Tuesday, December 4, 2007
In an investigation reported on first by Wikinews, Wikileaks today revealed another chapter in the story of the Standard Operations Procedure (SOP) manual for the Camp Delta facility at Guantanamo Bay. The latest documents they have received are the details of the 2004 copy of the manual signed off by Major General Geoffrey D. Miller of the U.S. Southern Command. This is following on from the earlier leaking of the 2003 version. Wikileaks passed this document to people they consider experts in the field to carry out an analysis trying to validate it. Following this, they set out to assess what had changed between 2003 and 2004; including attempts to link publicly known incidents with changes to the manual.
Wikinews obtained the document and did an in-depth analysis. The American Civil Liberties Union had previously made a request to view and obtain copies of the same document, but was denied access to them.
One of the first notable changes to the document relates to the detainees themselves. Previously they read the camp rules during admission processing. Rules are now posted around the camp in detainees’ languages. The English version of the rules is as follows:
Of concern to groups such as Amnesty International who campaign for the camp’s closure, or Human Rights Watch concerned about prisoner handling under the prisoner of war aspects of the Geneva Convention, is the fact that policy for newly admitted detainees still allows for up to 4 weeks where access to the detainee by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) may be denied. In addition, guards are not to allow ICRC staff to pass mail to detainees.
A new process has been formed which allows guards to determine whether or not a detainee receives awards, or is punished. The form is called a GTMO Form 508-1 (pictured to the right). According to the manual, the form “is used to determine which rewards the detainee will lose or gain,” but “special rewards” can also be earned, outside of the process. One special reward is time allowed outside. Another special reward is a roll of toilet paper, but the detainee cannot share it with others. Doing so will result in “punishment” and confiscation of the roll. If the detainee already has a roll of toilet paper, he is not allowed to have another.
“Guards need to ensure that the detainee doesn’t receive additional toilet paper when the detainee already has it. The amount given to the detainee will be the same amount as normally distributed to the detainee,” states the manual.
No matter how bad a detainee may act, “haircuts will never be used as punitive action” against them, but they can have hair removed for health reasons. They can, however, be segregated from other detainees.
“If a detainee has committed an offense that requires segregation time, even if a segregation cell is not available, the detainee will receive a shave and a haircut for hygiene and medical reasons. If the detainee is IRFed, the haircut and shave will follow the decontamination process,” adds the manual. Barbers are also part of cell searches.
Despite these changes, a great deal of effort has gone into ensuring the furore over detainee abuse does not recur. Rules governing the use of pepper spray (Oleoresin Capsicum, or OC) appear at an earlier point in the manual with considerable expansion. Infractions such as spitting, throwing water at, or attempting to urinate on guards appear as explicitly listed cases where pepper spray may not be used. Extensive decontamination procedures are included in the document, including immediately calling for a medical check on any detainee exposed to pepper spray. This was not previously present.
As a counter to the clearer instructions on use of pepper spray, Wikileaks asserts that many of the stricter rules for guards (referred to as Military Police or MPs in the 2003 manual) aim to reduce fraternisation that may improve detainee morale and adversely influence any interrogation process. Guards are informed in the manual not to take personal mail and parcels within the detention blocks or at any other duty stations. All electronic devices except issued materiel are prohibited, and guards may face disciplinary action should they keep detainees apprised of current affairs or discuss issues in their personal lives.
Additional restrictions on the detainees’ chaplain are included in the revised document. Wikileaks speculated that many of these changes might have stemmed from the widely publicised case of James Yee. Captain Yee, a West Point graduate, served at the Guantanamo Bay base as a Muslim chaplain to the detainees and received two Distinguished Service medals for his work. Following discovery of a list of detainees and interrogators by U.S. Customs in Florida Yee was charged with sedition, aiding the enemy, spying, espionage, and failure to obey a general order. Eventually all charges were dropped with national security concerns being raised should evidence be released.
The most notable changes surrounding the role of the chaplain include its removal as a permanent position on the facility’s Library Working group and its exclusion from the decision process on appropriate detainee reading material. Wikileaks contacted lawyers representing detainees in the camp to perform their own analysis. Their opinion of the changes were that the library operation had been considerably tightened up. Duplicate books are required for the individual four camps to prevent covert use of books to communicate between camps. Periodicals, dictionaries, language instruction books, technology or medical update information, and geography were additions to the prohibited material. Instructions indicate such books must be returned to the source or donor.
The revised SOP manual makes considerable progress on documenting procedures, even those that are remote possibilities. A lengthy addition details rules to follow in the event of an escape or escape attempt. Laced throughout this procedure is an emphasis on having any such incident fully documented and – wherever possible – filmed. The procedure is explicit in how to recapture an escaped detainee with minimal use of force. One additional procedure covers the admission of ambulances to the main base area. A detailed security protocol to ensure only expected and authorised traffic gains access is included, as is a procedure streamlined to ensure the ambulance arrives on the scene as quickly as possible.
Unchanged from the 2003 manual is the set menu of four ready-to-eat meals (Meal, Ready-to-Eat or MRE) issued to detainees. However, additional steps are to be taken for “MRE Sanitization”; supply personnel must remove anything that can damage waste disposal systems— presumably a military term for toilets. Under normal camp conditions, detainees should be fed hot meals as opposed to MREs, but no details on the variety of menu are included.
Wikinews attempted to get feedback on this. US Southern Command passed a query on to Rick Haupt (Commander, U.S. Navy Director of Public Affairs, Joint Task Force at Guantanamo) who responded that “questions were forwarded along with a request to authenticate the leaked document; a response is pending.” At this time no response to emails has been received from the ICRC or Human Rights Watch.
The Pentagon has requested that the document be removed from Wikileaks because “information with the FOUO (For Official Use Only) label is not approved for release to the public.” They then state that the document can be “made available through a Freedom Of Information Act request through official channels.”