(NationalSecurity.news) The FBI will send undercover agents to the annual Burning Man festival in Nevada to test new “intelligence collecting” technology aimed at combating “terrorist activities,” something the agency has admitted it has done since 2010, the UK’s Daily Mail reported.
In response to a Freedom of Information Act request in 2012, the FBI said its Special Events Management unit has been maintaining files on attendees of the alternative lifestyle festival, who are known as “burners,” in an attempt to “aid in the prevention of terrorist activities and intelligence collection.”
However, much of the FBI’s 16-page response to the FOIA request is heavily redacted, the Daily Mail noted, with information about the kind of technology being used to secretly gather data blanked out.
The revelation that the FBI has been spying on the event for years came as the annual festival kicked off in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. The FBI document described the event as a “cultural and artisan event, which promote [sic] free expression by the participants.”
FBI officials said the agency’s involvement at Burning Man 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.”
However, the agency noted later in its document that the “greatest known threat in this event is crowd control issues and use of illegal drugs by participants.”
The heavily-redacted document says the FBI’s Las Vegas office will work with appropriate local law enforcement agencies regarding the information that it will gather on burners.
The event is held in the remote Black Rock Desert, 12 miles from the nearest town, Gerlach, and 75 miles from Reno, Nevada.
The Burning Man event is currently in its 29th year. It begins on the last Monday of August and lasts until the first Monday of September. The week of festivities centers around art and alternative living. Event organizers and volunteers require burners to leave the desert as they found it – taking trash and all belongings – while many remain behind for weeks to return the desert to its pristine condition.
Some 50,000 people are expected to attend this year’s event, the Daily Mail noted.