The media organization WikiLeaks has released the first of more than one hundred classified or “otherwise restricted” policies from the US Department of Defense that lay out rules and procedures for detainees in US military custody. The “Detainee Policies” show how the US military has handled detention for the past decade and will be released over the course of the next month, according to a press release.

On the first day of the release, five policies have been posted. The most significant of the postings is the 2002 manual for Camp Delta at the Guantanamo Bay prison.

WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange said of the manual, “This document is of significant historical importance. Guantanamo Bay has become the symbol for systematized human rights abuse in the West with good reason.”

The manual contains the following “Confinement Philosophy.”

A detainee is not confined more punishment or discipline by any person, except as provided by law or regulation. Hazing, corporal punishment, harassment, unauthorized exercises, unnecessary restrictions, deprivations and demeaning treatment serve no useful purpose and are prohibited. This SOP sets forth regulations and procedures that ensure fair, firm, impartial and humane treatment of detainees in compliance with law, regulation and United States Military Policy.

This “philosophy” has not been followed. For example, it was widely reported in 2005 that Erik Saar, a former Army sergeant and Arabic translator, was writing a book on his experience in Camp Delta. In the camp, “female interrogators” had “tried to break Muslim detainees at the US prison camp in Guantanamo Bay by sexual touching, wearing miniskirts and thong underwear and in one case smearing a Saudi man’s face with fake menstrual blood.” That definitely would be “demeaning treatment” that serves “no useful purpose” other than to break a prisoner and humiliate him.

Amnesty International USA executive director Suzanne Nossel reacted to the release:

These documents underscore the need for a thorough accounting of the US government’s handling of detainees. Despite some reform and the Obama administration’s rhetoric, human rights violations under the guise of national security continue –including detention without charge, unfair military commission trials and impunity for torture.

The constant drip of disturbing revelations, without a full and impartial investigation and accountability, becomes the responsibility of not only the leaders during the time the abuses were committed, but also the current leaders, who subsequently turned a blind eye to the mountains of evidence and the obligation to mount such an investigation…

Nossel called for an end to secrecy that is covering up the scale of what has gone on at US military prisons like Guantanamo and demanded accountability for past crimes.

WikiLeaks says the policies that are to be released offer a “more complete understanding of the instructions given to captors as well as the ’rights’ afforded to detainees.” It hopes lawyers, NGOs and human rights activists and the public will “mine” these policies and investigate them. In particular, it hopes that “denial of access” to the International Committee of the Red Cross to “detainee facilities” will be scrutinized.

In the 2002 Camp Delta manual, there is a line in the section, “Under Maximum Security Unit (MSU) Operations.” that reads, “An alpha roster will be maintained on the block identifying by ISN number the Detainees on the block. This log will also indicate which Detainees may be interviewed by ICRC.” The ICRC was only to see certain detainees, presumably the ones who had not suffered the worst torture by CIA or military officers.

WikiLeaks will be releasing standard operating procedures and fragmentary orders, which they call “policies of unaccountability.” In particular, 2008 Fragmentary Order will be released in the coming days. This order, according to the press release, was designed to minimize “the record-keeping surrounding interrogations.”

Following revelations of torture tapes and pictures from Abu Ghraib and the political scandal over the destruction of Central Intelligence Agency interrogation tapes, the FRAGO eliminates “the requirement to record interrogation sessions at Theatre Internment Facilities”. Although the FRAGO goes on to state that interrogations that take place at Division Internment Facilities and Brigade Internment Facilities must be recorded, it then states that these should be “purged within 30 days.” This policy was subsequently reversed by the new Obama administration.

The organization also announces it will be releasing “a 13-page interrogation policy document from 2005” that “relates to all personnel in the Multi-National Force–Iraq (MNF–I).” What this details is “approved” “interrogation approaches.” It includes mention of an “exploitative technique” the document terms the “Emotional Love Approach.” This encourages officers to play on the love “a detained person has for family, homeland or comrades.” It also mentions the “Fear Up (Harsh” approach, which encourages interrogators to behave in “an overpowering manner with a loud and threatening voice in order to convince the source he does indeed have something to fear; that he has no option but to co-operate.”

Finally, there are documents related to Camp Bucca in Iraq, according to WikiLeaks, that will be released. In 2009, CBS News reported on soldiers who had abused prisoners at the camp and even shot them dead.

The soldier, who doesn’t want to be identified by name, said she joined the military to get help with the cost of college. She ended up guarding thousands of prisoners in Iraq.

“If we shoot any more of the Iraqis, or attack any of them, they’re gonna supposedly come in and attack the camp,” she says on tape. “But we’ll believe that when it actually happens, because we’ve already killed another Iraqi just last night when I was working. So I don’t know what’s going on…”

The report indicated at least one soldier believed there were people in the prison, who had “raped” US soldier Jessica Lynch. They engaged in “vigilante justice” against these prisoners and were given administrative dismissals. They were never court-martialed.

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."