Code of Conduct for Personnel
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Military Bearing and Courtesy:
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
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.
Chain of Command:
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.
Guidance for Detention by Governments:
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Guidance for Captivity by Terrorists:
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.
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.
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.
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.