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Cobell plaintiffs rest case

Attorneys representing 300,000 American Indians rested their case in Secretary of Interior Gale Norton's contempt today, calling to the stand their final witness.

Keith Harper of the Native American Rights Fund spent most of the day questioning the Department of Interior's top computer official, Daryl White, about his role in the Trust Asset and Accounting Management System (TAAMS). The system is designed to bring trust accounting into the 21st century but has seen setbacks.

White testified that his role was of an advisory nature. He was part of a senior-level management team that made recommendations to the Secretary about the implementation of the system, he said, but did not have direct authority over the actual development.

That, he said, was left to the project's manager. The first lead on the system was Dom Nessi, who eventually left the Bureau of Indian Affairs to join the National Park Service a few months after he authored a memo claiming that trust reform was "slowly, but surely imploding."

"It reflects a project manager's frustrations after being with a project for a long time," said White of the memo. "The project was getting to a point where a note like this wouldn't be a surprise to me."

White did say his office was responsible for the independent verification of the system. He said his office hired a third-party contractor to assess whether TAAMS was meeting its stated goals.

White admitted TAAMS, to date, hasn't lived up to its promises. But he did not concede that reports submitted to U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth on the project's status were misleading, based on information that was supplied to him.

After the plaintiffs rested their case, the government began its defense and called to the stand John Snyder, a subordinate of White. Snyder had been on the plaintiffs' witness list but was eliminated yesterday.

Testimony resumes tomorrow in federal court at 10:30 a.m.

Today on Indianz.Com
End in sight for Norton contempt trial (1/10)

Relevant Links:
Indian Trust, Department of Interior -
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton -

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