Some interesting new information was recently uncovered thanks to a 2012 Freedom of Information Act request by Inkoo Kang. Not surprisingly, the “cultural and artisan event, which promotes free expression by the participants,” has been under surveilance by the FBI since 2010.
In a 16-page document released to Kang, the FBI details activities on the Playa at the 2010 event. From the document, you can glean a few important facts.
Firstly, it seems that the FBI does not consider Burning Man an event of any degree of considerable danger. It states that “the greatest known threat in this event is crowd control issues and use of illegal drugs by the participants.” At such a secluded area, where the attendees are isolated and contained within their own makeshift community for 10 days, the threat of illegal drugs on passerby is nil. Additionally, if those are the biggest threats, then I would assume that the FBI is keeping tabs on the gathering more for informational purposes than any kind of actionable intelligence.
Second, a great deal of the document has been redacted, and refers to “sworn officers” and “test case” therein, supporting the theory that the FBI has undercover agents within the festival; the “test case” is up for debate, but suggests that there was once an incident that the FBI considers it necessary to train for in the future.
Most startling in the document is the rather random and sudden mention of terrorism.
Las Vegas is asked to closely plan and coordinate its critical incident management activities with local, state, and federal agencies that are providing security and consequence management support for the captioned event. This should be the standard practice for any special event but it is even more critical in light of the ongoing war on terrorism and the potential for additional acts of terrorism being committed in the United states.
I’ve never been to the Burn, but as far as I know, it is not a hotbed for terrorist or criminal activities.
Although this is all rather scary, Burners shouldn’t worry. Inkoo also made requests for arrest reports and fines, and found that the most common case of arrest at the Burn wasn’t anything to do with drugs, but in fact assaulting a police officer. So in short, don’t hit people and you should be fine.
Even better, the document reflects the opinion that the case on Burning Man should be closed. Whether there was any further investigation into the gathering thereafter is unknown, but at least the 2010 event went down without any major incident.