Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Web site taken down by a law suit?

I am doing a paper for my class, Emerging U.S. Health Care System. The paper is on the Indian Health Service. I have tons of resources. However, I wanted to look through the web site for the Bureau of Indian Affair for related demographic and other statistical information. Unfortunately, the Bureau is party to a class-action lawsuit brought by Native American representatives. Cobell v. Kempthorne is a result of claims "that the U.S. government has incorrectly accounted for Indian trust assets, which belong to individual Native Americans (as beneficial owners) but are managed by the Department of the Interior as the fiduciary trustee".

Pursuant to that suit, the entire BIA web site has been taken down, except for a few skeleton documents. WTF? How is it that information on a public web site can be made unavailable due to a court case? Wouldn't that be like pulling all the books written by one author out of all the libraries in the world because the author was involved in a law suit? Whether the documents help or hinder either side of the case, they existed and should be admissible to the court record as they were. Also, whether or not they are valuable to the case, a government sponsored web site is as good as a government document and should not be made unavailable to the public.

Doesn't this situation violate the Freedom of Information Act? If the government took it down on its own, the answer is definitely 'yes'. If, on the other hand, the plaintiffs in the case petitioned to have the site taken down, the judge had better have darned good reason for requiring that the information that was on the site be made unavailable to the public. However, there is no explanation on the site as to which side initiated the CENSORSHIP other than the following:
The BIA website as well as the BIA mail servers have been made temporarily unavailable due to the Cobell Litigation. Please continue to check from time to time. We have no estimate on when authorization will be given to reactivate these sites.

Amateurs.

1 comment:

David said...

That's been going on literally for years. SANS has been covering it off and on, for example: Interior Ordered Off Line Again (16 March 2004). I don't think you should expect to get any of that useful data off their web site in time for you class (or degree).