Indian Affairs Web site reconnected

After years of litigation requiring its Internet links to be disconnected, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is back on the World Wide Web.

Judge James Robertson, of U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Circuit, granted a motion last month to vacate the December 2001 consent order that required several of the Interior Department's operating agencies to remove their Internet connections.

The motion comes as part of the Cobell v. Norton litigation ' now known after more than a decade as Cobell v. Kempthorne ' concerning security issues in Interior's network and systems that might have aided in the compromise of Individual Indian Trust Data (IITD).

In December 2001, Judge Royce Lamberth, also of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, ordered Interior to disconnect nearly all its systems from the Internet because of security flaws that put the trust funds of American Indians in jeopardy.

Judge Roberson's May 14 decision to vacate the December 2001 consent order allows Internet connections for the BIA, Office of Hearing and Appeals, Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians and Office of Historical Trust Accounting to be reconnected.

'We are now on the path to full reconnection to the Internet,' said Carl Artman, assistant secretary of Indian Affairs, in an internal memo to BIA and Bureau of Indian Education employees. 'The [Interior] Department, and Indian Affairs in particular, has worked long and diligently to resolve the [information technology] security issues. I am pleased that the court has given us this opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to the protection and preservation of the IITD.'

Much of the delay for reinstatement of the Internet links was not the settlement of the lawsuit itself but rather the stringent conditions set in the December 2001 consent order for reconnection and process for evaluating Interior's compliance with those conditions. Some of Interior's Internet links were restored years ago, but strict court oversight of the department's system security has left some agencies disconnected.

About the Author

Dan Campbell is a freelance writer with Government Computer News and the president of Millennia Systems Inc.

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