Leaked Guantanamo Manual Shows Red Cross Denied Access to Groups of Detainees

CONTACT: Jen Nessel, [email protected]

November 16, 2007, New York – After the recent leak of the "Camp Delta Standard Operating Procedures Manual" from March 2003 [attached at the bottom of the release], the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) called for action to address what it considered one of the most troubling aspects of the document, the denial and restriction of access by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to variously designated groups of detainees at the camp. The results of Red Cross visits are not made public, but access is mandated in order to ensure the humane treatment of all prisoners.

Geneva Conventions
The 2003 SOP manual sharply restricts Red Cross access to Guantánamo prisoners, in direct violation of Article 26 of Common Article III of the Geneva Convention of 1949. The SOP manual states that “All detainees will have a level of ICRC contact designated for them” – the four levels being “No Access,” “Restricted,” “Unrestricted,” and “Visual.” Yet the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war states that the ICRC “shall have access to all premises occupied by prisoners of war,” be able to interview the prisoners without witnesses present, and that the “duration and frequency of these visits shall not be restricted.”

According to CCR attorneys, one of the reasons the government created the new designations “enemy combatant” and “unlawful enemy combatant” was to circumvent Geneva requirements that the Red Cross be allowed to monitor the treatment of people held in U.S. custody. The government went further in creating a system of secret CIA black sites where “ghost detainees” could be kept entirely hidden from view and subject to what President Bush called “an alternative set of procedures” that are widely believed to have included waterboarding and other forms of torture. It recently came to light that the administration has continued this program after having told the world it was suspended more than a year ago.

Despite the written policy in the SOP manual, in December 2003, the head of the U.S. delegation to the International Conference of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent told a press briefing, “we feel that all aspects of the Geneva convention have been met and as you know the ICRC has access to Guantánamo and that is an important part of the responsibilities that always has existed for the ICRC.”

The SOP manual has a cover page by Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller that authorizes its use. Miller was commander of prison camps at the time and, according to the Miami Herald “repeatedly told reporters that the International Committee of the Red Cross ICRC had full access at the Pentagon's showcase detention and interrogation center.”

A State Department spokesperson told The New York Times in 2005, “there's no legal requirement [to provide ICRC access to Guantánamo]. Nevertheless, and even though we're not required to do so, we do provide access to the vast majority of detainees under our control, and we do accord Geneva protections to them.”

In February 2006 White House press secretary Scott McClellan said, “The International Committee for the Red Cross has been provided full access to the detainees [at Guantánamo].”

Calls for Transparency

Given the administration’s contradictory statements about CIA ghost detainees, who then and now are kept hidden from the Red Cross, and the revelation of four designations of access to the men at Guantánamo at least up until 2003, attorneys with the Center for Constitutional Rights called for a full accounting by the U.S. government of all levels of ICRC access to all men and women and children in its custody.

“The Pentagon claims that the manual is out of date and has been replaced by a new set of policies,”
said CCR Senior Attorney Shayana Kadidal. “The burden is on the Bush administration to make the new manual public. It's clear that the administration has been less than forthcoming about the ICRC’s access to prisoners in the past, so it's up to them to prove that they’ve cleaned up their act.”

State Department Reports Criticize Other Countries for Lack of ICRC Access
There is a stark contrast between the Pentagon's written policy of concealing prisoners from the ICRC or restricting ICRC access to them on the one hand and the U.S. State Department's repeated declarations that the ICRC is the international guarantor of prisoner protection on the other. The State Department's annual Human Rights reports routinely cite the ICRC as the authority on the condition of prisoners. Not only has the State Department repeatedly cited unrestricted ICRC prison inspections as a mark of probity, it has also held any restrictions on ICRC inspections up to sharp criticism, as it did in the 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2005 and 2006 reports on Tajikistan, 2005 and 2006 reports on human rights in Eritrea, the 2005 reports on Armenia and Macedonia, the 2002 and 2003 reports on Iraq, and the 2002 reports on Malaysia and Uzbekistan.

Styrofoam cups
While the Pentagon claims the manual is out of date, it not only documents illegal behavior but shines a light on government treatment of the men in its custody. Entries range from the withholding of religious articles and the aggressive use of dogs to intimidate the men to the handling of Styrofoam cups: “If the cup is damaged or destroyed, the detainee will be disciplined for destruction of government property.”

“As bad as the Guantánamo SOP manual is, we must not forget that the United States government has at least 39 ghost detainees that we’ve documented together with other human rights groups. These are prisoners held in secret sites in Egypt, Kenya, Libya, Morocco, Pakistan, and Spain, where no one outside the government knows where they are, how they are being abused or even if they are alive,” Kadidal continued [report available here]. “If the military routinely conceals the existence of some prisoners who are being kept in a site like Guantánamo that the ICRC knows about and visits, imagine what they do with prisoners who are held in secret locations.”

SOP Manual Details
Attorneys representing Guantánamo detainees listed what they considered other interesting or troubling items in the manual:
4-20. Behavior Management Plan. Designed to "enhance and exploit the disorientation and disorganization felt by a newly arrived detainee in the interrogation process. It concentrates on isolating the detainee and fostering dependence of the detainee on his interrogator." No Koran or religious items allowed.
5-2 ff, 6-13 ff. Provides long list and descriptions of records kept at the camp (daily reports, incident reports, etc.). Many blank forms are appended to the manual.
5-2. Notes that "writing on cups" is considered contraband.
6-4. Provides SOP for searching Koran.
6-9. Styrofoam cups, among other items, are to be inventoried. There seems to be an obsession throughout the manual on keeping track of Styrofoam cups.
6-15. Instructions not to use the word "suicide" in various logs; instead must "use the phrase 'self-injurious behavior' in all documentation." Also, "significant activities" to be logged include passing notes on foam cups, leading prayer, etc.
8-3. Provides rules for sending a prisoner to solitary confinement, but "does not apply to moves ... for intelligence purposes."
8-7. Description of the five-level "detainee classification system" used for parceling out "rewards" (like the privilege of keeping devotional items (see 8-10).
8-10(k)(12). "Styrofoam Cups. If the cup has writing on it, confiscate it ... and give to the Evidence Custodian. If the cup is damaged or destroyed, the detainee will be disciplined for destruction of government property."
10-6 Recreation time restricted to 20 minutes two times per week.
13-2. Discusses computer logging procedures for all mail sent to and from prisoners.
13-8. "Mail containing complaints or criticisms of any governmental agency or official" will not be allowed to be mailed out of GTMO.
15-10. Discusses how interpreters should be exploited to gather intelligence.
16-1 ff. Lengthy section on accommodation of religion.
16-18 ff. Sections on Muslim funeral and burial rites, including diagram of proper burial method.
17-4. Levels of visitation for ICRC, including "no access," which allows "no contact of any kind with the ICRC."
19-8. Section on hunger striking, including requirement that a JAG sign off before any force-feeding happens. This is clearly out of date.
24-1. Details full set of procedures for IRFing ("Immediate Reaction Force" operations).
26-1. Use of dogs at GTMO, including for "psychological deterrence" -- dogs "will walk 'Main Street' in Camp Delta during shift to demonstrate physical presence to detainees."
28-1. Includes Public Affairs "Themes for Global War on Terrorism," including that these detainees are the "most dangerous" but are nonetheless treated "humanely and consistent with the principles of the Geneva Conventions."
32-1. Discussion of suicide protocols.
Appendix A. A glossary of abbreviations. Also serves as a de facto checklist of forms and records kept by the military. Section IV of the appendix is an index to the whole manual.
Also included are maps of Camp Delta.

CCR has led the legal battle over Guantánamo for the last six years – sending the first ever habeas attorney to the base and – just this month – sending the first attorney to meet with a former CIA “ghost detainee.” CCR has been responsible for organizing and coordinating the largest ever coalition of pro-bono lawyers in order to defend the men at Guantánamo, ensuring that nearly all have been represented. CCR will be representing the detainees with co-counsel in the Supreme Court on December 5.


The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.


Last modified 

December 4, 2007