Interior back online

Internet access has returned to the Interior Department, following a federal appeals court ruling that blocked a lower court's decision to shut off Internet access to most of the agency.

The Federal Appeals Court for the District of Columbia Circuit on March 25 issued an emergency administrative stay that temporarily suspends the order of district court Judge Royce Lamberth that Interior deactivate numerous Web sites and Internet connections in the Bureau of Indian Affairs and other agencies that have access to American Indian trust data. The Interior Department requested the injunction following Lamberth's March 15 ruling.

Lamberth's shutdown order was the third such court ruling since 2001 when it was determined that computer hackers could easily break into Indian trust funds and pillage accounts worth millions of dollars. The shutdown affected about 50,000 students attending 180 schools run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Now Interior has returned to the Internet access status that it had before March 15. Areas of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians remain disconnected because they are still subject to an earlier disconnection order.

Interior maintains that it is not plagued by online vulnerabilities.

"We're not acknowledging the problems that are articulated in those cases," said Interior chief information officer Hord Tipton. "We have not conceded that at all

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