The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) has once more been caught fudging the truth, this time misrepresenting the efficacy of its $195 million anti-drug media campaign to its congressional overseers.
Insight, the weekend magazine published by the Washington Times, in a story titled "Is the Drug Czar Breaking the Law?" (http://www.insightmag.com/archive/200009186.shtml), published last Sunday, accuses the ONDCP of "manipulating data in a formal report to deceive Congress, a likely violation of federal law."
The article, based on a close reading of the ONDCP's mandatory "Performance Measures of Effectiveness: 2000 Report," finds that the drug czar's office jimmied the numbers in at least three different ways in an effort to make its program seem more effective than it actually is.
Public Law No. 105-277 requires ONDCP to set "quantifiable and measurable" goals and file annual reports detailing progress. If goals are unmet, Congress can use the information to end ineffective programs.
In the performance report, ONDCP listed its program goal as to "increase the percentage of youth who perceive drug use as harmful," and, using a color-coded chart, indicated that its goals were "on target."
In fact, they were not on target. Between 1996 and 1999 the percentage of 12th graders who saw marijuana use as harmful actually declined from 59.9% to 57.4%.
In order to make the numbers work, ONDCP first changed the base year from 1996 to 1998, thus making the downward trend, which could jeopardize funding for the program, look less severe.
Then they made a second change. ONDCP switched from 12th grade data to 8th grade data. Eighth graders are conveniently more likely to view marijuana use as harmful, thus allowing ONDCP to boast that it was nearer its goal than it really was.
ONDCP then apparently created from whole cloth a number that supposedly came from the "Monitoring the Future" studies that track teen drug use and attitudes. bONDCP tripled its improvement with this bogus higher number.
Insight reported that when it confronted the drug czar's office with these changes, which should have been reported to Congress, it could not get straight answers.
It's been a bad year for McCaffrey and his minions. If this keeps up, they may be forced to resort to actually telling the truth for a change.