FROM THE ARCHIVE
Floods more important than Indians
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MONDAY, DECEMBER 10, 2001

The way the mainstream media is reporting the Internet shutdown at the Department of Interior, one would think Indian trust assets aren't really that important.

The Washington Post focuses on "emergency" information such as earthquake, weather and natural disaster data that has been hindered. The threat to pilots due to lack of knowledge about volcanic eruptions makes the story, not the threat to money owed to 300,000 American Indians.

FOX News takes a similar tack, noting that web pages for the National Park Service have been closed. The report includes a quote from a lawyer presenting the Indian account holders -- one taken from an Associated Press story.

That AP report talks about various Interior agencies that have been affected but doesn't say how the shutdown has impacted the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

For some reason, both The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times include a virtually identical and factually incorrect paragraph about an alleged ability for hackers to change grant amounts for tribes.

The LA Times wrote: "Lamberth's ruling came in response to a lawsuit by Indian tribes seeking to close down Interior Department computer sites on grounds that they are so insecure that outside parties have been able to break in and change the dollar amounts of grants designated by the department's Indian Trust program."

The NYTimes wrote: "Judge Lamberth's ruling came in response to a class-action lawsuit by Indian tribes seeking to block the department computer sites on the grounds that they were dangerously unsecured. Outside parties, the plaintiffs said, could easily break into the system and change the dollar amounts of grants designated by the government's Indian Trust program."

Keith Harper, the Native American Rights Fund attorney on the Individual Indian Money (IIM) trust case, said he had no idea where both papers got their information. He pointed out that the IIM suit is on behalf of individual Indians, not tribes.

Get the Story:
Interior Dept. Blocks Web Access at Judge's Order (The Washington Post 12/8)
Interior Dept. Blacks Out Web Sites Following Court Order (FOX News 12/7)
Interior Department trying to function after judge orders Internet shutdown (AP 12/7)
Closure of Interior Department Web Sites Ordered (The Los Angeles Times 12/7)
Interior Department Bars Access to Internet Site (The New York Times 12/8)
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Relevant Links:
Indian Trust, Department of Interior - http://indiantrust.doi.gov
Office of the Special Trustee - http://www.ost.doi.gov
Trust Management Improvement Project - http://www.doi.gov/bia/trust/tmip.htm
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton - http://www.indiantrust.com

Related Stories:
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Judge holds security hearing (12/8)
DOI Shutdown: 'We're Hurting Tribes' (12/7)
From the top, a gamble in trust (12/7)
Norton acknowledges Internet problems (12/7)
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