The Colonel's Latest Posting? Off Base.

Another day, another protest: Ann Wright shouts as she is escorted from Sen. Hillary Clinton's speech.
Another day, another protest: Ann Wright shouts as she is escorted from Sen. Hillary Clinton's speech. (Charles Dharapak -- AP)

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By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Usually, "Sir! No Sir!" is the perfect negative response on a military base. But retired Army colonel and antiwar activist Ann Wright was detained for two hours at Fort McNair Monday when she tried to pass out postcards for "Sir! No Sir!" -- a documentary about military opposition to the Vietnam War.

A 29-year veteran of the Army and Reserves, Wright quit the State Department in 2003 over White House policies and now travels the country protesting the Iraq war. On Monday, Wright and other activists headed to Fort McNair to demonstrate during the Abu Ghraib court-martial. As a retired military officer with ID, Wright was allowed on base only to learn the trial had been moved to Fort Meade in Maryland -- so she decided to leave promotional postcards for the film on the base.

A young sergeant approached Wright, she says, and told her she was passing out "seditious material." Wright, 59, said she was a retired colonel and was not argumentative: "I just wanted him to understand it's a very serious thing to detain people." She was searched, handcuffed and transported to the military police station, where she sat shackled to a chair until an Army lawyer arrived. He explained that advance approval was required to distribute or post literature on military bases; the cuffs came off. No charges were filed.

Barbara Owens , spokesperson for the Army Military District of Washington, gave a similar version of events, explaining: "Because of the demonstration that was ongoing, the command had a concern for the safety and security of the servicemembers and civilians working on post." Wright was in violation of Army Regulation 210-7. Owens said authorities found the postcards in both the men's and women's latrines. "Colonel Wright did have a calm, rational and compliant demeanor," she said.

"You've been very polite," Wright told the same sergeant who cuffed her, when he escorted her to the gate. He saluted her; she saluted back.

Yesterday she was back in action, getting tossed out of the National Press Club after heckling Sen. Hillary Clinton . "It just never ends," Wright said cheerfully.

GET THIS . . .

Tony Snow Talks with White House Reporters
An apple for the press secretary: Tony Snow laughs after Helen Thomas's gift.(Ron Edmonds - AP)
· Tony Snow , still on his honeymoon as White House press secretary, flirted through a grilling by columnist Helen Thomas , who happened to bring a piece of ripe fruit to yesterday's briefing. "By the way, that's a nice apple," Snow said, leaving the podium to claim it. "Come here! Whoever thought Helen Thomas would kiss up to me. An apple for the teacher." Transcripts of the exchange failed to record any eyelash-batting.

· Former Capitol Hill sex blogger Jessica Cutler has lost yet another lawyer in her court battle against an ex-boyfriend who claims her online diary violated his privacy. Defense attorney John Umana dropped her Monday (as seen on Wonkette, the political blog that made Cutler a star two years ago), stating in court filings that she hasn't paid him. What happened to the money from her book and TV deals? Cutler declined to explain other than saying that "people should never sue writers who aren't on the NYT bestseller list."

UPDATE

Our item yesterday about a new policy that makes couples pay for permits to take wedding pictures at Washington's monuments has photographers flipping angrily through the Federal Register.

Greg Gibson , a big-day photog from Virginia, says he doubts wedding shoots were meant to be lumped in with the "commercial" ventures from which Congress wants the National Park Service to recoup costs. The new regs place fees of $50 to $250 on shoots in places where the public usually don't go, that use "models" or "props," or that require staff oversight -- none of which applies to weddings, he argues.

But Lee Dickinson , a project manager for the Park Service, disagrees. Often, "two or three wedding parties show up at the same time. . . . The park is managing a number of competing activities." Gibson retorts that he almost never bumps into other wedding shoots. "Usually it's just a quick hit with the bride and groom and the equipment you can hold on your shoulders."

The big shock for some past brides and grooms: Uh, we were supposed to get permits for this stuff? (They were free until last week.) Said a Hill staffer who posed with his bride at the Jefferson Memorial: "We just ran up the steps and did it."


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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