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US downplays Gitmo manual leak

Unclassified but embarrassing

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The US Army is downplaying the significance of the leak of a military manual detailing the day-to-day operations of the controversial terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. The 238-page manual, Camp Delta Standard Operating Procedures, gives an unprecedented insight into the working of a facility where the US has imprisoned hundreds of suspected terrorists since 2002.

Anonymous sources posted the document to new site Wikileaks.org, which aims to provide a forum for whistleblowers to anonymously post information. The site, which aims to be a clearing house for such disclosures, uses Wikipedia-like techniques in order to provide a forum for authenticating such documents. Given the not-infrequent criticism of Wikipedia itself as a source of wholly reliable information, the approach might be questionable; but indications are the gitmo documents are genuine.

The documents leaked date from March 2003 and are designated as "For Official Use Only". Although the information was not secret, it was not supposed to be exposed to public scrutiny either. The Pentagon has been resisting a Freedom of Information Act request from the American Civil Liberties Union concerning the manual and related documents since October 2003.

Red Cross access concerns

Details covered in the manual include a layout of the camp, detailed instructions on how to process new detainees, guidelines on how to psychologically manipulate prisoners, and rules for dealing with hunger strikes. One section explains how the military codifies prisoners according to what level of access representatives of the Red Cross are permitted to have, Wired reports. Other talk is of using dogs to intimidate prisoners.

Army Lt. Col. Ed Bush, a Guantanamo spokesman, told AP that many changes in operating procedure had been made since the manual was printed. "It had been designated 'For Official Use Only' and for many reasons, to include the safety and security of US service members, was not intended for mass distribution," he said.

The manual is being reviewed by lawyers for detainees and human rights groups such as the aforementioned American Civil Liberties Union. The US holds approximately 340 men at Guantanamo as suspected "enemy combatants" in the War on Terror or on suspicion of terrorism. There are plans to try 80 before military tribunals, the BBC adds. ®

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