Department Of Interior

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Office of the Secretary
Contact: John Wright
For Immediate Release:April 9, 2004
U.S. Court of Appeals Issues Permanent Stay
Against Lower Court Ruling on Interior's Internet Access

WASHINGTON-The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia yesterday issued a permanent stay pending appeal, which will allow the Department of Interior to keep its internet access until the court finishes its deliberations on the merits of the case.

On March 15, 2004, the U.S. District Court ordered most of the Department of the Interior's computer systems disconnected from the internet. The court imposed the injunction to address its concerns regarding security for data pertaining to money or property held in trust for individual Indians.

The Appeals Court granted a temporary stay of this order on March 24, 2004, and today made the stay permanent. The court said that the department made a substantial case on the merits and that Interior showed irreparable harm would result without the stay.

Some 100,000 computers are operated by the Department, of which 6,600 house or provide access to Individual Indian Trust Data. Of those computers some 5,500 have been disconnected from the Internet for more than two years.

On behalf of the Department, the U.S. Department of Justice argued that a district court order requiring that a federal agency disconnect itself from internet capability would be extraordinary under any circumstances. It is even more extraordinary in the absence of any evidence warranting an injunction and the absence of any legal basis for the court's ruling.

In an affidavit to the Appeals Court, Gale Norton, Secretary of the Interior wrote: "Interior has invested substantial time, effort and funding in improving our information technology security. It is a responsibility we take seriously. But security demands are not our only responsibilities, and must be evaluated in the broad context of meeting all the demands placed upon government: serving the informational needs of the public, managerial effectiveness, Congressional appropriations, and resource protection."


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