Web Extra Wednesday, March 17, 2004 for updated story, see Web Extra, March 25, 2004

Internet down again for Interior

A federal judge once again has ordered a shutdown for U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Web sites, with the exception of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the National Park Service and the Interior budget office. This is the third such directive from the federal court, which decided that DOI had not sufficiently protected American Indian trust information online, such as oil and gas royalties, from computer intruders.

U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth first directed DOI to sever its servers in December 2001, throwing USGS and other divisions unexpectedly offline. USGS quickly received permission to resume its online activities after several days.

This time around, the three divisions that earned a stay had shown the court that their computer systems met the judge's security requirements, as reported by the Washington Post. Emergency services for fire and other disasters also remain connected to the Internet. The Minerals Management Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, among other DOI divisions, however, remain offline — with no public or employee access until the court is satisfied with the sites' security systems or the injunction is lifted.

The lawsuit, Cobell vs. Norton, was brought by a group of Native Americans in 1996 against then Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt. The group accused DOI of mismanaging land trust funds, established and held by DOI since the late 1800s for Native Americans.

Naomi Lubick

"USGS Internet Block," Geotimes Web Extra Dec. 6, 2001
"Internet cutoff order for Interior," Washington Post, March 16, 2004
"Interior Department Goes Offline," Wired, Associated Press, March 15, 2004

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