Drug Testing in U.S. Government and Politics
[PoliticsWatch updated 3:00 p.m., August 29, 2007]
|While running for president, U.S. President
George W. Bush would not comment on whether he used illegal
drugs before the age of 28.
OTTAWA -- Drug testing in the U.S.
government is much more stringent than in Canada where there is no
drug policy whatsoever for civilian employees.
In 1986, U.S. President Ronald Reagan issued Executive Order 12564
-- Drug Free Federal Workplace, which requires federal employees
refrain from drug use and allowed for mandatory testing.
"The use of illegal drugs, on or off duty, by federal employees is inconsistent not only with
the law-abiding behaviour expected of all citizens, but also with the special trust placed in
such employees as servants of the public," Reagan's order
It also expressed concern about high-ranking government officials
with access to secret information who could face "the possibility of coercion, influence, and
irresponsible action under pressure that may pose a serious risk to national security, the
public safety, and the effective enforcement of the law."
The order allows the head of government agencies to test employees
in "sensitive positions," to randomly test when there is
"reasonable suspicion" of drug use and to test any job
applicant for drug use.
Despite the zeal of Reagan to make the federal workplace drug free,
later occupants of the White House had their own challenges.
In July 1996, two Secret Service agents told a Congressional
committee that U.S. President Bill Clinton's White House
created a special drug testing program for 21 employees after their
background checks indicated recent drug abuse.
"I have seen cocaine usage. I have seen hallucinogenic usages, crack
usages," said agent Jeffrey Undercoffer, when asked to describe the types of
drugs used by White House staffers who were placed in the special programs.
The Secret Service had originally denied passes and clearances to
the staffers but the White House arranged the testing program
as a compromise so the employees could keep their jobs.
Later in 1996, FBI Special Agent Dennis Sculimbrene, who
conducted the background interviews of White House staff, told
the Wall Street Journal that the problem at the White House was
"There were senior people as well, senior aides and advisers to the president who used drugs
recently --people in
policy positions, or, say, a director of an office," he said
without revealing names. "Some of them had the attitude: No big deal; it should be
legalized. Some senior people even said they had used drugs as recently as the Inaugural."
Sculimbrene said the White House's personnel security chief, Craig Livingstone,
created a guideline in 1994 that drug use of more than 50 times
was an automatic disqualifier for receiving a permanent White House
pass. That prompted many staffers to call the FBI to recant their
interviews in which they said they had used 100 or more
times. In the ultimate irony, Livingstone, who handed out the White House
passes, had his own FBI security clearance held up because of past
Finally, there is current U.S. President George W. Bush who
spent much of the 2000 presidential campaign dodging reporters'
questions about rumours of his past use of cocaine.
Bush would not answer questions about whether he ever used illegal
drugs, but told reporters that he would be able to pass an FBI
security background check for White House appointees that asks if
they had used illegal drugs in the past seven years.
"I've told the people of this country that, over 20 years ago, I made some mistakes when I was younger. I've learned from those
mistakes," Bush said on the campaign trail, without ever
denying or admitting that he used drugs.
At one point his campaign drew a specific date at 1974, when Bush
was 28, and said he had never used illicit drugs since then, but
would not comment on Bush's activities before that.
During his presidency an old Bush friend, author Doug Wead,
released taped conversations he had with Bush, including one that
touched on the drug issue.
“I wouldn’t answer the marijuana questions,” Bush is heard saying. “You know why? Because I don’t want some little kid doing what I tried.”
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