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In The Hoop
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 6, 2001

Welcome to In The Hoop, Indianz.Com's occasional column about assorted Indian issues.

Fun with Judge Lamberth
If Secretary of Interior Gale Norton thought she would be getting an adequate defense from her new "A-Team" of lawyers at the Department of Justice, she was sorely mistaken.

As she and Assistant Secretary Neal McCaleb were fleeing the jurisdiction of the District of Columbia yesterday (they are en route to an Indian Energy "summit" in Colorado), one of their attorneys was making a fool of himself in federal court. Matthew Fader, of DOJ's civil division, managed to show he had no idea what he was talking about -- as if U.S. District Judge Lamberth didn't know that already.

In a heated exchange near the conclusion of a hearing yesterday evening, Fader tried to convince the court that shutting off "major systems" would keep trust assets belonging to 300,000 American Indians safe.

It's just that he forgot one thing. He couldn't actually offer proof.

"But can you today determine whether there is unauthorized access to trust data?" asked Lamberth. "I think the report [by special master Alan Balaran] suggests you cannot."

"The report suggests that the government cannot, that the Interior Department cannot," admitted Fader.

So Lamberth asked why he shouldn't shut down the systems himself to prevent risk to Indian account holders.

The reason he shouldn't, asserted Fader, was that "the two most important things to avoid that from happening are the imposition of firewalls and an intrusion detection system, and those two things are currently under contract to be done."

Lamberth wasn't buying it.

"They are under contract to be done; they're not done today," noted Lamberth. "So as we sit here today, neither of those is there."

Fader still didn't get it.

So when Lamberth moved to shut Internet access to the major systems and thousands and thousands of personal computers used by Interior employees and their contractors, Fader protested the order. Going by what he said, he may have not finished reading "PCs for Dummies."

"First of all, the term 'information technology systems' is -- it is unclear exactly how broad that is or exactly what is included in that," he said.

"The term 'individual Indian trust data' is something that we think could be subject to further interpretation and we do not know exactly what is included in that term," he continued.

"The phrase 'computers within the custody and control of the Department of the Interior,' we want Your Honor to understand that there are contractors who work with this data who are not within the custody and control," he said.

"And the other term, Your Honor, is 'access,' and access is something that we basically basically we have been trying to figure out what access means," he said.

And finally: "I just want to say for the record that Interior does not understand this order."

"You can tell me that at your contempt trial," responded Lamberth. "I don't believe one word you're telling me now and you're just ruining your own credibility by talking to me that way."

Ouch.

In Your Hoop
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