On the leak of the National Drug Policy Strategy

Mark Kleiman is asking Who leaked the drug strategy to Michael Isikoff? and has a conspiracy theory.

So far, I don’t know the entire chain of leakage, but the path clearly runs through John Walters, the Bill Bennett sidekick who served as ONDCP director (“drug czar”) under Bush II. Walters’s tenure marked a low point in the non-entirely-glorious history of ONDCP. Walters and his staff behaved as if they were playing the English version of Charades and had been told to act out “epistemic closure.”

Walters seems not to have noticed that when he made a formatting change in the document on his computer that edit would be recorded in “Track Changes.” But p. 9 of the .pdf version of the document Isikoff posted has a box showing a change by “John Walters 4/29/10 3:02 PM.”

That timestamp, just one day before Isikoff’s story went up, strongly suggests that Walters was the direct source, though it’s barely possible that Walters gave it to some third party who in turn gave it to Isikoff.

A phone call to ONDCP confirms that Walters was not among the very small group of people outside the agency who had access to the document. No one I know had it, and I asked to see it and was told that I would get the executive summary only, 24 hours before the release time, under strict embargo. But it was available to everyone inside the agency on the ONDCP intranet.

Here’s the part he’s talking about:

Well, as conspiracy theories go, it’s interesting. And who knows, he may be right. But I doubt it.

First of all, this theory depends on Walters being upset enough with today’s ONDCP to want to sabotage it. I haven’t gotten a sense of that from Walters’ speeches since he joined the Hudson Institute, or any real reason for him to be all that upset with today’s ONDCP.

Second, it depends on the notion that Walters, who did not have access to the document, somehow got hold of it surreptitiously, and then decided to turn on “Track Changes” and make a font change.

Third, there may be an easier explanation. Is it possible that whatever computer Walters used when he was at the ONDCP is still there, at least with the same copy of Microsoft Word? If so, the identity of the Word user could have remained the same for whoever is using that computer now.

The conspiracy theory is more fun, but the fact is, there are probably plenty of people in the ONDCP right now that are dissatisfied and would be happy to leak to Isikoff, without needing Walters to get in the picture.

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7 Responses to On the leak of the National Drug Policy Strategy

  1. Tom says:

    John Walters, Font Czar.

  2. kaptinemo says:

    Oh, jeez. More heads of pins and dancing angels.

    Who gives a flying frak about how the report was produced. Anything coming out of ONDCP is bound to be rank, recycled sewage. And this ‘leaked’ (appropriate word; reminds you of what often drips out of full diapers) report proves it.

    DrugWarriors are all, literally, partners in crime. If one breaks ranks and spills the beans, their paychecks stand to suffer mightily. And one thing they can always be counted upon to do is engage in avaricious self-interest.

    I can only theorize one or more of them got soooo pissed off at management that they figured this would make ol’ Gil look an ass. In which case, some even bigger opportunist than Gil may be trying to force him to resign and then take his position. One of the oldest bureaucratic maneuvers in history. And one of the riskiest, as this kind of move could cause a bureaucratic ‘Samson in the temple’ internal collapse.

    In any event, the damage is done. The opposition has been forced to show their hand…and it’s the same old losing one they’ve always had. And with the never-before encountered hostility that Rep. Kucinich’s committee displayed towards the ONDCP director’s lackluster performance in testifying giving them reason to be suspicious, this leaked report will be dissected and analyzed by that committee’s staff well ahead of the next rounds of testimony.

    Blood, meet water. The sharks will arrive shortly.

  3. ezrydn says:

    It seems to be getting easier to quickly debunk a lie or document due to the opposition’s, what was that term? “Lackluster Performance.” The “barricades” are becoming more transparent, like they’re not even trying to solidify their positions any longer. This report is present evidence. “Fingerprints” all over it. Report says nothing of import. It’s as though they’re running out of lies and are making stabs in the dark.

  4. Chris says:


    More dead dogs after a raid.

  5. the reality of the NDCS is that only a small handful us ever read the damn thing anyway. i bet that 99.999 percent of people don’t even know what the hell it is — let alone give a crap what it says.

  6. Stephen Young says:

    I think Professor Kleiman would prefer a scandal about a leak and silly drama about the “bad old drug czar” vs. the “good new drug czar” to the real scandal about the NDCS that Isikoff hints at: Nobody cares what it says because they all know it’s BS. That’s why Obama and Biden can’t make time for the drug czar. The ONDCP used significant resources to produce another alleged policy document rendered all but useless for real decision making by its total removal from reality due to ideology.

    This process used to be a political asset, a time for the President to show how tough and committed he is. I think it is becoming more of a political liability and a reminder of chronic failure. The current President and even the VP, thick as he seems, appear to understand that.

  7. ezrydn says:

    Since Biden was instrumental in writing the ONDCP Authorization Act, then he should be just as up front about rewriting or unwriting the damned thing.

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