Computer security charge stands as checks delayed
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The Department of Interior and attorneys representing 300,000 American Indians on Thursday attempted once again to come to an agreement on computer security.

The plaintiffs were willing to drop a fifth charge of contempt against Secretary Gale Norton in favor of additional court oversight, said Keith Harper of the Native American Rights Fund. The government, however, rejected the offer, letting stand an order that requires the Interior to work with special master Alan Balaran on the issue.

Per the order, the Interior has to provide 72 hours notice before reconnecting any particular system. On Monday, the government told Balaran it intended to start up the Trust Fund Accounting System (TFAS), the Social Services Automated System (SSAS), and the Integrated Records Management System (IRMS).

But Balaran refused to allow a reconnect of IRMS, which promises payments to individual Indians, seeking further assurances from the Interior. A spokesperson said the department would do that by Thursday morning.

However, sources said Balaran still had not approved a reconnect as of late yesterday afternoon, which would cause further delay in sending checks to Indian Country. Last December, the Interior disbursed $15 million in royalty and leasing fees to 43,000 Indian beneficiaries.

IRMS is one of several systems which Balaran and hackers he hired were able to break into because it had few security protections. IRMS is composed of six database that contain, among other data, leasing and ownership information for individual Indians.

A brief explanation of the breach was contained in a scathing investigation conducted by Balaran. The report was unsealed earlier this month and led U.S. District Judge Lamberth to add a fifth contempt charge against Secretary Gale Norton.

Lamberth also ordered the Interior to disconnect from the Internet every system and computer that has access to individual Indian trust data. The Interior responded by shutting down everything, regardless of relation to the trust assets of the Indian account holders.

Today on Indianz.Com:
Contempt trial breaking for Christmas (12/21)

Relevant Links:
Indian Trust, Department of Interior -
Office of the Special Trustee -
Trust Management Improvement Project -
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton -

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