Unclaimed Individual Indian Moneys and Tribal Trust Accounts
|Bureau of Indian Affairs - Individual Indian Monies and Tribal Trust Accounts|
|Between 1820 and 1934,
it was national policy to break up reservations and parcel out allotments
of 80-160 acres to individual
Indian owners. Many
of these lands were rich in timber, minerals, water and fertile soil. Today,
11 million acres of land are held in trust for over 387,000 beneficiaries
via the Individual
Indian Monies (IIM)
system. More than $300 million annually from agricultural and oil
leases, mining and water rights, rights-of-way and timber sales is collected
by the Interior Department's
for distribution to owners.
Locating them has become more difficult as the Native American population has become more mobile. BIA has lost track of at least 47,000 account holders (more than 123,000 accounts lack Social Security numbers).
Even many of those who are not listed among the missing don't receive regular statements, and have been unable to verify whether their holdings and payments are correct. The current trust balance is around $450 million, but several billion dollars more have been lost over the years due to undervalued and/or uncollected lease payments, missing records (the majority of BIA's leases are stored in places with "no retrieval capacity," like abandoned salt mines) and destroyed checks.
In addition to IIM are some 2000 Tribal Trust Accounts, which includes per capita annual payments, compensation for rights-of-way and court settlements, which total $2.3 billion. As with IIM, however, waste, fraud and abuse are rampant. An audit revealed at least $2.4 billion is missing or otherwise unaccounted for over just the 20-year period from 1973 to 1992, making an accurate reconciliation of accounts virtually impossible.
For additional information and claims assistance go to: Indian Trust Fund Search
|Special Note: A pending class action lawsuit initiated by the Native American Rights Fund over Indian Trust Fund mismanagement filed in U.S. District Court alleges the federal government breached its fiduciary duty to over 300,000 Native American IIM beneficiaries. Damages could total several billion dollars.|
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WHICH ENDED UP IN BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS BEINGS SHUT DOWN
|Court Orders Interior Dept.
Computers Off The Net
Newsbytes.com Staff Writer
A large swath of the computer network serving the U.S. Interior Department remains disconnected from the Internet today following a judge's order demanding emergency security measures to protect systems that are supposed to be managing a multi-million-dollar trust fund for native Americans.
As part of a long-running class-action lawsuit launched by beneficiaries of the Individual Indian Monies (IMM) Trust, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., this week ordered the Interior Department to disconnect from the Internet "all information technology systems that house or provide access to individual Indian trust data."
The order from U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth did not list which publicly accessible servers were to be blocked, but the department's main site (www.doi.gov) remained offline this morning.
Other arms of the Interior Department whose sites were unreachable included the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (www.fws.gov), the U.S. Geological Survey (www.usgs.gov) and the Bureau of Land Management (www.blm.gov).
Also offline today were lesser-known agencies, such as the Minerals Management Service (www.mms.gov), the Office of Surface Mining (www.osmre.gov), and the department's National Business Center (www.nbc.gov) financial and e-commerce services provider.
The department's main National Park Service Web site (www.nps.gov) was online today, but the Recreation.gov destination for online purchases of park passes - operated by the National Business Center - was not.
Judge Lamberth also demanded that the Interior Department disconnect from the Internet the computers of all employees and contractors who also have access to the IMM trust data.
The fund amasses money collected from such industries as forestry and mining for the use of land that once belonged to Indian tribes but which was broken up into small lots and assigned to individual natives under pre-Second World War policies of the U.S. government.
IMM beneficiaries who first launched a lawsuit in 1996 claim the Interior Department may have lost track of billions of dollars because of mismanagement and faulty computerized accounting systems.
When first filed, the lawsuit was known as Cobell vs. Babbitt, after Elouise Pepion Cobell, a Blackfoot Indian from Montana, and then-Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt. After Gale Norton took over that post in January, the case became Cobell vs. Norton.
Next week, the new secretary is facing her own contempt-of-court trial, during which Norton will need to show that she and her staff weren't lying to Lamberth in reports that suggested the department was making progress in overhauling the system.
Technical experts assigned by the court to probe the department's accounting system managed to hack into department computers via the Internet and create bogus accounts for themselves in the IMM database. Earlier reviews of the systems had shown that the department had no audit trails to record specifics of past transactions totaling hundreds of millions of dollars.
In court Wednesday, a Department of Justice lawyer acting for the Interior Department argued that the technical experts had not found any evidence that other intruders had accessed the system or deleted data, causing Lamberth to retort: "You don't expect a thief to leave a calling card?"
"The issue is, if there is evidence that there has been actual damage to the trust data," government lawyer Matthew Fader replied.
"How would there be evidence if you don't have any audit trails?" Lamberth asked. "I don't understand your argument."
Today, government lawyers are scheduled to submit a proposal outlining improved security measures that they hope will convince Lambeth to lift the Internet lock-down order.
On Thursday, Lamberth added possible misrepresentations about the security of IMM data to charges on Norton's contempt-of-court plate.
More information on the case can be found here: www.indiantrust.org
Reported by Newsbytes.com, http://www.newsbytes.com
Copyright 2002 The Washington Post Company
Checks Stopped After Judge's Order Closed Internet Links
By Ellen Nakashima
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 8, 2002
Forty thousand Native Americans have not received any royalty checks from the federal government since Dec. 6, when a federal judge ordered the Interior Department to shut down its Internet links, ironically, to help protect the Indians' money.
U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth, who is presiding over a long-running lawsuit alleging federal mismanagement of Indian trust funds, concluded last month that inadequate computer security left the trust accounts, with about $3 billion in assets, vulnerable to outside hackers.
The federal government is supposed to issue royalty payments — some monthly, some quarterly, some annually — for the use of the Indians' land.
But because the Interior Department relies on its Internet system to track the accounts, it has not been able to make the last round of payments — what Native Americans say is about $40 million worth.
"The hardship to Indian country has been substantial," said Keith Harper, an attorney with the Native American Rights Fund, which is representing the Indians in the five-year-old legal battle. "This is sorely needed money that fulfills basic needs for a lot of folks."
The Interior Department, Harper said, is playing "a really cruel game of politics" by keeping its Web sites down to increase public — and Native American — pressure on the court to restore the Internet links.
"That's an unfortunate characterization and it's patently untrue," Interior spokesman Eric Ruff said.
Ruff said that general-assistance checks have been issued to Indians to help them cover basic needs. Royalty payments will be made eventually, he said, "as soon as we can work out with the [court's] special master to bring some of our systems back up that relate to this lease information."
Lamberth's order, which came at the request of the plaintiffs, affects all Interior agencies with possible connections to Indian trust data through the Internet, thus pulling the plug on Web sites for the U.S. Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.That means people cannot go online and look up campground information from the National Park Service or data on leasing land from the Bureau of Land Management.
The Interior Department restored its U.S. Geological Survey Web site over the weekend, with permission from the court, because the USGS gathers and transmits data used by the National Weather Service and other agencies.
The department has a temporary site with speeches and press releases linked via the USGS site.
Posted by Diane (188.8.131.52) on December 08, 2001 at 10:22:41:
In Reply to: Re: More On USGS Being Ordered out of Business posted by Diane on December 08, 2001 at 09:24:06:
Interior Dept. Blacks Out Web Sites Following Court Order
Friday, December 07, 2001
By Kelley Beaucar Vlahos
WASHINGTON — If you're planning a trip to one of America's national parks soon and browsing the Web for information, don't bother going to the National Park Service's official sites. They're all down.
They, along with the entire network of Web sites operated by the U.S. Department of Interior, were inaccessible Friday following an order by a U.S. District judge who feared flimsy security might have contributed to the loss of billions of Native American Indian trust monies.
Employees with agencies in the department were notified of the shutdown Thursday. E-mail operations are also interrupted.
It is unclear how long the blackout will last. Judge Royce C. Lamberth ordered Department Secretary Gail Norton late Wednesday to immediately shut down Internet access from any computer, server and system in the department that has access to individual Indian trust data.
In response to the order, the department has shut down its e-mail and more than 100 Web sites including those for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, and the Bureau of Land Management. None of the sites were accessible Friday.
BLM spokeswoman Celia Boddington said she could send e-mail to other BLM employees, but could not contact anyone outside the bureau.
Lamberth, who has presided over a long-running lawsuit accusing the federal government of losing more than $10 billion in Indian trust money over the last century, ordered the shutdown after a hacker hired by a court-appointed investigator broke into the trust fund twice without much effort.
"Without such direct oversight, the threat to records crucial to the welfare of hundreds of thousands of (Indian) beneficiaries will continue unchecked," investigator Alan Balaran wrote in a statement to Judge Lamberth.
The computer system currently tracks $500 million a year in royalties, rents and other income from 54 acres of land held in trust by the DOI and its Bureau of Indian Affairs since 1887. That money is supposed to be doled out methodically to Indian beneficiaries, but as the lawsuit contends, much has been mismanaged, lost or downright stolen over the decades.
Balaran said his hacker merely used a normal Internet connection and free software to get into the system. Once inside, he said, there were no firewalls and or anything installed to detect intruders. Another hacker hired by the DOI found the same shortcomings in the system.
Dennis Gingold, the attorney who asked the judge for the order, said Interior didn't need to take such a sweeping approach to comply with the judge's order.
"This just shows you how inept they are," he said. "They don't even understand how these systems relate to each other so they just pull the plug on the entire system."
Secretary Norton, who inherited the lawsuit initiated during the Clinton administration, is expected back in court Dec. 10 to defend her office against contempt of court allegations.
She is charged with showing that her office complied with Lamberth's 1999 order that the Interior Department piece together how much is owed to 300,000 Indians who sued the agency. Norton also must prove that she did not file false or misleading reports about the status of the accounting and the department's current system of tracking the Indian royalties.
In 1999, Lamberth held former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt and former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin in contempt and fined them $600,000 for failing to produce documents in the case.
He also ordered Interior to fix the system and account for the lost money, but so far the department has failed to do either despite spending $614 million on the effort, according to reports by court-appointed watchdogs.
At an Oct. 30 hearing, Lamberth scolded the Interior Department's lawyer and advised the lawyer to "throw yourself on the mercy of the court," rather than defending conduct he called "so clearly contemptuous."
The Associated Press contributed to this report