Is the Drug Czar Skirting the Law? 

Is the Drug Czar Skirting the Law? 
Posted by FoM on August 26, 2000 at 20:24:36 PT
By Mark Davis 
The head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy is under fire for manipulating data in a report to Congress to cover shortcomings in his federal antidrug program. Bill Clinton’s drug czar, Barry McCaffrey, has had no shortage of trouble recently. First, he provoked outrage by paying TV producers to let him edit scripts to promote the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy’s, or ONDCP’s, antidrug message. Then he got into even more trouble when Salon, a liberal Internet magazine, discovered that he was paying publishers to run antidrug editorials. 
And McCaffrey’s problems only got worse when it was discovered that his office’s Website was allowing advertisers to store “cookies” on visitors’ computers, potentially allowing advertisers to track what other Websites they visit.    Now McCaffrey’s office is in more hot water. Insight has discovered that ONDCP manipulated data in a formal report to deceive Congress, a likely violation of federal law. The move concealed from congressional budget makers the shortcomings of ONDCP’s $195 million per year media campaign to promote antidrug awareness. The campaign is the only program ONDCP directly manages.    The doctored document, “Performance Measures of Effectiveness: 2000 Report,” is supposed to fulfill ONDCP’s obligations under Public Law No. 105-277, which seeks to reduce waste by requiring ONDCP to set “quantifiable and measurable” goals and then file annual reports with Congress detailing progress. If goals are not met, Congress can eliminate programs that don’t work.    To this end, ONDCP includes in its report a section called “Progress at a Glance,” two pages that color code each of its goals: green for goals that are “on target” and red for those “off target.”    It’s here that the deception began. In the section describing its media campaign, ONDCP listed its goal to “increase the percentage of youth who perceive drug use as harmful” in green. This meant that it was on target to increase the proportion of American youth who see drug use as harmful to 80 percent by 2002. But was ONDCP really on target?    In 1996 only 59.9 percent of 12th-graders — the group that ONDCP used to measure youth perception — saw regular marijuana use as harmful. By 1998, the proportion had fallen to 58.5 percent and, by 1999 it was at 57.4 percent.    For three consecutive years, risk perception among 12th-graders fell below the 1996 levels. Given these bleak numbers, ONDCP should have marked this goal in red, indicating that it was not on target. To get the numbers to come out right, officials made two changes (which they did not point out in the report) in the way they calculated risk perception. First, they changed a figure called the “base year,” from which they judged progress. The original base year was 1996; the new one was 1998.    By making the change, they accomplished two things. First, they made the downward trend — one that might have jeopardized funding for their program — look less severe. Second, since the most recent data came from 1999, a 1998 base year left less room for long-term comparison. Using a 1996 base year would show a trend for three years: 1997, 1998 and 1999. But by starting in 1998, officials could now report that, although there had been a decline, it had been only for one year.    But even this more modest decline never made it into the report. That’s because McCaffrey’s officials made a second change: They started to use eighth-grade data instead of the 12th-grade data. Conveniently, eighth-graders typically see drug use as more risky than 12th-graders, hovering in the lower 70 percent range compared to the upper 50 percent range for 12th-graders. By changing the data source, officials found they could boast that they were less than 7 percent from their 2002 goal, compared to the 23 percent shortfall with the original 12th-grade data.    ONDCP officials cooking the report to Congress now waived their magic wand a third time by misreporting data which they obtained from a University of Michigan study called “Monitoring the Future.” The numbers they reported from the study should have indicated 73.3 percent of eighth-graders saw regular marijuana use as harmful. Officials tripled their improvement by reporting a higher number.    Could these have been well-intentioned mistakes? When Insight confronted ONDCP officials about the changes, they refused to speak on the record. On background, however, officials sheepishly defended themselves. “There was no intention to hide anything,” says one official who spoke only on condition of anonymity. “This does not say anything about ONDCP.”    The source speculates: “The change in base year could be a misunderstanding. The graph should have started with 1996. I can’t imagine why that happened. It’s a very large enterprise to put together.”    And what of the improvement that ONDCP tripled when it reported data to Congress? “That was a typo,” the source insists.    But officials were less eager to admit error when it came to changing 12th-grade data to eighth-grade data. Those changes, they claimed, were appropriate because they said the media campaign targets middle-school children. One official, who was in charge of data for the report, says: “We weren’t trying to pull anything sneaky here.”    The evidence seems to contradict these claims. Federal law requires ONDCP to point out any changes it makes to the reporting system, and the 2000 annual report did note other legitimate changes. If officials weren’t trying to hide their failure, why didn’t they note these changes?    An official who spoke on the condition that his name not be used responded that the report’s authors simply forgot. “We missed that,” he says. “It’s a 200- or 300-page report. We missed that one, so shoot me.”    Besides, he continues, “This to me was a very minor change to make because I’m also aware of what goes on in the media campaign.”    This official’s supervisor, the first source we quoted, tried to back him up. “It was an oversight,” the supervisor first told Insight. But later she indicated that officials might have chosen not to document a “minor” change such as this. “Changes are indicated only if it’s a major change,” the supervisor says. “This was only a minor change.”    But that’s not what the law requires. Public Law No. 105-277, which appropriates money for ONDCP’s media campaign, requires “a description of any modifications to the performance-measurement system.” That certainly seems clear enough.    And the opinion that this is a “very minor change” doesn’t seem to be universal. Insight contacted the office of Republican Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona, a member of the Task Force for a Drug Free America and chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that allocates funding for ONDCP. According to Kolbe spokeswoman Fran McNaught, switching data samples in a report that attempts to measure progress is deceiving: “We’re looking at tracking true performance, so if you give us apples (one set of data) one year and oranges (another set) the next, that’s not an effective tool!”    And what of ONDCP’s claim that the changes were appropriate? If these changes were legitimate, there should be someone willing to take responsibility for the changes and explain why they approved them. So Insight asked ONDCP who made the decisions. Several officials blamed an “interagency working group.” One said directly, “That was a decision that the interagency working group made and that we went along with.” When Insight pressed for names of the members of this working group, the source referred us to his supervisor.    But, according to the supervisor, the decision was “not officially brought up at the working group.”    When Insight confronted the original official about the discrepancy, he changed his story, saying, “I don’t recall that I took this to [the working group] at all. This to me was a very minor change to make because I’m also aware of what goes on in the media campaign. I’m aware that their target is the ‘tweens’ (middle-school children). I said, ‘You know we’re not getting an accurate measure.’ I said, ‘eighth-graders are a better measure.’”    Each time Insight talked with this official, the story changed. But always there were discrepancies.    While it is true that many ONDCP commercials target middle-school children, the media campaign, according to ONDCP’s Website and brochures, targets “youth ages 9 to 18.” Given this, why would eighth-grade data be better? Is it a better indicator of whether children grow up to become addicted to drugs? Did it better reflect the cost of drug use to society? “I couldn’t give you any definite correlation,” he says.    Insight asked some other experts about the differences, just to be sure. A second ONDCP official, who had not been involved in the decision to change data, says, “Eighth-grade data simply does not reliably portend future 12th-grade drug-use patterns. And 12th-grade drug-use patterns are the best, if imperfect, indicator of the future burden drug abusers will impose upon society.”    Lloyd Johnston, a professor at the University of Michigan who conducts the “Monitoring the Future” study, agrees that it would be inaccurate to call one set of these data “more accurate” than another. “I think they’re probably both important,” he says, although he also indicates that he might expect eighth-grade data to change first. “The eighth-graders, it appears, are in a sense the first to respond to new influence in the environment,” he explains.    Insight also asked him whether the eighth-grade data were a reliable predictor of the future cost to society — whether eighth-grade attitudes strongly correlate to drug addiction later in life — since this is what ONDCP is tasked to reduce in the long run. “I don’t know if I can make that connection,” Johnston says. But, he responds, “We’ve done a lot of our analyses on the perceived risk on 12th-graders and can show pretty conclusively that that’s one of the determinants of whether they use or continue using.”    Either way, the most important question remains unanswered. If ONDCP’s changes were legitimate, why did officials not report them to Congress, and why did they refuse to talk about them on the record? Congress may be getting ready to ask those questions. Contact The Editor: Date: September 18, 2000 Copyright © 2000 News World Communications, Inc.You Can Find The Original At: Related Articles:White House on Cookies: Doh! Propaganda for Dollars - Salon
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Comment #12 posted by FoM on August 28, 2000 at 11:33:42 PT
Thank You!
Hi Everyone,Taking the time to really look over this thread just makes me see how we can talk about how we feel and why we feel the way we do and do it with mutual respect. I really thank you all for contributing your thoughts and ideas on this forum.Peace, FoM!
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Comment #11 posted by Libertarian on August 28, 2000 at 11:26:53 PT
Burning at the stake is not necessary...
Legalizeit, I did not intend to publicly chastise you for feeling the way you do about choosing Gore over Bush. If I offended you, I apologize.I just wanted to make sure that you understood what your vote really means. We, as American citizens, have a the wonderful privilege of selecting our legislators.I get extremely frustrated when I hear of anything that smacks of the "wasted vote" ideology. If you vote for what you want, you are never wasting your vote. However, if you vote for something you don't want over something you don't even more, that IS a wasted vote.I hope you will stand and be heard by voting for Harry Browne. Spread the word.
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Comment #10 posted by legalizeit on August 27, 2000 at 19:06:19 PT
Guess I'll leave my political views out of the forum in the future lest I be burnt at the stake!!Thanks for the enlightenment though - I will give it some deep thought before the election.
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Comment #9 posted by kaptinemo on August 27, 2000 at 18:50:54 PT:
Disorganized mess, or rubberstamp, it won't
matter.The ONDCP was left in a tizzy when Bush Senior departed in 1993. For a while, it looked like it might actually disintigrate. But bureaucracies always find a means to survive, regardless of their usefulness. Barry is no doubt able to see the writing on the wall, and has been in Washington long enough to decipher it too. The big bucks are made by consultants *after* having served in the government; Barry is angling for such a position. But there's just one major problem...We here have all been following Barry and Company's various shenanigans, gaffes, and outright stupidity. But the rest of the country couldn't give a damn. They don't follow this subject as avidly as we do, for obvious reasons. They are not 'up on' all the latest concerning Barry-ola, his pushing for aid to Colombia, and now his office 'cooking the books' and lying to Congress.But we are not the only small group watching the Klinton/Snore Administration. We have not yet begun to hear from the Bush camp, but we will. And with all the negativity that Barry has generated, he has become a liability...and an easy target. A target that has lied to Congress! (Not that the Bush family has ever been averse to lying to Congress; remember, George Senior, spook extraordinaire and former head of the CIA, saying he was 'not in the loop' concerning such a widespread operation, run out of the White House basement, no less, as Iran/Contra?)Barry is an excellent foil...if he allows himself to be used that way. But Barry has dirt on *both* camps. As head of US Southern Command, he knew what happened at Mena, Arkansas, Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, etc. He knew about Georgie Junior's 'relationship' with smuggler Barry Seal. So I expect that come January, he will probably quietly slip beneath the political radar - and wind up making policy by proxy at some think tank like Rand or Brookings. But it won't make much difference; the War will roll merrily along until enough middle class families are touched by it, when enough sons and daughters have their lives ruined by laws originally meant for the underclass. Then and only then will it end.
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Comment #8 posted by Libertarian on August 27, 2000 at 18:33:29 PT
Vote your conscience
Legalizeit, unless you vote for what you want, you will never GET what you want. If you vote against a bad Republican, you will only get a bad Democrat. Has the Clinton/Gore administration given any indication that they will change their current policies? I have not heard anything to suggest this. The Democrats instill fear of Republicans in the their constituents, and the Republicans do the same thing. Only Harry Browne will give you what you want...smaller, less-intrusive government.A vote for either Gore or Bush will only get you more government. If that is what you want, then by all means, vote for Gore. However, if you don't want more government (and I would bet money that you don't), you should vote according to your conscience. Remember Jiminy Cricket? Let you conscience be your guide.
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Comment #7 posted by Tim Stone on August 27, 2000 at 15:48:11 PT
For Legalizeit
I have read reports from several sources - sorry, no cites handy - that say McCaffery is widely viewed as likely to resign as czar after the election.Given the autocratic, military way in which he ran the ONDCP, as kaptinemo, touched on, it is likely that for some time after his departure the ONDCP will be a disorganized mess for some time thereafter. It would truly be ironically fitting if McCaffery's "legacy" turned out to be a gutted, disorganized, feckless ONDCP.
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Comment #6 posted by observer on August 27, 2000 at 11:16:18 PT
Pinocchio McCaffrey 
Yes, Barry has had lots of 'typos', particularly when it comes to factual information.Yes, Kaptin, there's some funny business happening to facts when McCaffrey's ONDCP word-processors get a hold of them. keyboards (and tongue) seem to get stuck in curious ways, too. Always in the direction that would exagerate hysteria, these typos. The slips of fingers and lips seem to accidently happen in ways that nicely make the point drug-warriors need to make, in their ceaseless march to divest citizens of traditional freedoms, and grab more power for police and politicians.Given the extent that the ONDCP (US Government) has literally bought off the US Media, the so-called "free" press, I have a feeling that we'll not hear much about this. More important (and profitable!) to simply scream all the louder about how "legalizing drugs" (i.e. not locking adults for using cannabis) will "send the wrong message" to The Children. To me, the Daniel Forbes (Salon) article on July 26, 2000 was at least as important as the previous revelations concerning the ONDCP money used to influence TV programming contant. Here we had government officials and certain captians of industry (pharmaceutical companies, etc.) conspiring against "the will of the people.""The other side would be salivating if they could hear the prospect of the Feds going against the will of the people," commented Robert Wood Johnson Foundation vice president Dr. Paul S. Jellinek, according to notes of the meeting taken at the time and uncovered by the California doctors' lawsuit. (Fighting Cheech & Chong Medicine )Drug warriors like those at the ONDCP and PDFA, who seem to be engaging in pure and classic fascism, are on the wrong side of ethics, decency, truth, "the will of the people", and the law as well. They know they're doing wrong when they plotted against the American people like that. They know it. Yet outside of Salon's July article, was this latest information even mentioned? I hope I'm wrong, but given the absolute and almost total control the government has over the mainstream press in the US, I bet this "typo" gets played down and excused on cue by the mainstream (government propaganda) US press. Mom and Pop will never know it happened. Lying is "a typo." Stealing is "seizing." Killing is "For the Children."
Pinocchio McCaffrey 
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Comment #5 posted by freedom fighter on August 27, 2000 at 08:51:05 PT
Bore and Gush
Ain't worth your voteBore gonna get 50 thousand more police on the streetGush gonna get half of us in prisonBrowne gonna legalize the cannabisWhy bother to vote   all if you are voting someone because you think you know that person will win?Would you vote for a dictator? No of course not, but remember something, Hitler won the election by one vote.Voting is personal and it should be vote with his/her conscience. IMHO, Bore/Gush is a likely candidate to become a dictator!:) Those who were running for president spot get 12 millions dollar to run the campaign, Harry Browne is the only one who did not accept the money. He could if he wanted to! He has enough supporters to do that. It would be great to have him in the office. He is the kind of leader we need!That is just another thought why we should vote Browne! I don't know if people realize that we have to work 5 months to pay government and keep the other 7 for our families etc. Is that fair? Our Government has gotten too fat and big for my taste and it is your fault wither if you are a lifelong democrat or republican!! :)))\/
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Comment #4 posted by kaptinemo on August 27, 2000 at 07:41:18 PT:
Fudge factor, a.k.a. Cover Yer A**
None of this should surprise anyone.Barry was a General. He knows a lot about the old military tradition of Cover Your A**. Rewriting a report to cover yourself in glory while dodging the bureaucratic bullet. Or setting up someone else to take a fall to advance your career. Old hat to any enlisted man or women who's had the misfortune of being in the way of a 'ticket-puncher' hell bent on advancing his career on the backs of anyone handy. Oh, yes, Barry has learned his lessons well.The author asks:Could these have been well-intentioned mistakes? When Insight confronted ONDCP officials about the changes, they refused to speak on the record. On background, however, officials sheepishly defended themselves. “There was no intention to hide anything,” says one official who spoke only on condition of anonymity. “This does not say anything about ONDCP.” Previous articles have noted how only about 30% of those who originally started working with Barry are there. Generally (no pun intended) this is an attrition rate of 70%. With an attrition rate like that, it this was real combat, Barry would have been *fragged* long ago by his own men for trying to get them killed.All those who have remained with him can best be described as what one pundit called 'the best of the rest', meaning they have no real talents or salable skills of their own and are putting up with him because they can't do anything else and have nowhere to go. Then the author asks:And what of the improvement that ONDCP tripled when it reported data to Congress? “That was a typo,” the source insists. Yes, Barry has had lots of 'typos', particularly when it comes to factual information. Must be his long association with Intelligence types, who engage in disinformation all the time, and often just for the practice. Old habits are hard to break, eh, Barry? 
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Comment #3 posted by Lehder on August 27, 2000 at 07:27:47 PT
Good Amerikans, Bewildered Sheep
  Good Amerikans like *legalizeit* make the drug war possible, and, voting against their conscience, as *legalizeit* promises to, will prolong the war.  You would "like to vote for Harry Browne" but come election time you're for Gore because you don't want to 'waste' your vote. Well, *legalizeit*, 'a wasted mind is a terrible thing', too. For (how many?) decades you get all your information from television and vote for Drug Warriors; then, one day your favorite TV show tells you that the drug war is hypocritical. So you decide that you would prefer Browne, yet you will - hypocritically - vote for Gore. It's the vote you're about to cast that will be wasted, not the vote for Browne that you are throwing away voluntarily and against your conscience. There are millions more hypocrites exactly like you who keep the Killing Machine chawing and better motivated politicians like Nader and Browne out of office, out of the debates, out of the news, out of matching campaign funding. Tell me, *legalizeit*, how do you vote in opinion polls? The same way? Or, because a mere poll doesn't really count, are you there able to vote your conscience?  Many Amerikans have a slightly more virulent form of your affliction and must, in the privacy of the voting booth, cast for the winner - because he is expected to be the winner. So why not vote for Bush? Be a winner! I bet you have the post-election bumper sticker(s) handy for November already. Believe in Browne, vote for Gore, advertise for Bush.   How easily people can be manipulated! The government follows the same strategy on virtually all issues: raise the blood pressure with phoney issues, contrived enemies, fake problems: divide and ignore. The drug war with its propaganda and emotional rhetoric has only been an exceptionally divisive issue that, therefore, carries an exceptional opportunity for the manipulators. The abortion "issue" is another exceptional example. The powers of government have no real interest in the legality of abortion one way or the other. Government can legalize or criminalize abortion, either way, just so there is *some* law to keep half the electorate angry at the other half. It makes no difference what the law is, pro or con, because the issue will continue to divide people and distract voters from issues that may be resolved by consensus - and a consensus on any real issue would leak the secret that people actually do have decisive power - if they would use it - and what a nuisance this would be for government. People effectively disenfranchise themselves and trivialize their own power thinking they've made a reasoned choice.   Noam Chomsky ( "Deterring Democracy" ) knows:"A properly functioning system of indoctrination has a variety of tasks, some rather delicate. One of its targets is the stupid and ignorant masses. They must be kept that way, diverted with emotionally potent oversimplifications, marginalized and isolated. Ideally, each person should be alone in front of the television screen...deprived of organizational structures that permit individuals lacking resources to discover what they think and believe in interaction with others, to formulate their own concerns and programs, and to act to realize them."   Keep comin' back, legalizeit.
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Comment #2 posted by rainbow on August 27, 2000 at 06:54:42 PT
McCzar to continue
It is the staffers who continue the BS. Gore will probably ask the DrugWarrior from Florida to step in.If you are concerned go to and ask him at his town hall.He has chosen to ignore any questions related to marijuana and will in the future because he is NOT his own man as he would like us to believe.Of course Bush wouldn't even know how to go to the bathroom were it not for his staffers. He is definitely not his own man because he has no intelligence.So ask your candidate try to get to him in a public setting. It is the only way you will get some idea of his tendencies.My bet is he will try to continue the 8 year reign of terror his administration has so artfully created.Rainbow P.S. I am still convinced that my vote for Jesse was not wasted. We do not have a slimy republican "Coleman" or slimy democrat in the governors office. Yes we have a wrestler but he is at least a real person. But of course Algore is getting to him too. 
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Comment #1 posted by legalizeit on August 26, 2000 at 23:28:57 PT
Thank goodness it's almost over - but what next?
I am a lifelong Democrat (lately, though, I've been strongly leaning towards Libertarian), but the antics of the President and members of his cabinet really have me irked.This rang true when I saw a rerun of John Stossel's "Give me a break" segment on 20/20 last night. He showed in graphic detail how politicians admit to, and even joke about, past drug use, yet keep slamming away thousands every year for simple possesion.Clinton's hypocrisy in saying he would inhale again if he had the chance, then appointing this bungling, heavy-handed, conniving, murderous former general to the ONDCP office, is astonishing.I will be voting for Gore (I would really like to vote for Harry Browne, but that would be a wasted vote and we really need to do everything possible to keep the extremist prohibitionist George W. out of the White House), but I just wonder what his cabinet, especially the ONDCP, will be like.Hopefully it's not four more years of the General.
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