Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Letter From Col.Ann Wright

Banned in Washington - Where's the Free Speech?

by Ann Wright

Published on Sunday, September 10, 2006 by

So much for free speech in the nation's capital and
capitol. On July, 11, 2006 I was arrested for offering
a citizen's voice in the Senate Judiciary Committee
hearing against the nomination of one of the Bush
administration's architects of torture, William Haynes,
former Department of Defense General Counsel (chief
civilian lawyer) for a life-time appointment to the
Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Yesterday, September 7, I appeared in the Criminal
Division of the Superior Court of the District of
Columbia on charges of 'Disorderly and Disruptive
Conduct on the United States Capitol Grounds on July
11, 2006.' During that appearance, I was ordered by the
court to 'Stay Away' from the US Capitol, all Senate
and House Office Buildings and committee hearing rooms
and the streets surrounding the Capitol area.

The court papers state that I must abide by this order
until my case is disposed of and that 'any violation of
this condition (order) could result in your prosecution
for Contempt of Court, the revocation of your release
and/or your detention pending final disposition of this
case.' I was released on my personal recognizance but
instructed in writing that 'a warrant for your arrest
will be issued immediately upon any violation of a
condition of this release. And shall subject you to
revocation of the release; an order of detention and
prosecution for contempt of court (a fine of not more
than $1000 or imprisonment not more than 6 months or

Another paragraph said that 'if you are convicted of an
offense committed while released, you shall be subject
to the following penalties: imprisonment of not less
than one year and not more than 5 years if convicted of
committing a felony while released; and imprisonment of
not less than 90 days and not more than one year if
convicted of committing a misdemeanor while released;
such to be consecutive to any other sentence of

All of these prohibitions are because I stated in the
US Congress that I am opposed to torture and that the
Congress should not confirm a person associated with
the Bush administration's torture policy. These court
orders definitely curtail my ability to voice to the US
Congress my concerns and the concerns of much of the
American people about important issues they are
considering, like the following the Congress will
consider next week:

Bush's demand that Congress authorize greater
warrantless wiretap authority;

Bush's demand that Congress agree to military tribunals
where defendants can be tried and convicted without
seeing the evidence; that classified evidence can be
used with neither defendants nor their lawyers told
about such information; that prosecutors could rely on
hearsay or evidence obtained indirectly and evidence
obtained by coercion if the panel's chief deemed it
reliable and directly related to the accusations;

Bush's demand that Congress agree to keep CIA secret
detention sites in other countries operational;

Bush's demand that Congress confirm John Bolton as US
ambassador to the United Nations;

Don't you believe these are issues that we the people
must instruct our Congress on how we feel? Of course,
you can call, write or email your Senators and

But I like to go into the committee rooms and look our
elected officials in the eyes and tell them what I
think. It doesn't take long to tell them because the
Capitol police officer in the hearing room usually
arrives at your side quickly when you speak out. When
you speak out in a committee room, our elected
officials, those who serve us, are left with a succinct
statement of concerns about the issue. Hearings would
probably be a lot better if the Congresspersons had the
same police at their elbows demanding shorter

I do understand that committees not take the time
generally to hear from the public in their committee
rooms; lobbying for an issue is done in the halls and
offices. But, I think there is a role for a lightning
comment -- but it comes with the risk of being arrested
for 'disrupting' the hearing or at a minimum being
escorted out of the hearing and later released.

Now that I am banned from the Capitol area, I hope
others will come to the Congress and express their
views. We the people must tell the Congress to be brave
and courageous in these perilous times -- now of all
times, we need strong character and moral courage from
our Congress. We the people must give them courage.

But tomorrow, Veterans for Peace is marching around the
capitol area as a stop the war, treat our veterans
right march. I am banned from the area. But what about
peaceful, nonviolent marches? Are all rights withdrawn
because one speaks out against torture?

Well, this has been a 'banner' week for being banned.
Besides from being banned from the Capitol area,
yesterday the Commanding Officer of Fort Myer, VA
denied my request for reconsideration of a one-year ban
from Fort Myer, VA and Fort McNair, DC, a ban he
ordered in May, 2006 after I placed a few 3'X5'
postcards on Fort McNair concerning the limited showing
in Washington, DC of 'Sir, No Sir,' the documentary
about GI resistance to the Vietnam war.

I had asked for a reduction to 'time served' (two
months that I had not been on the base-I didn't know I
had been banned as his letter went to my home in Hawaii
and I only got the letter once I arrived there in
June.). The Commander denied my request and commented
that my conduct 'clearly violated common standards of
good order and discipline on a military installation.'
As a US Army retired 29 year Colonel, I now am
prohibited from entering the two military bases nearest
to Washington, DC until May 25, 2007! I would say
that's quite remarkable treatment for a three decade

I am now banned from the Capitol area and from two
military bases in the DC area as well as also banned
for life (along with Codepink Women for Peace Medea
Benjamin) from the National Press Club. In April, 2006
we dared to question to a Press Club speaker and were
banned for life for our questions. The speaker was
Senator Hillary Clinton and we asked why in her 50
minute energy policy speech she never mentioned the war
on Iraq and Iraqi oil.

It surely seems that freedom of speech and the right to
question our elected officials in our nation's capital
is a dangerously endangered right.

But that's what its all about. If we don't stand up for
our freedoms, they will be taken away.

So in the spirit of they can't take our country away
from us, I will see you in Congress, the National Press
Club and on the military bases---or in jail or
detention camps!

You can't ban speech and thought.

It is our country and they are our freedoms. Let's take
them back!

Ann Wright is a 29 year retired US Army Colonel and a
16 year US diplomat who resigned in March, 2003 in
opposition to the war on Iraq.

No comments: