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For the third time in less than three years, a federal judge has ordered the Department of the Interior to disconnect a large number of its employees from the Internet over concerns about the agency’s security practices.

The order, issued Monday in United States District Court in Washington, is part of a longstanding conflict between Interior officials and Judge Royce Lamberth, who has shown little patience with the agency’s attempts to improve the security of its networks. It also highlights the continuing struggle inside the Beltway to improve the security at federal agencies.

The dispute goes back to 2000 when it came to light that the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which is responsible for housing data relating to Indian trust funds, “had no security plan for the preservation of the trust data … that BIA has now placed itself in the incredible position that it cannot now create such a plan with its own employees.”

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