Jodi Rave: BIA finally fully connected to Internet
"Howard Bemer didn't think he'd survive life without e-mail after a federal judge disconnected the Bureau of Indian Affairs from the Internet.

“I thought it was like the end of the world,” said Bemer, now superintendent of the BIA's Fort Berthold Agency in North Dakota. “But after you get used to not having it, honestly, I don't even miss it.”

After nearly seven years, his e-mail-free days are over.

This week, the Interior Department announced it had brought 5,000 computers in 148 bureau sites back to the 21st century.

Since December 2001, bureau employees - many in outlying posts of the BIA and Office of Indian Affairs - have been offline, working in a world with no forwarded messages, no Indianz.com, no hint of breaking news.

A federal judge ordered the Internet disconnected to protect individual Indian trust data stored on Interior Department information technology systems used by several agencies, including the BIA, Bureau of Land Management and Minerals Management Service.

The shutdown initially cut every Interior Department agency from the Web, at one time even preventing people from reserving campsites in national parks.

Gradually the computers have been reconnected. As Interior Department agencies proved they could protect their data, they have been allowed to reconnect beginning in 2002.

U.S. District Judge James Robertson, presiding judge in the Cobell vs. Interior Department suit, finally brought the BIA's Washington and Albuquerque offices back online in May and June.

But as of the end of July, BIA regional offices, agencies, and field offices were still offline."

Get the Story:
BIA finally allowed to hook back up to the Web (The Missoulian 8/31)

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