Organizers behind Burning Man (which kicks off its 29th annual festival this week) describe the event as “a temporary metropolis dedicated to community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance.” I describe it as a bunch of half-naked people doing drugs in the desert. Both descriptions are accurate, and both sound like a lot of fun.
But the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) probably had the second description in mind when they began monitoring the event in 2010.
According to documents uncovered by Inkoo Kang via MuckRock.com, the FBI’s Special Events Management Unit keeps tabs on Burning Man to “aid in the prevention of terrorist activities.” However, the same documents also state that the “greatest known threat” at the festival is “crowd control” and the “use of illegal drugs by 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.com via email. “I wanted to see in what other nonsensical/completely out-of-touch ways alternative cultures and people were being viewed by law-enforcement agencies.”
The documents also discuss using the festival as a “test case” for intelligence gathering, although specifics regarding what the “test” will consist of have been redacted.
Last but not least, the use of undercover police officers is also discussed, which should instantly bring this clip to mind for any Simpsons fan.
To view all of the documents for yourself, click here.
Jason Mathews is Internetting way too hard. Follow him at @jasonmathews316.