Park Service back online

Roll out the sleeping bags and pitch the tents. The National Park Service is back online, to the delight of employees and campers alike.

The popular site returned Feb. 14, along with staff e-mail, after being off-line for two months following a Dec. 5, 2001, order from U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth. The judge ruled that the Interior Department unplug its Internet connections after a security firm broke into Interior's systems and reportedly cut a check from American Indian trust funds.

NPS petitioned the court to reconnect Dec. 9, 2001, and won approval three days later. That night, NPS began turning on its 1,339 servers spread over 419 locations.

"It takes awhile for it to propagate through the World Wide Web saying this is a valid address," said NPS spokesman David Barna. "I'm now receiving e-mails from outside the government, which I haven't [gotten] in two months."

In addition to losing e-mail and electronic time card capabilities while unplugged, the agency couldn't process travel vouchers, promotions, payment for construction work, time cards and bids. Testifying at her contempt trial Feb. 13, Interior Secretary Gale Norton said she has grave concerns about existing systems. She faces five charges, including failing to provide beneficiaries with historical accounting of their money.

"I do know [of] situations where the documents that existed no longer exist," she said.

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