Code of Conduct for Personnel
Subject to Terrorist Activity

The following is the complete text of Section 2 of DoD Joint Staff Guide 5260, Service Member's Personal Protection Guide: A Self-Help Handbook to Combating Terrorism, dated April 2000.

A. Policy:

This policy concerning the conduct of US military personnel isolated from US control applies at all times. US military personnel finding themselves isolated from US control are required to do everything in their power to follow DOD policy. The DoD policy in this situation is to survive with honor.

B. Scope:

The Code of Conduct is a moral guide designed to assist military personnel in combat or being held prisoners of war to live up to the ideals contained in the DoD policy. The guidance contained in this section shall assist US military personnel who find themselves isolated from US control in peacetime, or in a situation not related specifically in the Code of Conduct.

C. Rationale:

US military personnel, because of their wide range of activities, are subject to peacetime detention by unfriendly governments or captivity by terrorist groups. The guidance in this section seeks to help US military personnel survive these situations with honor and does not constitute a means for judgment or replace the UCMJ as a vehicle for enforcement of proper conduct. This guidance, although not exactly the same as the Code of Conduct, is similar in some areas, applies only during peacetime. The term peacetime" means that armed conflict does not exist or aimed conflict does exist, but the United States is not a party to the armed conflict.

D. General:

US military personnel captured or detained by hostile foreign governments or terrorists are often held for purposes of exploitation of the detainees or captives, or the US Government, or all of them.  This exploitation can take many forms, but each form of exploitation is designed to assist the foreign government or the terrorist captors.  In the past, detainees have been exploited for information and propaganda efforts, confessions to crimes never committed, all of which assisted or lent credibility to the detainees. Governments also have been exploited in such situation to make damaging statements about themselves or to force them to appear weak in relation to other governments. Governments have paid ransoms for captives of terrorists and such payments have improved terrorist finances, supplies, status and operations, often prolonging the terror carried on by such groups.

E. Responsibility:

US military personnel, whether detainees or captives, can be assured that the US Government will make every good faith effort to obtain their earliest release. Faith in one's country and its way of life, faith in fellow detainees or captives, and faith in one's self are critical to surviving with honor and resisting exploitation. Resisting exploitation and having faith in these areas are the responsibility of all Americans. On the other hand, the destruction of such faith must be the assumed goal of all captors determined to maximize their gains from a detention or captive situation.

F. Goal:

Every reasonable step must be taken by US military personnel to prevent exploitation of themselves and the US Government. If exploitation cannot be prevented completely, every step must be taken to limit exploitation as much as possible. In a sense, detained US military personnel often are catalysts for their own release, based upon their ability to become unattractive sources of exploitation. That is, one that resists successfully may expect detainees to lose interest in further exploitation attempts. Detainees or captives very often must make their own judgments as to which actions will increase their chances of returning home with honor and dignity. Without exception, the military member who can say honestly that he/she has done his/her utmost in a detention or captive situation to resist exploitation upholds DOD policy, the founding principles of the US, and the highest traditions of military service.

G.  Military Bearing and Courtesy:

Regardless of the type of detention or captivity, or harshness of treatment, US military personnel will maintain their military bearing. They should make every effort to remain calm and courteous, and project personal dignity. This is particularly important during the process of capture and the early stages of internment when the captor may be uncertain of his control of the captives.

H. Classified Information:

  There are no circumstances in which a detainee or captive should voluntarily give classified information or materials to those unauthorized to receive them. To the utmost of their ability, US military personnel held as detainees, captives, or hostages will protect all classified information. An unauthorized disclosure of classified information, for whatever reason, does not justify further disclosures. Detainees, captives and hostages must resist, to the utmost of their ability, each and every attempt by their captor to obtain such information.

I. Chain of Command:

In group detention, captivity, or hostage situations military detainees, captives or hostages will organize, to the fullest extent possible, in a military manner under the senior military member present and eligible to command. The importance of such organization cannot be over emphasized. Historically, in both peacetime and wartime, establishment of a military chain of command has been a tremendous source of strength for all captives. Every effort will be made to establish and sustain communications with other detainees, captives, or hostages. Military detainees, captives, or hostages will encourage civilians being held with them to participate in the military organization and accept the authority of the senior military member. In some circumstances, such as embassy duty, military members may be under the direction of a senior US civilian official. Notwithstanding such circumstances, the senior military member still is obligated to establish, as an entity, a military organization and to ensure that the guidelines in support of the DOD policy to survive with honor are not compromised.

J. Guidance for Detention by Governments:

Once in the custody of a hostile government, regardless of the circumstances that preceded the detention situation, detainees are subject to the laws of that government. In light of this, detainees will maintain military bearing and should avoid any aggressive, combative, or illegal behavior. The latter could complicate their situation, their legal status, and any efforts to negotiate a rapid release.

1. As American citizens, detainees should be allowed to be placed in contact with US or friendly embassy personnel. Thus, detainees should ask immediately and continually to see US embassy personnel or a representative of an allied or neutral government.

2. US military personnel who become lost or isolated in a hostile foreign country during peacetime will not act as combatants executing an evasion attempt. Since a state of armed conflict does not exist, there is no protection afforded under the Geneva Convention. The civil laws of that country apply. However, delays in contacting local authorities can be caused by injuries affecting the military member's mobility, disorientation, fear of captivity, or desire to see if a rescue attempt could be made.

3. Since the detainer's goals may be maximum political exploitation, US military personnel who are detained must be extremely cautious of their captors in everything they say and do. In addition to asking for a US representative, detainees should provide name, rank, social security number, date of birth, and the innocent circumstances leading to their detention. Further discussions should be limited to and revolve around health and welfare matters, conditions of their fellow detainees, and going home.

4. Historically, the detainees have attempted to engage military captives in what may be called a "battle of wits" about seemingly innocent and useless topics as well as provocative issues. To engage any detainer in such useless, if not dangerous, dialogue only enables a captor to spend more time with the detainee. The detainee should consider dealings with his/her captors as a "battle of wits" - the will to restrict discussion to those items that relate to the detainee's treatment and return home against the detainer's will to discuss irrelevant, if not dangerous topics.

5. As there is no reason to sign any form of document in peacetime detention, detainees will avoid signing any document or making any statement, oral or otherwise. If a detainee is forced to make a statement or sign documents, he/she must provide as little information as possible and then continue to resist to the utmost of his/her ability. If a detainee writes or signs anything, such action should be measured against how it reflects upon the US and the individual as a member of the military or how it could be misused by the detainer to further the detainer's ends.

6. Detainees cannot earn their release by cooperation. Release will be gained by the military member doing his/her best to resist exploitation, thereby reducing his/her value to a detainer, and thus prompting a hostile government to negotiate seriously with the US Government.

7. US military detainees should not refuse to accept release unless doing so requires them to compromise their honor or cause damage to the US Government or its allies. Persons in charge of detained US military personnel will authorize release of any personnel under almost all circumstances.

8. Escape attempts will be made only after careful consideration of the risk of violence, chance of success, and detrimental effects on detainees remaining behind. Jailbreak in most countries is a crime; thus, escape attempts would provide the detainer with further justification to prolong detention by charging additional violations of its criminal or civil law and result in bodily harm or even death to the detainee.

K. Guidance for Captivity by Terrorists:

Capture by terrorists is generally the least predictable and structured form of peacetime captivity. The captor qualifies as an international criminal. The possible forms of captivity vary from spontaneous hijacking to a carefully planned kidnapping. In such captivities, hostages play a greater role in determining their own fate since the terrorists in many instances expect or receive no rewards for providing good treatment or releasing victims unharmed. If US military personnel are uncertain whether captors are genuine terrorists or surrogates of government, they should assume that they are terrorists.

1. If assigned in or traveling through areas of known terrorist activity, US military personnel should exercise prudent antiterrorist measures to reduce their vulnerability to capture. During the process of capture and initial internment, they should remain calm and courteous, since most casualties among hostages occur during this phase.

2. Surviving in some terrorist detentions may depend on hostages conveying a personal dignity and apparent sincerity to the captors. Hostages therefore may discuss non-substantive topics such as sports, family, and clothing to convey to the terrorist the captive's personal dignity and human qualities. They will make every effort to avoid embarrassing the United States and the host government. The purpose of this dialogue is for the hostage to become a "person" in the captor's eyes, rather than a mere symbol of their ideological hatred. Such a dialogue should strengthen the hostage's determination to survive and resist. A hostage also may listen actively to the terrorist's beliefs about his/her cause, however, they should never pander, praise, participate, or debate the terrorist's cause with him/her.

3. US military personnel held hostage by terrorists should accept release using guidance in paragraph J7 above. US military personnel must keep faith with their fellow hostages and conduct themselves accordingly. Hostages and kidnap victims who consider escape to be their only hope are authorized to make such attempts. Each situation will be different and the hostage must carefully weigh every aspect of a decision to attempt to escape.

Related Topics: Hijacking Survival Guidelines, Kidnapping and Hostage Survival Guidelines, What to Do If Arrested.




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