Undercover FBI agents at Burning Man

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FBI says they are preventing terrorism while testing out cool new spy technology.

In response to a request under the 2012 Freedom of Information Act, the security service said its Special Events Management unit has kept files on festival-goers, known as ‘burners’ – to ‘aid in the prevention of terrorist activities and intelligence collection’.

But the FBI’s 16-page response to the question by Inkoo Kang is heavily redacted, with information about the technology being used to secretly gather the information being blanked out. The revelation comes as the 29th Burning Man takes place in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada.

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The FBI document describes the festival as a ‘cultural and artisan event, which promote (sic) free expression by the participants’. The FBI said its involvement was ‘even more critical in the light of the ongoing war on terrorism and the potential for additional acts of terrorism being committed in the United States.’ But later the FBI warns: ‘The greatest known threat in this event is crowd control issues and use of illegal drugs by participants.’ The heavily-redacted document said that the Las Vegas FBI will work with all appropriate law enforcement agencies on the material it gathers.

The event is held in a remote area, branded Black Rock City, which is twelve miles from the nearest town, Gerlach, and 75 miles from Reno, Nevada. MuchRock.com reported that Inkoo Kang submitted the FIOA request about he FBI’s involvement in the annual event. According to the FBI report, participants, who are into ‘free expression’, pay a fee to enter the area. ‘Once inside, the participants access to the venues is unrestricted.’

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Burning Man, currently in its 29th year, begins on the last Monday of August and ends on the first Monday of September, for a week of festivities centered around art and alternative living. Since money is effectively outlawed at the site, guests are urged to barter for commodities and many fans have already taken to social media offering to swap items such as crystals for festival tickets. The entire campsite is temporary, and participants are required to bring everything with them, from food to tents and even furniture. Every year, several massive ‘temples’ are built according to a theme, and on the last day, they are burned down in a ritualistic ceremony.

[ article by Darren Boyle, photography courtesy of Reuters ]

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