Why's Interior Offline?


Dave Fletcher in Judicial System Strikes Again: BLM Shut Down makes an interesting point:

The BLM has vanished from cyberspace. It seems ridiculous, but court orders have shut down not only the BLM Internet presence, but the entire Department of the Interior. Although the sites were also shut down for several months in 2001, this latest action by Judge Royce Lamberth in Washington has huge ramifications, particularly in a state like Utah where the majority of the land is owned by BLM. This is like saying we're going to shut down all government facilities around the country because one of them has been shown to have inadequate physical security. There should be a public outcry.
From David Fletcher's Government and Technology Weblog
Referenced Thu Mar 18 2004 19:39:24 GMT-0700

There seem to be a few issues:

  • A security weakness in a network has the potential to make unrelated sites vulnerable.
  • Also, its not clear that Interior has done all they can to fix the problem.

The trial stems from a suit over Interior mismanagement (says the court) of a trust maintained by Interior that contains royalties to be paid to Indian tribes. I'm sure that I don't know the entire story. I'd love to understand why Interior thinks they can't move faster. Is it simply intransigence, a disagreement with the courts over what needs to be done, or what? Wired, in a recent story on the case said:

[U.S. District Judge Royce] Lamberth said the move was necessary because the department refuses to work with Special Master Alan Balaran to fix holes in the computer security, which has been widely criticized in government reviews as being deficient. The department has accused Balaran of being biased. Lamberth denied the department's request to remove him from the case.
From Wired News: Interior Department Goes Offline
Referenced Thu Mar 18 2004 19:47:15 GMT-0700

A special master is a technical (in the broad sense) expert employed by the courts to gather facts and recommend action. In 1998, Larry Lessig was appointed and then not appointed as a special master in the Microsoft anti-trust trial. All this still doesn't say what Balaran wants Interior to do that they find so onerous.