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Changes in Guantanamo Bay SOP manual (2003-2004)

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Tuesday December 3, 2007

Guantánamo bay detainees, blindfolded, ear-muffed, gloved and hooded, awaiting processing


Wikileaks has released the 2004 Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) manual for Camp Delta, Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The transparency group's disclosure follows its widely reported release of the 2003 SOP manual only a few weeks ago. A comparison between the two leaks reveals changes to official US detainee policy in exquisite detail. Wikileaks has also released another related sensitive US military manual entitled "Detainee Operations in a Joint Environment", which is a defense-wide instruction manual for detainee operations including rendition flights, which has yet to be analyzed — Wikileaks invites journalists and the public to persue it.

Wikileaks journalists and leading Habeas Corpus lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights examined the 2004 SOP manual. Among the key details found so far are:

1. Non-compliance with the Geneva Conventions remains official US Policy,

according to leading Habeas Corpus lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights. Systematic denial of Red Cross access to prisoners remains. The use of dogs remains. Segregation and isolation are still used routinely and systematically – including an initial period of at least 4 weeks "to enhance and exploit the disorientation and disorganization felt by a newly arrived detainee", only terminated at the behest of interrogators. Both manuals assert that detainees will be treated in accordance with the "spirit" of the Geneva conventions "to the degree consistent with military needs", but never assert that the conventions are actually being followed at Guantanamo. Put into practice, neither manual complies with the Geneva conventions.

2. Extraordinary increases in petty restrictions.

detail from the "Camp Delta Standard Operating Procedures" manual shows a camp layout at the Guantánamo Bay military detention facility.

No dictionaries or periodicals and no books about English or geography; guards are not permitted to discuss "current" affairs, even including the then year old 2003 space shuttle disaster; and no looking at 'distinguished visitors' – down to precise procedures for bodily averting detainee gaze.

3. Increased hostility towards chaplains and Red Cross.

Despite criticism from the Red Cross, the 2004 manual uses even more hostile and suspicious language towards the international humanitarian body – and is still barred from access to some detainees. Further, probably in response to the actions of James Yee, the prison chaplain who spoke out about conditions at Guantanamo Bay, new rules prevent the chaplain performing many duties without official authorization or accompaniment.

4. “Medium security” Camp 4 exposed as media sideshow.

A new chapter added rules for this separate prison, with personel required to have “excellent public relations (PR) skills”.

5. “Don't do that again!” changes provide evidence for abuses.

Many rule changes have little other explanation than as response to particular abuses, raising questions for the Pentagon. Did guards use Capsicum Spray on detainees merely for throwing water? Did guards eat portions of detainee meals? Were haircuts used as punishment? And more.

6. Changes reveal extent of suicide and self-harm attempts among detainees.

The extent and detail of these changes reveals the extent of problems among detainees – and also, the extent to which the military went to cover them up.

Page 135 of Detainee Operations in a Joint Environment one of many pages devoted to the detailed arrangements for the air-transportation, blindfolding, ear-muffing, gloving and shackling of US military detainees.

7. Pervasive spin via language control 'hunger strike' becomes VTF - 'voluntary total fasting'. The word “suicide” is virtually removed from the document. Even an attempted hanging requiring someone to cut down is categorized as “self-harm”, despite "self-harm" elsewhere being defined as actions that could not be fatal.

8. Some things change, but some things remain the same.

Much of the manual is unchanged. Military dogs are still used prevalently. New detainees are still placed in isolation for 4 weeks. Toilet paper is still regarded as a luxury “comfort item”. Styrofoam cups are still confiscated if written on.


See also the as yet unreported document

Sample quote from this unanalyzed document:

(1) On-board the aircraft:

(a)Detainees will be shackled (cuffed) to leg and wrist irons connected to belly irons and the aircraft.
(b)Detainees will be blindfolded at all times.
(c)Detainee’s gloves will remain in place at all times.
(d)Detainees will have ear/hearing muffs on.

External links:

Thanks to Jen Nessel from the Center for Constitutional Rights for additional co-ordination and Christopher Findlay for additional research, but most of all we would like to acknowledge our source, Peryton.

Pervasive changes

Language control

  • "hunger strike(s)" changed to "Voluntary Total Fasting" or "VTF"
  • "suicide" changed to "self-harm" (even though "self-harm" is elsewhere defined in the 2004 SOP as excluding potentially fatal behavior).


  • Substantial reduction in the Chaplain's role and powers.

Textual changes

  • "MP" (military police) becomes "guards".
  • "golf carts" changed to "Gators".
  • "Annex E Air Bridge Operations" becomes "Annex E/SIPR Detainee Movement Operations (DMO)".
  • "recreation" changed to "exercise".
  • "MSU", "Maximum Security Unit" changed to "SHU", "Special Housing Unit" or "seggregation".


Addition of "CAMP DELTA RULES":- eight broard rules for detainees, to be publically posted around the camp. The rules set out a doctrine of rewards and punishments. They ban, among other things, "organized physical fitness". The general tone is given by the concluding line: "Your decision whether or not to be truthful and comply will directly affect your quality of life while in this camp."

Chapter 1: Introduction

SOP now updated every 30 days, as opposed to every 120 (1-2 e).

In US Personnel standards of conduct (1-7), list of contraband items for personnel (i.e US personnel can't have these things inside the facility). Now includes personal mail/parcels, electronic devices such as DVD/CD players, PDAs and earrings.

Whistles, if clipped on a guard pocket, must now be clipped to the left pocket. (an example of the minor changes).

DELETED 'All soldiers will carry the US SOUTHCOM Human Rights Standing Orders” card on them at all times.'

Chapter 2: Command and Control

Sargent of the Guard increased from 3 to 4 on each shift.

Chapter 3: Detainee Reception Operations

Some reorganisation.

Section 3-2 moved to Infantry SOP.

New sections 3-8 - 3-12. Preparations for detainees arriving/leaving. Before leaving, detainees are given items including prayer beads, prayer cap, Koran, book, bag, jeans, klenex, wet wipes, comb. In addition two PSYOP (psychological operations) messages are to be broadcast about the detainee and a feast prepared for departing detainees in camp 4.

No major substantive changes.

Chapter 4: Detainee Processing

4-18 (Post processing) remains the same "Collect and turn over handcuffs, leg irons, padlocks, and goggles to the JDOG S-3 Section for return to the Air Force."

Some change to section 4-20 (Behavior management plan). Purpose unchanged: “to enhance and exploit the disorientation and disorganization felt by a newly arrived detainee in the interrogation process”. For phase 1 (first 2 weeks), still no ICRC or chaplain contact, no books or mail, one styorofoam cup, one bar of soap, etc. Now they get Koran, but still no prayer beads or prayer cap. After phase 2 (second 2-week period), the interrogator will give them prayer beads and prayer cap. Phase 2 still fosters dependence on interrogator, prevents contact with the ICRC (Red Cross) and keeps the detainee at the most severe isolation / punishment level (5) until the intelligence group changes classification. i.e without intervention, detainees face severe conditions, including isolation from the ICRC for one month.

“MSU” (Maximum security Unit) now called “SHU” (Special Housing Unit).

Chapter 5: Detention Facility Operations

Substantial reorganisation/consolidation/addition of technical/procedural sections. Section on Capsicum Spray (was 5-10, now 5-2): still used to control unruly detainees. Previously “Do not use OC to respond to spitters or urinators”, now “Do not use OC to respond to spitters, urinators or water throwers.” New procedures for decontamination of individuals suffering from spray.

New section on video camera operations, guidelines for filming incidents (5-16, 5-16a), which includes the rather incredible statement "Think like an editor as you shoot! Let technique master technology; don't let technology become your master. The best equipment in the world will never replace creativity and reasoning", apparently taken from "VIDEO GUIDE LINES FOR EVIDENCE SCENES".

New section 5-19 on Quick Reaction Force training. Drills now to take place at least once per every eight hour shift.

Chapter 6: Cell Block Operations

New sections in overview 6-1. No items to be left within reach of a cell. “Numerous items left in these areas have been grabbed by detainees and taken into their cell.”

Headcounts (6-2) more often. Previously a random headcount in every 2-hour shift. Now a headcount at the start of every shift, and an additional 3 random headcounts throughout the shift, max 3 hours apart.

Search section (6-3) expanded. Step-by-step procedure for pat down searches (including “Search the flip flop”). Not allowed to touch detainee between waist and bottom of shorts. Officer can request cavity search.

Addition in 6-4 (searching the Koran). If Koran damaged or destroyed by a detainee, the chaplain and interpreter will take the Koran from the detainee for at least 10 days. “The chaplain must ensure the block knows the Koran is being taken to protect the Koran, not punish the detainee.”

Shackling policy (6-7) unchanged.

Shower and exercise policy (6-8) changed. Previously 20 minutes recreation, 2 times a week, and level 1 detainees get 3 times a week. Now level 1 detainees get 30 minutes for exercise. Clarify that 5 minute shower time cannot be substituted for additional recreation time. Previously level 1 detainees could walk to/from shower/recreation without leg irons, only handcuffs and waist belt; now level 2 also included. Now level 1 detainees exercise together in pairs.

Detainee mess operations (6-9) expanded. Added: “At no time will any guard force personnel eat any portion of a detainee meal.” Detailed contents given of MREs (meals ready to eat), so that detainees do not retain wrappers/cutlery.

Section on handling of intelligence directed reading material whose library ID begins with "I" (6-12 f) deleted.

Documentation and behavioral tracking section (6-15) substantially revised.

Addition to guidelines for passive intelligence collection by guards (6-16): “There is always significant activity occurring on a block. There should be no DIMS SIGACT sheet filled out with “Nothing to report”.” Guards should note "Who is leader and who is follower". Other small revisions.

Addition to detainee standards of conduct (6-21): “Detainees may only hang wet clothing and linen items in cell windows so that they may dry. Once dry, they must be removed. Blankets or sheets may be temporarily hung up, no higher than half way up the cell walls, to provide privacy while using the toilet. Once the detainee has completed using the toilet, the blankets and sheets must be taken down.”

Edits to uniform an dress rules for detainees (6-23): section on sleeves rolled up removed. Detainees in camps 1, 2, 3 may now remove orange suit top while in cell or exercise.

New sections (6-24, 6-25) for detainees with prosthetics, requiring walkers.

New section (6-26): detainee comfort during inclement weather. From December-March, window flaps put up 2300-0500.

Chapter 7: Sally Port Operations

A number of procedural changes.

Added paragraph (7-2 1 f), likely in response to smuggling by DoD personnel "All classified document pouches will be checked by feeling the bag for prohibited items. If something suspicious is found, request that the individual remove the item for inspection."

New section (7-8) on identification badges.

Chapter 8: Detainee Behavioral Management

Purpose unchanged: consequences for negative/positive behavior.

Addition to discipline process (8-3): “Haircuts will never be used as punitive action against a detainee.”

Addition to “comfort items” procedures (8-6): linen and pens are to be exchanged one-to-one “to track who is flushing items”. And level 1 travel-type toothbrush “will only be issued once a month”.

Detainee classification system (8-7) unchanged.

In section on confiscation of items (8-10), all sections relating to suicide blankets and smocks removed. Now “All cells, except those designated for self-harm or have self-harm detainees in them, will have a mask to hold the Koran.” Previously incomplete section on additional toilet paper now completed: “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.”

Chapter 9: Segregation Operations (previously Maximum Security Units)

Addition to in-processing to segregation (9-1): “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.”

Add a paragraph (9-2 n) to prevent detainees from covering more than half of their tiolet/shower window.

Changes to operations (9-3): Now two guards always on patrol (previously unspecified). Now air conditioning set at 85 degrees (previously within 5 degrees of last week's average high temperature). References to suicide prevention blankets removed. Now each cell explicitly has an assigned Koran. Now detainees may only cover the lower half of viewing window while using bathroom, and then covering must be removed. Now no nail clippers issued during shower and exercise.

New section (9-4): segregation time can be extended.

Chapter 10: NAVSTA Brig Operations

No major changes.

Chapter 11: Escort operations

Some reorganisation and expansion of technical procedures.

Added paragraph supressing visual contact between detainees and visitors (11-5): "Upon the approach of any Distinguished Visitor (DV), an escort team moving a detainee will stop movement and face the detainee away from the passing DV. Once the DV or DV party has passed, the escort team will resume movement of the detainee."

Chapter 12: Detainee Property

No major changes.

Chapter 13: Detainee Mail Operations

Mail Management System MMS database now called DOCEX (Document Exploitation).

Some reorganization/consolidation of sections and procedures.

Incoming mail procedures (13-1) expanded: now there is an “Initial Review”.

In ICRC mail procedures (13-5), warning against Red Cross taking out unscreened mail now capitalized: “UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCE MAY UNSCREENED MAIL LEAVE THE DETENTION FACILITY.”

Reasons for redacting mail removed from this chapter, instead reference is given to the new OPSEC section, appearing elsewhere in the document.

Extra capitalisation in warning against passing mail (13-19): Was “At no time should anyone from the detainee mail section pass mail or any other items from one detainee to another”. Now “AT NO TIME should anyone...”. And also for the Red Cross: Was “At no time should ICRC reps pass any mail”, now “AT NO TIME should ICRC reps pass any mail”

New sectio

Chapter 14: Intelligence Operations

Communications matrix, link diagram (14-5), leadership matrix (14-6) mail screening (14-8) unchanged.

Addition to JIIF Guard Personnel tasks (14-12): “Guards must physically inspect each room prior to and after a detainee occupies the room.”

SCIF security (14-13) unchanged.

Chapter 15: Linguist Operations

Document Exploitaiton DOCEX procedures (15-6) unchanged.

Substantial additional restriction in access to reading materials e.g for the most co-operative detainees (level 1) there is now one book per week permitted with no renewal, with all requests going through and requiring approval from their interrogator.

Library procedures (15-9) reorganised, edited. Addition: “No current periodicals will come into the camp.”. All book requests must now go through the interrogator and be approved by the interrogator. Still no English instruction materials permitted. Levels 1-3 still allowed Koran, levels 4-5 can only receive reading material by exception at the interrogator's request. Additions to prohibited content (still has extremism, anti-Semitism, anti-Americanism, etc.): “Dictionaries”, “Language Instruction”, “Technology/Medical Updates”, “Geography”.

Passive collection of intelligence by linguist section (15-10, 15-11) removed.

Chapter 16: Religious support

Chaplain's freedom restricted (16-1): Was “The chaplain is authorized unaccompanied access to the detainee holding areas and will be allowed to speak freely with detainees... The chaplain may request an MP escort in circumstances where personal security is of concern.” Now “The chaplain is authorized access to the detainee holding areas and will be allowed to speak with detainees... The chaplain will be assigned an escort.”

From bad to worse in religious practices section (16-2): Was “At no time will personnel working at Camp Delta will not [sic] say or act in a manner that disrespectful [sic] to any religion or religious practice.” Now “Personnel working at Camp Delta act in a manner that is disrespectful to any religion or religious practice.” [sic!]

Chaplain disempowered in section on chaplain requests (16-3): In 2003 version, for fasting periods, chaplain writes an announcement to be read of the PA system and reads it. In 2004 version, chaplain still writes announcement but interpreter reads the English version.

Chaplain further disempowered in section on muslim prayer (16-5) by shift to passive voice: Was “The chaplain will provide prayer times and are announced by camp personnel [sic].” Now “Call to prayer will be announced over the PA”.

Reference to chaplain in 16-13 removed: was “The chaplain will provide specific religious items” and the list of items.

In cultural considerations section (16-14), some sentences removed: “During Ramadan, the detainees will for the most part be non-argumentative and non-confrontational as to not upset their fast.” “If you do not understand what is going on or have questions about some cultural practice, ask the Islamic Chaplain.”

Religious items section (16-17) expanded with logistical details. Meals no-longer required to be served promptly (within 15 or 45 minutes) after fasting (16-17 2) and (16-17 4), but merely "after sundown" etc.

Chapter 17: International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)

Additions to operations procedures (17-2): guards to identify detainees which are security risks to Red Cross; Red Cross must be aware of “scheduled guard feeding times” and adjust their schedule accordingly; "The ICRC is restricted from all buildings without prior approval from JDOG operations except the Detention Clinic and the Detention Hospital."

Visitations rules (17-3) essentially unchanged. Same levels of visitation apply. One slight change: ICRC may now visit other detainees on a block after visiting a specific deetainee, as long as the detainee's visitation level permits the visit.

Chapter 18: Food service

No major changes.

Chapter 19: Detainee health services

Some reorganization of sections.

In restraint procedures (19-1), reference to suicide prevention smocks deleted.

Section on self-harm blankets and smocks (19-3) deleted.

In Sick Room (19-4), paragraph on medical treatment added: "In the event the Medical Officer/Designated Representative deems it necessary to evaluate a detainee in his cell, the medic or representative shall be accompanied by two guards after the detainee has been restrained in a three-piece suit. Freeing of one limb at a time may be permitted for the purpose of conducting a medical exam."

Section on combat lifesavers (19-7) shortened.

Section on hunger strike (19-8) renamed “Voluntary Total Fasting and Re-Feeding”.

Supplemental feeding (19-8) now considered when body mass index is below 16.

Chapter 20: Repair and Utility

No major changes.

Chapter 21: Force protection

Formatting changes. No major substantive changes.

Chapter 22: Key control

No major changes.

Chapter 23: External security operations

No major changes.

Chapter 24: Immediate Reaction Force Operations

No major changes.

Chapter 25: Quick Response Force (QRF) Operations

Minor changes to uniform section (25-5).

Chapter 26: Military Working Dogs (MWD)

No major changes.

Chapter 27: Operational Security (OPSEC) and Deceptive Lighting Plan

New section 27-6 OPSEC Guidelines and Violations: “Some of our biggest OPSEC violations are things that do not increase our probability of attack from an external enemy, but instead make it more difficult for guards, interrogators, linguist, and medical personnel to complete our missions.” Do not discuss “current world events or history.. such as the situation in the Middle East, the destruction of the Space Shuttle, or information concerning terrorist groups or personnel.” Do not discuss operational information. Do not share “opinions or initiate discussions” about irrelevant topics, such as “teaching detainees songs, phrases in English, Spanish, or other languages.” Do not allow detainees to see the sign-in roster. “This has led to a detainee knowing names of several US personnel.” Do not “Conduct conversations critical of another unit... This also has happened, and will not be tolerated.” But “OPSEC does not preclude a guard from asking a detainee how he is doing, ... or answering routine questions.” Do not record “operational or detainee information anywhere but inside Camp Delta... or keep personal journals with specific Camp Delta records and information.” Do not make any reference to a detainee's identity other than his serial number. “OPSEC is not just keeping secret the big picture information like how many troops we have”. Rather many soldiers “have information that could be detrimental to our mission if the media knew of it or detainees became aware of it.”

Chapter 28: Public Affairs

No major changes.

Chapter 29: Transitions

No major changes.

Chapter 30: Delta Behavioral Healthcare Block

Major expansion (2003 chapter seems unfinished). Lots of details of medical care.

Section on “Crisis/Mass Casualty Response” 30-4: “The primary consideration in any crisis or mass casualty situation is security and safety.”

Separate non-acute (30-5) and acute (30-6) sections, with self-harm precautions.

Procedures for restraints and seclusion (30-8).

Chapter 31: Supply Operations

New section on MRE sanitization (31-5). Lists contents of MREs; items considered harmful are to be removed.

New section on equipment turn in (31-6).

Chapter 32: Emergency Action Plans (EAPs)

Section on Attempted/Actual Self-Harm (32-1) (previously “Attempted/Actual Suicide”) much expanded with responsibilities for different officers and more detailed procedures.

Section on mass casualty incidents (32-10) much expanded/revised. Particular responsibilities, detailed procedures.

New section on escape and apprehension (32-13)

New section on alarm system (32-16).

New section on “Camp coordinated contraband search & seizure” (32-17). Full search of the whole camp or part of it. “Best executed at night”, takes 12 hours for camps 1-3 then 10 hours for camp 4.

Chapter 33: Camp 4 Standard Operating Procedures

New chapter. Separate set of procedures for camp 4 “medium security detention operations”.

Focus includes “medium security setting” as “incentive for detainees to cooperate”, and “increased privileges and rewards result in more cooperative detainee mind-set” (33-1).

Separate procedures for manning (33-2), leave (33-3), chain of command (33-4), service and support (33-5), personnel responsibilities (33-6), general rules (33-7), bay rules (33-8), bay leader responsibilities (33-12), laundry/linen exchange (33-13), cleaning duties (33-14), radio call signs (33-15), fire evacuation plan (33-16), gator maintenance (33-18), logbooks (33-19), radio/telephone transmissions (33-20), NIPR accounts (33-21), break area (33-22), storage lockers (33-23), PA system (33-24), detainee movement (33-25), medical personnel (33-26), uniform (33-27), detainee movement operations (33-28), duress codes (33-29).

Different types of recreation and separate rules for them (33-9). Normal recreation time 30 minutes then 30 minutes to shower. 1 hour for meals. “If a volleyball or soccer ball leaves the designated area, a detainee will request permission or receive acknowledgement [sic] to retrieve the ball.” “Detainees will not climb any fence in Camp 4.”

Very detailed procedures for self-harm incidents (33-17), down to 5 second intervals.

Chapter 34: Commissions

New chapter. Procedures for securing commission proceedings.

Sections for quick reaction force teams (34-1), disturbances in the courtroom (34-2), medical emergency (34-3), fire (34-4), bomb threat (34-5), ambush while escorting detainees to hearings (34-6).


Required Reading


  • AR 190-29 Misdemeanors and Uniform Violation Notices Referred to US Magistrates or District Courts, 1 MAR 84
  • AR 195-1 Army Criminal Investigation Program, 12 AUG 74
  • AR 195-2 Criminal Investigation Activities, 30 OCT 85
  • AR 385-40 Accident Reporting and Records, Army Accident Investigation Reporting, 1 NOV 94
  • FM 19-20 Law Enforcement Investigations
  • MOU Concerning Investigation Responsibilities of the NAVBASE Command Investigations and Joint Detention Operation Group, Camp Delta Detention Facility MPI Section
  • MOU Concerning Naval Criminal Investigative Services (NCIS)/Military Police Investigation (MPI) Section Investigative Responsibilities at the Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF GTMO) Camp Delta Detention Facility
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