah “commit crimes” that may have included the murder of four Jews.

According to L'Express, a French daily, French authorities arrested the two on Tuesday morning. Reports in the French media said there was no use of force.

The French news service AFP named one of the suspects as Charles Mencarelli and reported that he had been arrested in Albi, about 45 miles northeast of Toulouse. AFP described Mencarelli as not having a permanent address. His life partner was arrested at her home in Toulouse, according to the report.

The pair will be brought for arraignment within 96 hours of their arrest, according to  L’Express, during which time they will be interrogated about their links with Merah. They are not suspected of belonging to a jihadist network, an unnamed police source told L’Express.

Merah, a 23-year-old radical Muslim, killed a rabbi and three children in a pre-planned attack on the Otzar Hatorah Jewish school in Toulouse on March 19. The slayings came a few days after Merah gunned down three French soldiers in two drive-by shootings from a scooter near Toulouse. He was shot dead on March 22 by police as they stormed his home.

Tuesday's arrests were headed by France’s domestic intelligence service, DCRI, and the country’s top SWAT team, the anti-terrorist SDAT unit.

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