Interior holding back trust fund security reports
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JUNE 29, 2001

The Department of Interior is holding back a number of documents which detail computer security issues affecting $3.1 billion in financial assets the government holds in trust for tribes and American Indians throughout the country.

But officials deny the documents, which are under seal, reveal any shortcomings with the trust accounts held for several hundred tribes and an estimated 300,000 American Indians. And making them public could put at risk the entire system, they added.

"Its an analysis of the computer security in effect now," was all Stephanie Hanna, an Interior spokesperson, would offer yesterday.

For several weeks, the special master in the Cobell v. Norton trust fund case has repeatedly requested he be provided with a number of security reports. They were prepared by SeNet International Corp., a Virginia-based technology company hired by the Interior to analyze the security of its operation.

According to Hanna, Balaran will have to wait a bit longer. For unexplained reasons, a report he wanted this week won't be available until mid- to late July, said Hanna.

"Our solicitors are going to notify Balaran," when the report, called "Indian Trust Data Protection Analysis (Reston Facility)" is complete, said Hanna.

Since a key part of the fixing the trust fund system involves placing account information on an Internet-like network, security is a big issue facing the government. Already, the Interior -- through an outside contractor -- has put every single trust account on a computer system which can be accessed at Bureau of Indian Affairs offices throughout the nation.

The Trust Fund Accounting System (TFAS) contains not just the Individual Indian Money (IIM) accounts that are the subject of the Cobell lawsuit but ones held for a number of tribes. At $2.7 billion, the tribal ones are worth considerably more than the individual accounts.

In either case, guaranteeing the security of the accounts would be necessary to maintaining the government's trust responsibilities. But there are indications the Interior is lacking in this area.

According to Balaran, on a recent surprise visit to a BIA facility in Reston, Virginia, he was allowed access to areas without being asked to identify himself. A security plan of the facility wasn't in place as of February, despite the Interior having spent $1 million on a system Officer of Information Resources Management Director Deborah Maddox said was the one of the best in the federal government.

Balaran says he will continue to monitor security operations at the facility and of the trust fund system in general.

Today on Indianz.Com:
Special trust fund hearing requested (6/29)

Relevant Links:
SeNet International -
Office of the Special Trustee -
Trust Management Improvement Project -
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton -

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