Wikileaks starts releasing “The Detainee Policies” files: more than 100 classified files from the United States Department of Defense covering the rules and procedures for detainees in U.S. military custody
Starting today, Thursday, 25th October 2012, WikiLeaks begins releasing the ‘Detainee Policies’: more than 100 classified or otherwise restricted files from the United States Department of Defense covering the rules and procedures for detainees in U.S. military custody. Over the next month, WikiLeaks will release in chronological order the United States’ military detention policies followed for more than a decade. The documents include the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) of detention camps in Iraq and Cuba, interrogation manuals and Fragmentary Orders (FRAGOs) of changes to detainee policies and procedures. A number of the ‘Detainee Policies’ relate to Camp Bucca in Iraq, but there are also Department of Defense-wide policies and documents relating to Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and European U.S. Army Prison facilities.
Among the first to be released is the foundation document for Guantanamo Bay (“Camp Delta”) – the 2002 Camp Delta SOP manual. The release of the ‘Detainee Policies’ marks three years of Camp Delta (Guantanamo Bay) SOP manuals released by WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks has now released the main Guantanamo Bay operating manuals for 2002, 2003 and 2004. The previously unpublished 2002 manual went on to shape successive years in the Guantanamo Bay prison complex and other U.S. military prisons around the world, such as Abu Ghraib. “This document is of significant historical importance. Guantanamo Bay has become the symbol for systematised human rights abuse in the West with good reason,” said WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. “But how is it that WikiLeaks has now published three years of Guantanamo Bay operating procedures, but the rest of the world’s press combined has published none?”
In relation to Iraq, the release includes Operation Orders (OPORD) regarding policies for screening and interrogating detainees. The documents also include routine instructions relating to staffing, scheduling of legal visitation, procedures for administering medical treatment, how medical records and daily staff journals are to be kept, cigarette rationing and what items are “authorised for detainee possession”.
A number of what can only be described as ‘policies of unaccountability’ will also be released. One such document is the 2005 document ‘Policy on Assigning Detainee Internment Serial Numbers’. This document is concerned with discreetly ‘disappearing’ detainees into the custody of other U.S. government agencies while keeping their names out of U.S. military central records – by systematically holding off from assigning a prisoner record number (ISN). Even references to this document are classified “SECRET//NOFORN”. Detainees may be disposed of in this manner without leaving a significant paper trail.
Another formal policy of unaccountability is a 2008 Fragmentary Order that minimises 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.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said: “The ‘Detainee Policies’ show the anatomy of the beast that is post-9/11 detention, the carving out of a dark space where law and rights do not apply, where persons can be detained without a trace at the convenience of the U.S. Department of Defense. It shows the excesses of the early days of war against an unknown ‘enemy’ and how these policies matured and evolved, ultimately deriving into the permanent state of exception that the United States now finds itself in, a decade later.”
A number of documents relate to the policies surrounding the interrogation of detainees (2004, 2005, 2008). Direct physical violence is prohibited, in writing, but a formal policy of terrorising detainees during interrogations, combined with a policy of destroying interrogation recordings, has led to abuse and impunity. We learn of policies that apply to international forces: a 13-page interrogation policy document from 2005 relates to all personnel in the Multi-National Force–Iraq (MNF–I). It details “approved” “interrogation approaches”. The documents detail the promotion of exploitative techniques such as the “Emotional Love Approach: Playing on the love a detained person has for family, homeland or comrades”. In the “Fear Up (Harsh)” approach, by contrast, “the interrogator behaves 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”.
The ‘Detainee Policies’ provide a more complete understanding of the instructions given to captors as well as the ‘rights’ afforded to detainees. We call upon lawyers, NGOs, human rights activists and the public to mine the ‘Detainee Policies’ and investigate important issues such as the denial of access to the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) to detainee facilities, as well as to research and compare the different generations of SOPs and FRAGOs to help us better understand the evolution in these policies and why they have occurred. Publicise your findings using the hashtag #WLfindDP