Mark Kleiman is asking Who leaked the drug strategy to Michael Isikoff? and has a conspiracy theory.
So far, I donâ€™t know the entire chain of leakage, but the path clearly runs through John Walters, the Bill Bennett sidekick who served as ONDCP director (â€œdrug czarâ€) under Bush II. Waltersâ€™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 â€œepistemic closure.â€
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 â€œTrack Changes.â€ But p. 9 of the .pdf version of the document Isikoff posted has a box showing a change by â€œJohn Walters 4/29/10 3:02 PM.â€
That timestamp, just one day before Isikoffâ€™s story went up, strongly suggests that Walters was the direct source, though itâ€™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.