Department of Interior Site Offers Limited Access After Being Forced Offline by Court Order
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The U.S. Department of Interior web site is back online after forced offline by a judge's order. The site offers a severly condensed amount of the information that was previously available before the judge's decision.

Of the Department's eight services previously offering information online, only the U.S. Geological Survey has been given the green-light to go back online. The following bureaus remain offline:

  • Bureau of Indian Affairs
  • Bureau of Land Management
  • Bureau of Reclamation
  • U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
  • Minerals Management Service
  • National Park Service
  • Office of Surface Mining

 U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth issued the order taking the site down as part of a long-running case in which the Department is charged withthe mis-management of billions of dollars held in trust since the late 19th century for millions of Native Americans.

As part of the under-lying class-action suit, filed in 1996, the judge hired a security expert who was able to access sensitive information regarding the Indian trust funds - entering the Department of Interior computer network through its web site. This security breach brought about the judge's order to essentially quarantine the department's network from ANY outside contact until the data in question was secured. This led to the Department closing ALL of its web services.

One Interior employee described, on the condition of anonymity to GovExec.com, the situation in which most of the Department's employees were disconected from all e-mail contact and Internet access as being, "like sitting in a cave."

The return of the USGS to the wired world is important because the Survey collects and disperses information from the National Weather Service and National Earthquake Information Center, in addition to other agencies. Specifically, the USGS uses this information to supply the Federal Aviation Administration with information on volcanic eruptions to warn pilots about potential debris in the atmosphere, among numerous other services.

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