So, You Captured an al Qaeda Terrorist and Are Holding Him at Sea. Now What?

On Saturday, U.S. Navy SEALs captured Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, better known by his nom de guerre, Abu Anas al-Libi, in a brazen raid on his home in Tripoli, Libya. Libi was indicted in New York in 2000 for his role in al Qaeda's bombing of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and is believed to have played a role in revitalizing al Qaeda's operations in North Africa in recent years. The SEALs whisked Libi to the USS San Antonio, which was waiting offshore, where he is "currently lawfully detained under the law of war" as an enemy combatant, according to the Pentagon.

Now what?

"Warsame is the model for this guy," an unnamed official told the New York Times. That would be Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, an al-Shabab military commander seized in Somalia on April 19, 2011. He was then held and interrogated by a special American interrogation team comprised of representatives from the Department of Justice, the intelligence community, and the military aboard the USS Boxer for two months, before being read his Miranda rights and turned over to the FBI. After another week of interrogation, Warsame was indicted on June 30, 2011 and formally arrested on July 3. While only the testimony he gave the FBI was admissible in court, the intelligence he shared with U.S. interrogators before being read his Miranda rights could be used to inform U.S. military strikes or CIA operations against terrorist groups. Warsame later pleaded guilty and elected to cooperate with U.S. officials.

While detentions like this one are part of established practice, they do present some tricky legal wrinkles. Some critics, for instance, have pointed out that Warsame and Libi's indefinite detention aboard a ship violates the Geneva Conventions, which specifies that prisoners of war "may be interned only in premises located on land."

"If the Administration considered al-Libi to qualify as a POW, then, under Article 22 of the Geneva Conventions, they should not be detaining him on a ship for any extended period of time that would be considered 'internment,'" John Bellinger, a lawyer and former State Department and National Security Council legal advisor who writes for the security law blog Lawfare, told Foreign Policy by email. "My guess is that the Obama Administration does not consider al-Libi to qualify as a POW because al-Qaida is not a party to the Geneva Conventions," which apply only to countries, not necessarily non-state actors. Bellinger has referred to the Obama administration's approach to Warsame and Libi as the "combined law-of-war/criminal law enforcement model." According to the Times, Libi's interrogators aboard the USS San Antonio still must adhere to the Army Field Manual, which prohibits torture.

Another challenge associated with Libi's detention -- and the raid that seized him in the first place -- is a matter of timing. Deborah Pearlstein, a law professor at Yeshiva University and a contributor to the law blog Opinio Juris, notes that "Most scholars recognize an international law requirement that responses in self defense be timely." It's been 15 years since the bombings Libi allegedly helped orchestrate. "[H]ow long could the U.S. plausibly use attacks from 1998, or even 2001, to justify new 'self-defense'-related uses of force?" Pearlstein asks.

When Libi makes it to the United States, he'll face an additional legal point of contention: whether or not he'll be tried in a civilian court. Libi was indicted in New York, but trying terrorists in civilian courts has been a sore point with several politicians. Earlier this year, Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Kelly Ayotte released a joint statement, saying that "A foreign member of al Qaeda should never be treated like a common criminal and should never hear the words 'you have a right to remain silent.'" It's a stance Graham and Ayotte reiterated on Monday, with Graham arguing that Libi should be treated as an enemy combatant and sent to the U.S. detention center at Guantánamo Bay. "U.S. Navy ships were never intended to be confinement and interrogation facilities in the War on the Terror," Graham said in a statement. "The use of ships, instead of Guantanamo Bay, will greatly compromise our ability to gather intelligence from captured terrorists."

Warsame pleaded guilty in New York to several terrorism related charges in December 2011, and several other terrorism trials in civilian courts have followed since then. If Libi does appear in a civilian court, though, the delay in reading the Libyan his Miranda rights and providing access to a lawyer could be used to "challenge the legal basis for his initial detention," Bellinger tells FP.

The fight over whether to try Libi in a civilian court or military tribunal is likely to be far more contentious than the international law arguments. Both Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel have defended the legality of the raid. "We will continue to maintain relentless pressure on terrorist groups that threaten our people or our interests, and we will conduct direct action against them, if necessary, that is consistent with our laws and our values," Hagel said in a statement.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Sabrina Fine/Released


China's Striving, Sexually Frustrated Young Men See Themselves in Jay Gatsby

This is a guest post from Jianyu Hou, a China-based writer and contributor to FP's Tea Leaf Nation

With his crystal blue eyes, luxury cars, and fabulous parties, Leonardo DiCaprio's Jay Gatsby may appear to have little in common with China's legions of sexually frustrated young men who struggle to afford small apartments in Beijing or Shanghai. But to many Chinese Internet users, the similarities are uncanny.

On Aug. 30, the film adaptation of The Great Gatsby hit theaters in mainland China, more than three months after its release in the United States. According to Box Office Mojo, which tracks worldwide box office receipts, the movie grossed over $4 million in mainland China during its first week, and over $13 million to date, making it a modest hit by Chinese standards. (Property tycoon Wang Jianlin, China's richest man, according to Bloomberg, recently announced that his company Dalian Wanda Group had signed agreements with U.S. talent agencies to produce films with megastars like DiCaprio.)

Although the story is set almost 100 years ago on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, the film version of F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1920s classic has found an unlikely group of sympathizers among China's urban youngsters, who share Gatsby's frustration in love and in life.

In China's Internet lingo, Gatsby is a diaosi -- a nobody. Initially meaning "loser," diaosi has been re-appropriated by younger generations of Chinese who are dissatisfied with the definition of success in a society where 'winning' often requires social connections and parental help. Though diaosi implies a degree of social failure, self-identified diaosi tend to be young men -- students or young professionals working in information technology, media, or marketing -- struggling to turn their expensive education into well-paid jobs that will allow them to win the hearts and hands of their crushes.

Many of these young Chinese identify with Jay Gatsby. A nobody-turned-millionaire, Gatsby clumsily claws his way into the upper class to win back his ex, the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, who has married an old-money playboy named Tom Buchanan. The theme of trying to win a girl with money, and ultimately falling short, is painfully familiar to China's diaosi generation.

The Great Gatsby also resonates because of perceived similarities between the United States in the 1920s and China today. On Sina Weibo, a popular Chinese microblogging service, one user writes: "After seeing The Great Gatsby, I think the 1920s New York depicted in the movie is just like Beijing and Shanghai today in terms of people's situations and relationships." Economic prosperity, tension between traditional and modern values, the new rich and their intrigues on the way to success, and deep class divides characterize both modern-day China and Jazz-Age America.

Chinese web users have paid particular attention to The Great Gatsby's exploration of class divisions. In China, many a would-be Gatsby have failed in love, faced unequal competition in the education system and the job market, and endured contempt from the more established class. A May 2013 survey of over 35,000 single Chinese women, conducted by the web portal iFeng, found that self-made Chinese men from small cities or rural areas were surprisingly unpopular on the marriage market. They are known as "phoenix men" because of their rise from poverty to wealth, giving them an exalted status among parents and small-city friends. But survey respondents said these men lack confidence and prioritize their extended family over their wives.

Men from "old money," however, are considered more confident and willing to prioritize their own wives and children. In Gatsby's failed quest to court Daisy, he rejects Tom's classist notion that upper-class families possess not just wealth, but also ideas and ways of thinking that Gatsby can never grasp. As columnist and author Xin Haiguang wrote in September, "One good thing about this is that The Great Gatsby pours cold water on young [Chinese] who obsess over fiction involving time-travel or reincarnation [both popular escapist fare in China] and fantasize about rising above their roots. Don't be naïve. A diaosi is just a diaosi. The underdog winning the game is never such a simple matter."  

More broadly, moviegoers find the disillusionment pervading The Great Gatsby reflected in growing disillusionment with the "Chinese Dream," which Chinese President Xi Jinping has defined as the "great revival of the Chinese nation." Authorities have heavily promoted the phrase, calling on the people to work together for the betterment of the Chinese nation. Yet many Chinese are unconvinced that patriotic self-sacrifice yields tangible results, given persistent concerns such as income disparity and the decline of social mobility. Some Chinese see in Gatsby's tragic fall the confirmation of their fears: that the Chinese Dream, like Gatsby's American Dream, is only an illusion.

On Douban, a film and book review site popular with young Chinese intellectuals, a blogger with the handle "I Am in the Darkness" argues that Daisy Buchanan represents the "goddesses who are out of reach." Gatsby thinks he can win back Daisy after making his fortune, but China's diaosi instinctively know he is wrong. "The worst problem diaosi had when they started out in life is the lack of money," the blogger writes. "This 'congenial deficiency' leads to a flaw in their overall approach; they think that money can solve all their problems." That also means that diaosi think that if they make a fortune, women will surely accept their advances -- an expectation that is often dashed.

"Her voice is full of money," Fitzgerald wrote of Daisy Buchanan. "That was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals' song of it." It's the same song that calls China's youth today.