Education Secretary Margaret Spellings was "not available" to comment on the lawsuit or any of its claims. Her department has been equally forthcoming in making information about who is affected by the HEA provision available to the public. Responding to inquiries from legislators and the media, SSDP filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the department in December 2004 for a state-by-state breakdown of students who answered the FAFSA drug question the "wrong" way. After months of sometimes farcical bureaucratic stonewalling, SSDP was presented with a bill of more than $4,000 to conduct what should have been a simple database search--a mark-up on product worthy of the Cali cartel and one far beyond the means of a struggling nonprofit. Though its FOIA request was intended to reveal the activity of government and served no commercial purpose, the student group was denied a fee waiver. "As SSDP's campaign could directly benefit those who would profit from the deregulation or legalization of drugs," a department official explained in his final rejection letter, "I cannot conclude...that SSDP has no commercial interest in the disclosure sought."
"I guess the suggestion is that if people know how many students in every state are affected by the HEA provision, the drug war will end," says SSDP campaigns director Tom Angell, whose organization filed a separate federal lawsuit against the Education Department with the aid of Public Citizen to secure a fee waiver for its FOIA request. In response to the lawsuit, the department finally relented, agreeing in late March to waive the fee and provide the data by the end of the month. After handing over incomplete spreadsheets on March 31, the government finally sent the full data on April 12. Should the drug war end as a result, SSDP promises to donate any ensuing profits to repairing the damage caused by decades of foolish drug-control policies.
Ya gotta love that ending. By the way, the article is titled "Drug War Flunks Out." Brilliant.