Monday, October 24, 2005

For 4th Time, Judge Seeks to Shield Indian Data

WASHINGTON, Oct. 24 - For the fourth time since 2001, a federal judge has sought to force the Interior Department to disconnect from the Internet its computers that have access to data related to trust accounts it administers for American Indians.

In an opinion of more than 200 pages, the judge, Royce C. Lamberth of Federal District Court here, said computer security at the department was "disorganized and broken," making it vulnerable to computer hackers.

The ruling, issued on Thursday, exempted those computers necessary "to protect against fires or other such threats to life, property or national security."

But Interior Department officials said that the order could affect as many as 6,000 government computers containing Indian trust data, and others still with indirect access to the information. Dan DuBray, a department spokesman, said the agency received a temporary stay of the order from an federal appeals court on Friday, as it seeks to have the decision reversed. Government lawyers had argued that the stay was "necessary to prevent grave injury to the public interest" and the operations of government.