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June 2005
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Drug Czar’s numbers called “funny math”

It’s nice to see that the Drug Czar is not always getting a free ride when it comes to the crap he calls “data” coming out of his office.
The latest: Representative Tom Davis (R-VA) and Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) have asked the General Accounting Office to double-check the administration’s cocaine-production estimates.
There is so much conflicting data coming out, with the Drug Czar claiming that cocaine production has dropped by 30 percent of the past three years.

But some American counternarcotics officials and drug-trade analysts call such triumphal pronouncements misleading.

A U.S. government task force, they note, estimated that cartels last year produced more than twice the amount of cocaine claimed by the White House. A report released last week by the United Nations maintained that cocaine output is actually on the rise.

The debate over drug numbers matters because Congress uses the White House figures as a measuring stick when determining the best way to spend nearly $1 billion annually in counternarcotics programs in South America. […]
The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy announced in March that cocaine production last year in the three Andean nations totaled 640 metric tons, down from 900 metric tons in 2001.

Touting these numbers at a recent congressional hearing on Colombia Ö which provides 90 percent of the cocaine sold in the United States Ö John Walters, the head of the White House drug office, said: “We are heading in the right direction, and we are winning.”

But the White House figures contradict other tallies and strike some as funny math.
According to the State Department, U.S. and Latin American security forces seized a record 373 metric tons of cocaine last year. Walters’ office thinks annual consumption of the narcotic in the United States alone is about 300 metric tons. Taken together, the two figures exceed the White House estimate of the total produced in 2004.

Speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons, a U.S. official familiar with anti-drug operations insisted that South America “could easily be producing well over 800 metric tons of cocaine per year.”

(In the Houston Chronicle)
Maybe people will start noticing that there’s a whole lot of funny math coming out of that office.

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