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Interior Dept. Sanitized Reports To Judge

A judge was kept in the dark about failures in a computer system created to help track royalty payments that were owed to American Indians, a court-appointed investigator reported Monday.

Last September, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth said Interior Secretary Gale Norton had defrauded the court by making misleading statements about the department's efforts to fix management problems of oil, gas, mining, timber and other royalties from Indian lands. That included covering up failures of the Trust Asset and Accounting Management System.

On Monday, Alan Balaran, a court-appointed special master in the case, said the Interior Department made a concerted effort to sanitize its report on the computer system to make it appear to be working well. He said the department ignored advice from its own experts, who said the report as presented to the court was misleading and inaccurate.

The thing about the trust fund scandal (if you can call it a scandal, since nobody outside the BIA and the tribes seems to care about it) that's hard to comprehend is not how the BIA has screwed over the Native Americans. That's certainly an outrage, but it's also a longstanding American tradition, so it's hardly surprising. What's sometimes more amazing is that the BIA has no qualms about screwing over the court that's trying to resolve the issue. Maybe they're just frustrated that someone's trying to throw out a longstanding American tradition.


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