Many Useful Web Sites out of Service in Name of Security
Byline: Mike Stahlberg / The Register-Guard
SECURITY is a buzzword in the United States these days, for reasons as painful as they are obvious.
We now accept, in the name of security, that we may have to queue up for hours at airports, or remove our shoes before we can be allowed to board an airliner.
It's difficult to believe, however, that security dictates we be denied access to information about Crater Lake National Park, Willamette Valley wildlife refuges, countless campgrounds and millions upon millions of acres of public lands.
But one of the public's primary sources of information about its lands has been unavailable for many weeks, due to concerns about security.
Personal or physical security isn't the problem. It's the security of information contained in U.S. Interior Department computers that's at issue.
For almost three months now, visitors attempting to connect to countless outdoor-related Internet sites maintained by certain federal agencies have run into a cyber roadblock. Attempts to check out Crater Lake National Park's plans for celebrating its 100th anniversary, for example, have been greeted by a message on the computer screen reading:
"Due to conditions outside our bureau, the National Parks Service has suspended operation of (several Web site addresses) until further notice. We apologize for this inconvenience and are working to restore service as soon as possible."
That sounds as though a tree fell across the Park Service's computer lines during the big windstorm.
In fact, it was a federal judge's gavel that knocked computers offline at the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management and several other Interior Department agencies.
The gavel was wielded by U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, who is presiding over a case involving the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), one of those "other" Interior Department bureaus.
It's a class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of 300,000 Native Americans. The plaintiffs allege that the Bureau of Indian Affairs mismanaged Indian trust funds and lost track of several billion dollars collected over the years from logging, mining, oil drilling, grazing and other activities on tribal lands.
Hearing evidence that shoddy computer technology was at least partially to blame for the funds being "misplaced," Lamberth appointed his own investigator to look into the matter.
The investigator - armed only with Internet access and some rudimentary software - reported back to the judge that he had been able to "hack into" the DOI computer system and manipulate sensitive financial data. …