Federal Computer Week seemed to be just about the only outlet to cover the latest outrageous behavior by the federal government as it pursues a futile attempt to defend itself in Cobell v. Norton, the litigation exposing how the federal government mismanaged billions of dollars in trust funds on behalf of Native Americans. Most recently, the Chief Information Office of the Bureau of Land Management was threatened by higher ups right before taking the stand as a witness in the case.
According to a motion filed with the court: “Moments before Ms. Levine took the stand for her final day of testimony, she was told that she would be removed as bureau CIO and transferred to a non-information technology position in a bureau office that is targeted for closure….Under oath, Ms. Levine confirmed the chilling effect such retaliation had had on her forthcoming testimony and her fear of further retaliation. The message was delivered with absolute clarity: if you testify truthfully, you will be punished.”
According to March testimony from Attorney General Gonzales, the government has 18 attorneys fighting other cases besides Cobell at a cost of $7.4 million in FY 2006: “The FY 2006 budget also requests $7.4 million and 18 positions to defend the United States in lawsuits filed by Indian Tribes for allegations regarding the management of Tribal assets by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The United States' potential exposure in these cases is more than $200 billion. Adequate resources are necessary to limit exposure and establish proper precedent for the United States. These cases differ from lawsuits brought against the United States by individual Tribal members, like Cobell, due to the extent of the potential exposure and the amount of document management/production required.”
Senator McCain held hearings last week to determine if a legislative resolution could be brought to the Indian Trust Fund scandal.