Monitoring Dillingham

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Now here’s a serious waste of Homeland Security dollars. Dillingham, Alaska, with a population of 2,400 (half of which are Native Alaskans), will soon be outfitted with 80 security cameras (over 60 have already been installed) .That’s one camera for every 30 residents, all purchased under a $202,000 Homeland Security grant, the devices are intended to prevent terrorism.

Now granted, Dillingham experienced three homicides and six unclassifiable deaths in the last three years, but this doesn’t seem like a responsible use of tax dollars. Police Chief Richard Thompson stands by the expense as a protection against terrorists using local ports as a “backdoor” entrance into the rest of the country.

Beyond adding waste to the $41 billion Homeland Security budget, the proportion of cameras to people envisioned for the town is the most disconcerting aspect of the story. The 2,400 citizens of Dillingham, a town with no streetlights, deserve a right to privacy. According to some residents, people don’t want to visit mental health facilities anymore out of fear of embarrassment. Local fisherman Ronnie Heyano, puts it best, asking, “who will be watching the watchers?”

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This feels like the most important fundraising drive since I've been CEO of Mother Jones, with staggeringly high stakes and so much uncertainty. In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," I try to unpack the reality we all face and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support Mother Jones’ nonprofit journalism: We need to raise $400,000 to help cover the vital reporting projects we have planned, and right now is no time to pull back.

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