indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439
Indian Law Online Master Degree
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

printer friendly version
Judge seeks to break impasse over trust systems
Tuesday, July 29, 2003

The federal judge overseeing the Indian trust fund has extended a ruling that bars the Department of Interior from reconnecting its computer systems to the Internet without court approval.

U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth issued the preliminary injunction late yesterday afternoon in an attempt to resolve an impasse between his court and the Bush administration. Special master Alan Balaran and government attorneys have been bickering for months over computer systems that house billions of dollars in Indian funds.

Instead of allowing the dispute to continue, Lamberth decided to act. Otherwise, he wrote in a 35-page opinion, American Indian beneficiaries would be harmed by Interior's security loopholes.

"The court finds that the continued operation of computer systems connected to the Internet that either house or provide access to individual Indian trust data, and which have not been demonstrated to be secure from Internet access by unauthorized persons, constitutes further and continuing an irreparable injury to plaintiffs," he wrote. "Their continued operation provides an opportunity for undetectable unauthorized persons to access, alter, or destroy individual Indian trust data via an Internet connection."

Lamberth's order, however, includes a number of provisions that limit its impact. Within the next 10 to 15 days, the government can provide the court a list of computer systems that should be exempt from the shutdown, including those "essential for protection against fires or other threats to life or property." The order doesn't apply to systems that don't come in contact with Indian funds.

The injunction also has little effect on the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Office of Special Trustee (OST), the two agencies whose computer vulnerabilities have been exploited. BIA and OST systems have yet to be reconnected to the public Internet while improvements are being made.

Nevertheless, Lamberth warned, in a footnote, that the department should not use the decision to justify delays in payments to account holders. When the computer systems were first cut in December 2001, thousands went without checks for months.

"Under no circumstances, however, shall the Interior defendants exploit or otherwise manipulate these circumstances and conditions to delay unduly the prompt distribution to plaintiffs of their desperately-needed trust funds," Lamberth wrote. "This court will view any such delay as a willful breach of the fiduciary duty that the United States government owes to individual Indian trust beneficiaries."

The government has admitted several that it is lacking adequate security precautions. In spring of 2001, the BIA moved its computer center from Albuquerque, New Mexico, to suburban Washington, D.C., under the guises of improving the systems.

But problems persisted, even by Interior's own experts and staff. The situation culminated with an explosive November 2001 report in which Balaran detailed how a computer team he hired was able to break into the BIA without a trace.

Following discussions between the court, the plaintiffs and Interior, Lamberth approved a "consent decree" on December 17, 2001, that guides how the computer systems are to be reconnected. Associate Deputy Secretary Jim Cason was designated the lead on the issue, and from all indications, it appeared the arrangement was working.

Conditions started to deteriorate in April, when the government moved to deny Balaran access to the systems, arguing that the consent order does not allow him to perform "penetration" tests to ensure fixes are in place.

Lamberth, in his opinion, noted that such tests are vital. "Without any such means of verification, the court would have no assurance that the reconnected systems could not be accessed by unauthorized users," he said.

The preliminary injunction can be appealed to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Get the Decision:
Memorandum Opinion | Preliminary Injunction (July 28, 2003)

Relevant Links:
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton - http://www.indiantrust.com
Cobell v. Norton, Department of Justice - http://www.usdoj.gov/civil/cases/cobell/index.htm
Indian Trust, Department of Interior - http://www.doi.gov/indiantrust

Related Stories:
Editorial: Judge Lamberth should stop his antics (7/28)
Tally for private attorney fees in Cobell case rises (07/24)
Contempt charges against Interior vacated (7/21)
Commentary: Critics of Cobell, Lamberth shortsighted (7/21)
Neal McCaleb happy court is off his back (7/21)
Editorial: DOI, Congress can't be trusted to do right (7/21)
Editorial: What about holding tribes accountable? (7/21)
Norton cleared of contempt on trust fund (7/18)
Congress hacks Bush's accounting funds (7/16)
Trust fund provision stripped from House bill (7/15)
Swimmer partly right on trust fund rider (7/14)
Hearsay: House sending message to Lamberth (7/14)
Bill could strip DOI of trust fund management (7/14)
Bush official balks at large settlement for Cobell (7/10)
House takes testimony on trust fund settlement (7/10)
Editorial: Shame on Bush and Congress for rider (7/10)
Judge Lamberth hears closing arguments in Cobell trial (7/9)
Closing arguments set in Cobell trust fund trial (7/8)
Dicks pins anti-Cobell language on Taylor (7/7)
Editorial: Trust fund settlement bill 'disgraceful' (7/7)
Swimmer to appear on Native America Calling (7/7)
Swimmer finally off the stand in Cobell trial (7/3)
Swimmer testimony in Cobell trial wrapping up (7/2)
Swimmer recalls 'fuzzy' Reagan years (7/1)
Lamberth questions Norton's trust limits (7/1)
Pombo targets trust fund settlement program (6/30)
Lamberth orders disconnect of computer systems (06/30)
DOI e-mail server was temporarily disconnected (04/25)
DOI concealed TAAMS problems from court (4/22)
BIA incident prompts high-level recommendation (03/27)
Senior trust reform official leaves Interior (03/10)
New Bush budget aims to improve trust fund (02/04)
Court report blasts McCaleb for destroying records (01/27)
Court: McCaleb 'fabricated' e-mail story (1/24)
Martin read about deposition online (12/23)
BIA aides circumventing court (12/16)
Martin's role in incident surfaces (12/16)
McCaleb latest in long line of DOI departures (11/25)
Key trust reform player leaving BIA (02/28)
Trust fund corruption not a problem, says witness (01/15)

Copyright 2000-2003 Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:

Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Native Sun News: Tribes ask Obama to deny Keystone XL permit (1/28)
Native Sun News: Native youth take stand against Keystone bid (1/28)
Tara Houska: Respect treaties and reject Keystone XL Pipeline (1/28)
Mark Trahant: Obama administration steps up for environment (1/28)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee holds first meeting & hearing (1/28)
House committee won't restore Indian and Alaska Native panel (1/28)
Opinion: Affordable Care Act offers behavorial health services (1/28)
Sami Jo Difuntorum: Support needed for Indian housing update (1/28)
Albert Bender: Stop glorification of Indian killer Andrew Jackson (1/28)
Amanda Blackhorse: Navajo leader defends racist NFL mascot (1/28)
Megan Red Shirt-Shaw: Our kids should be able to go anywhere (1/28)
Police probe racist treatment of Oglala youth at hockey game (1/28)
College basketball player proud to serve as Native role model (1/28)
Auburn Community buys stake in rock music festival company (1/28)
Former Pueblo leader ready to change plea in $3.6M theft case (1/28)
Young member of Meskwaki Tribe pleads guilty in murder case (1/28)
Mississippi Choctaws to debut casino after $70M in renovations (1/28)
Catawba Nation waits for BIA decision on off-reservation casino (1/28)
Member of Chehalis Tribe working on $40M expansion of casino (1/28)
Opinion: Decision on Menominee Nation casino makes no sense (1/28)
Editorial: Approve off-reservation casino for Ho-Chunk Nation (1/28)
Native Sun News: Chair of Lower Brule Sioux Tribe blasts report (1/27)
Native Sun News: Lummi Nation eyes halt to coal export project (1/27)
House Natural Resources Committee set to hold first meeting (1/27)
First-ever conference to focus on marijuana in Indian Country (1/27)
Fort Peck Tribes moving towards full legalization of marijuana (1/27)
8th Circuit rules against Indian inmate in religious rights case (1/27)
Jennifer Denetdale: Film glosses over violence in border towns (1/27)
Isadore Boni: An Apache AIDS survivor completes first marathon (1/27)
Osage Nation expects to see $7.4M in Cobell consolidation offers (1/27)
The Atlantic: Native people wary of DNA tests and genetic studies (1/27)
Morongo Band to debut first tribally-owned Taco Bell next week (1/27)
County files appeal over Chumash Tribe land-into-trust decision (1/27)
City leaders to work closely with Shakopee Tribe on road project (1/27)
Miccosukee Tribe wins decision in dispute over fees paid to court (1/27)
Senate Democrats delay vote on Keystone XL Pipeline measure (1/27)
Editorial: Wildlife refuge in Alaska deserves stronger protections (1/27)
BIA questions provision in compact for some New Mexico tribes (1/27)
Seminole Tribe still interested in opening casino in Atlantic City (1/27)
Ho-Chunk Nation's gaming compact authorizes another facility (1/27)
Shoshone-Bannock Tribes name executive for gaming operation (1/27)
Editorial: Presidential politics derailed off-reservation casino bid (1/27)
Native Sun News: North Dakota takes on impacts of energy boom (1/26)
Native Sun News: Oglala Sioux man calls on US to honor its word (1/26)
GOP leader outlines agenda for Senate Indian Affairs Committee (1/26)
Supreme Court orders another decision in Indian inmates' case (1/26)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.