March 29, 2006

Your [US] tax dollars at work. In Alaska. Again.

Dillingham's right thereFirst, there was the infamous 'bridge to nowhere,' a US$ 200 million span linking Ketchikan [pop. 14,500] to Gravina Island [pop. 50 on a good day] — funds for which were included in Dubya's latest budget. {See our 2004 Pacific Views post for details.]

But one boondoggle wasn't enough for Dubya's administration. The Department of Homeland Security set its sights on Dillingham [pop. 2400] — a southwest Alaska town accessible from the rest of the country only by air or sea. While you or I might not think there's a grave threat of terrorism there, Homeland Security knows that terrorists could sneak a dirty bomb into Dillingham, put it on a barge to Seattle, and Boom! No more Emerald City.

It's to prevent such a tragedy that Dillingham's city government asked for — and Homeland Security gave them — a US$ 202,000 grant to install surveillance cameras all over town. 80 cameras, in fact, 60 of which are already in place. That's one camera for every 30 residents. For comparison, the port at Anchorage [pop. 627,000] has only 40 cameras.

A quick search found that some of Dillingham's cameras can be accessed online, so this magpie decided to go hunting for terrorists. The shot below of the city dockyard shows what is obviously some sort of communication from al-Qaeda.

View from one of Dillingham's cameras

A message to Osama?

Although the terrorist operatives have done their best to obscure the meaning of their message, they haven't been able to fool Magpie's crack team of analytic and cryptographic experts. In a Magpie exclusive, I can now reveal what the terrorists are saying: 'Hi' is code for 'Please leave the dirty bomb here. Kiss Seattle goodbye.' And 'Mae' is al-Qaeda's code name for Osama bin Laden. Good thing Dillingham put up those cameras, eh?

Getting serious, though, the Dillingham cameras are not only a serious invasion of residents' privacy, but an example of how state and local governments are using Homeland Security money for questionable [if not totally ridiculous] projects. And doing so while legitimate security needs at the country's major ports go unmet.

It's anyone's guess how long Dillingham's cameras will stay up. Not everyone in town is happy being on candid camera, and there's currently a drive to force the city government to remove the cameras, led by a former Dillingham mayor.

Via LA Times.

Posted by Magpie at March 29, 2006 12:58 PM | US News | Technorati links |

Not only are there cameras in Dillingham....
Jack’s Puppets
Deception and Tragedy Strike Family in Suspenseful New Novel

DILLINGHAM, Alaska – Many people fear the unexpected and hope they will never encounter a situation where their lives or the lives of loved ones are in danger. Lillian Harrison’s life has already been touched by tragedy and murder, but now she must face deceit and manipulation that puts her own life in peril in J. Nadine’s new novel, Jack’s Puppets.
Lillian and her husband, Matthew, love the outdoors and have made plans to someday move to Alaska. Sadly, on the day their daughter, Anna, is born, Matthew’s life is taken, leaving Lillian to raise Anna and realize their dream alone. Years later, Lillian makes the move and expands her family jewelry business to Anchorage. It is here that Lillian meets Jack Rugar, a mysterious lodge owner from 350 miles away with an unknown past.
Suzy, a longtime employee of the family business and friend of Jack’s, discovers that Lillian and Anna are in danger and asks him for help. When Emily, Lillian’s sister, returns from an extended absence, Suzy finds herself in the same peril of those she is trying to assist. Jack is not sure if he can fully trust Anna’s fiancé, Jonathon, who is an employee at Lillian’s store. Jonathon also questions Jack’s loyalties as they both become major influences in the family.
Jack’s Puppets is full of mystery, love, romance and deceit set in a majestic wilderness. This book pulls the readers into a story where trust is hard to gain and manipulation leads to danger. A surprising story from beginning to end, Nadine presents a narrative that will entertain experienced and novice readers alike.
Nadine enjoys gardening, music, movies, family, coffee and a good book. She currently resides in Alaska with her husband of 20 years and their two children. Jack’s Puppets is her first novel. For more information, visit, or

Posted by: J. Nadine at April 16, 2006 06:04 PM