The FBI admitted to spying on Burning Man since 2010 in an effort to prevent terrorism and collect intelligence. They found no threats except for—surprise!—people using illegal drugs, and issues with crowd control. Internal documents detailing the FBI's investigations were provided to investigative journalist Inkoo Kang in February 2013, but only recently made public as the 29th edition of the annual festival in Black Rock Desert, Nevada is underway.
These documents contain some rather interesting redactions. We now know that Burning Man was used as a test case for future intelligence gathering—although we don't know what exactly the test entailed. (We also found out that that FBI agents classify the Burn as a "cultural and artisan event" that promotes "free expression by the participants.")
"I put in a bunch of requests about counter-cultural (in the broadest sense of the term) figures and events… right around the time when the FBI labeled Juggalos a 'gang,'" Kang told Playboy. "I wanted to see in what other nonsensical/completely out-of-touch ways alternative cultures and people were being viewed by law-enforcement agencies."
After noting that the 2010 festival "took place with no adverse threats or actions," the FBI concluded, "it is requested this matter be closed."
Meanwhile, feel free to do some of your own spying on Burning Man—through their live-stream.
Read the full document here.
Michelle Lhooq is lurking on desert rave tech bros on Twitter