DEA Activity at Burning Man? Sorry, That’s Classified


VICE reports that a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) related to the DEA’s activities at Burning Man between 2011-2015 returned 43 pages of results. However, the report was heavily redacted.


A Freedom of Information Act request asking the Drug Enforcement Administration for “investigative files concerning the Burning Man Festival 2011-2015” is a great idea—after all, any neo-hippie-desert shantytown gathering is going to have as much drug use as it has nudity, and Burning Man is known for epic portions of both.

The results were rather disappointing, however. The FOIA-requesting/distribution site Government Attic just posted the response to​ the request this morning, and you’re welcome to check them out if you’re the type of weirdo who is really into blank pages of redacted information.

The request was sent down to the Las Vegas Field Office, where it brought up a hefty 43 pages alluding to the DEA’s work at the festival. Most of the material was redacted to protect the privacy of individuals involved and to obscure the exact techniques used by law enforcement.

“On August 29, 2013, Detectives of the Department of Public Safety, the Bureau of Land Management and other local law enforcement agencies worked as a narcotics task force at the Burning Man Festival in the Black Rock Desert, Pershing, Nevada,” the first page opens tantalizingly.

But instead of account after account of people trading mushrooms for beads outside the Slut Olympics—source material for a surefire comedic hit starring Will Ferrell as the uptight Agent Johnson—what follows is blank page after blank page.

Specifically, the exemptions are in the name of protecting against invasions of personal priv​acy; protecting information “which would reveal techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions or that would disclose guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions;” and protecting “law enforcement information which could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual.”

The documents reveal that the DEA conducted investigations in 2012 and in 2013. The agents from DEA and their collaborating agencies were on the playa just after midnight in August of 2012, and “working in an undercover capacity.”

One investigation led to a heavily redacted case that was “prosecuted at the state level” in 2012. “DEA retains no evidence or arrest responsibility for this investigation,” the DEA investigation report says. “The case is administratively closed.” However, there are no details on what the case was about.

Still, the few details provided may open the door to other FOIA requests, which hopefully will have more fruitful results. It also gives a place for the imagination to run wild. [Source: Vice]

We’ve all seen plenty of TV shows and movies about the DEA and what they do to gather evidence on suspects. Wiretaps, drones, infrared vision that can see through walls, undercover stings, hidden cameras, sniffer dogs. So what techniques could be so secret that they have to be classified?

This art car was revealed to us in 2013 by a whistleblower, as full of undercover cops.

In 2013 a whistleblower revealed that this art car was used by undercover cops at Burning Man.

marge burning manMeanwhile, even childrens cartoon shows like The Simpsons depict rampant drug use at Burning Man, while political figures like Grover Norquist and celebrity commentators like John Oliver and Jon Stewart make jokes about it to their mainstream audiences. This seems to be a double standard. “Oh we’re trying to keep drugs out of Burning Man”…really? You sure the whole thing wasn’t actually created specifically for the LSD/magic mushroom/DMT crowd? Anyway, where did that stuff originate from in the first place?

It seems like FOIA requests are about the only way we can get information out of the new, improved, “clean well-lighted suite of rooms” of transparency that is BMOrg 2.0. Things that used to be released publicly every year like crime statistics, are now kept quiet. Good luck trying to get them, either from BMOrg, Pershing County Sheriff’s Office, or BLM officials.

Here’s a previous FOIA request that shows that the FBI are also active at Burning Man, running intelligence operations. It also contains many redactions and page deletions. One thing that is mentioned is a company that who were contracted to provide a security threat assessment in 2010 – wonder if there was any specific concerns that led to that? Perhaps ISIS will have an art car this year – hopefully one without too many flamethrowers.

Screenshot 2015-04-27 12.52.08

Screenshot 2015-04-27 12.55.57

The lucky agents even get paid overtime for attending Burning Man. I’m guessing they’re not waiting in the STEP or Will Crawl lines for tickets, either…

Screenshot 2015-04-27 14.02.52


marge iron wrinkles


Reminds me of this old saying we have, back in Australia…



39 comments on “DEA Activity at Burning Man? Sorry, That’s Classified

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  5. This all hits one of my political libertarian complaints. The right wing is worried about government intrusion in our lives and government spending, yet all this NV burn LE does not work for free nor does it minimize government intrusion.

    If the conservative politicians were sincere about this, for a temporary city in the high desert, they would forebear enforcement of actions that would be legal in another state (such as weed in CO), or given the international attendance, legal in other western countries (such as underage alcohol consumption in France).

    The whole Giuliani rationale for “quality of life” LE on minor infractions is that they leads to unsafe neighborhoods. Not an issue when the city is only occupied for a few weeks a year.

    What IS an arguable universal issue is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs:

    Nowhere on his list is freedom from drugs. While most burners know about the first level – food, water, shelter – the second is “Security.” That is what has been lost over the years, at least as evidenced by bike theft. If LE were to enforce basic security laws, BRC would actually be safer than it is now; you cold leave your bike and expect it to be there when you come back, like it was 10 years ago. Interesting that the BOrg has refused to condemn theft to provide Security in BRC. They are hoping that Love and Belonging, Esteem, Self-actualization, and Self-transcendence – all provided by the burners themselves – will suffice. If they are right, then Maslow is wrong.

    …PS – No comments necessary from Pooh because I am not professionally qualified in either law enforcement, psychology, or political science. He should therefore not acknowledge this comment.

  6. My camp also had a visit from a very odd, solo young man who I’m about 99.9% certain was a narc last year. Perhaps if LE wants to have better success they should employ a different demographic…a happy couple for example or the tried and true “hot chick” approach that works so well in so many other walks of life.

    Anyway the kid initially approached and asked to climb on top of our RV to observe BRC.. So I let him up. He came down, we small talked about where we’re from and he told me “Eugene, Oregon”. I’m from the East Coast but I’d spent time in Eugene on business and started making conversation on that, but it quickly became obvious he’d never been there. He then revised his story, said he just moved to Eugene and was originally from LA. His story was that he was turning 21 on Thursday and his Uncle had brought him to Burning Man to celebrate it.

    I went off to do something else but noticed the kid kept hanging around the camp. Numerous people were creeped out by him. He invited himself to sit with a group of us when it suddenly dawned on me he might be LE. The Eugene thing seemed strange, that he made a point of telling me he was 20 seemed like something a cop would do in case someone gave him booze and he had something else to prosecute and of course he would try and find out if anyone was doing anything else. I took a couple friends aside and brought this up and we agreed not to talk about anything around him and try to gently move him out of the camp. When I returned, he had started asking strange questions about drug use and offered to sell coke to people in my camp which he said he could get from his Uncle, of course. At this point I shut the conversation down, told him that nobody here does any drugs and we’re all in recovery. Everyone around got what was going on and the whole party stopped in its tracks. Thankfully he got uncomfortable and left. But a couple of my drunk friends almost went with it. “He’s here with his Uncle!” they told me. I replied “Yeah. You know what his Uncle’s name is? Sam.”

    • I’d say 100% a cop. The whole ‘I’m 20’ thing seals it. He hoped that if he didn’t get you on drugs he’d get you on serving alcohol to him. Be thankful that you wasted a bunch of his time and saved someone else.

      But BS like this really ruins a good mood. So instead of riding the wave of a good time, everyone falls off their surfboards and wonders about what the fuck just happened.

        • Transformus is all over 21 – you show your ID when you enter to get your wristband. They have an entirely separate family event, Ignite (which has yet to sell out BTW).

          • Sorry… Correction: you have to be over 18, and you get your hand stamped if you are underage, so the camps serving alcohol can use a UV light to see if you are underage.

    • Of what we might learn from Inkoo Kang and muckrockcom is a person must request for information numerous times to gain information needed for transparency.

      I am most impressed with the information upon this site in regards of information newbies are of the need in regards of the police and Burning Man. Nevada State Personnel Watch

  7. What this states towards us is many agencies desire to send wankers to stare at tits, and treat Burners in a most horrible manner. In addendum of the DEA and FBI, ‘detectives from the Washoe County All Threats All Crimes (ATAC) Unit, detectives from the Department of Public Safety Investigation Division, Agents from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and Rangers from the U.S. Forrest Service, hereinafter referred to as detectives, were working in an undercover capacity.’ By appearance, the Department of Public Safety Investigation Division might, perchance, be the Nevada Division of Investigation police. In addendum of the Nevada Highway Patrol, the Indian police, and Pershing County Sheriff police, and Homeland Security was stated. In addendum of the Nevada Health Department, and perchance, one, or two other agencies.

    A person is not of the need to smoke marijuana to be paranoid, most especially, of when a stranger desires to converse in regards of drugs.

    I am most curious in regards of their beliefs upon the numerous tits they view. #narcornot might be a most popular hashtag.

  8. Perchance, I might desire to change my name to OCD. The teenage girl whom was Cosbyed in 2012, and her mother, might desire to view this report. A statement is on page 8, of 08-31-2012 12:45 am Burning Man Festival 9 O’clock and the Esplanade, a Report of Investigation, of the Drug Enforcement Agency. I do not know if this might be the day, and the time, but, the 9 O’clock and the Esplanade was most familiar.

  9. Last year my small camp had a visit from a slightly nervous, very awkward, very clean cut, very fit, solitary young man, with a long back story on how he got there that he insisted on telling, even when we told him he didn’t need to explain himself. He was in a complete and completely new full superman suit, I kid you not. His excuse for coming into our camp (not that one was needed) was that his bike had a flat. After I fixed it, I found that it was from a puncture high on the sidewall – very strange place. He said he got it while riding, which would be tough on the playa, especially for the thing not to still be in the tire, but whatever. He had a lot of electronics with him and insisted on taking out his phone and Bluetooth speakers to play music. We already had speakers set up and music going, so this along with the rest of it was just awkward on top of awkward, which is saying something at BM. Eventually, after 30 minutes of the 8 of us just trying to grok this guy, he got around to asking us about us having drugs and him having something to share if we were interested, and maybe he could pay us. Our lawyer, lol, expressed his concerns about this kind of criminal behavior in our camp for supporting people in recovery and asked the guy to leave. He managed to forget some of his things in our camp, including the speakers and some other random stuff and returned them before he could ride away on the repaired bike. Afterward, paranoid, I went through every square foot of sand in our camp to find any other leave behinds, but found nothing. This episode was so strange that if the whole group hadn’t experienced it, I would have thought it was a hallucination. Of course, I have no idea who he was or what he was doing. But, uh, be careful out there…

    • This is a common hallucination with the brown blotter acid. I would stick with the blue. Then it is a girl who dances.

    • I had a guy come into camp asking me if I knew where he could buy barbiturates. I said no, but that we were having camp heroin night tonight. He perked up and asked, “Really?” Yes, I told him – right after child porn theatre.

      Then there was the chick cop dressed up as DPW asking if I had something to smoke. I gave her a cigarette and she asked if I had anything ELSE to smoke.

      These undercover cops are really that lame and awkward. It’s like they learned the lingo in a classroom setting. Maybe they use BM as training ground for 21 Jumpstreet type of hopefuls.

    • Or, it could be that someone or the narcs themselves are doing their job and doing you a favor. Maybe they are just weeding out, so to speak, the weak in the herd.

      • I thought about something like that. Perhaps they figure if their approach is so blatant then the people who fall for it are less likely to defend themselves in court. “Hey, anyone got some that PCP?” …Sorry, we only have angel dust.

        • If you were them, in sea of near 1% in intellect as well as financial, prosecution could be challenging. They have been doing this for a few years and must be up on the learning curve.

    • The government agencies that permit BM take on lots of risk by doing so, especially political. Agencies know nothing better than how to mitigate risks to themselves. Half-assed enforcement checks every box: to politicians “we had 1500 on the ground, undercover, and they did 6000 stings. Want to listen to the tape?” To BM: “We arrested 16 people out of 80,000, all on outstanding warrants. We can’t possibly be more permissive.” In retrospect, the visit by LE was just another intense, perfect, BM dream.

  10. i concur with Robert…the only time i feel unsafe is when i see the ginormous cop with enough armament to take over a third world country hanging out outside the dance floor..THEN i feel mighty unsafe…

  11. Need tickets. Hard to decide between joining ISIS and the FBI. Which pays better? Benefits? Which has more hot chicks? Any advice?

  12. Rachel Constantine: I assume you read the confidential findings report from the investigating committee.

    Michael Kitz: I flipped through it.

    Rachel Constantine: I was especially interested in the section on REDACTED unit. The one that recorded the REDACTED?

    Michael Kitz: Continue.

    Rachel Constantine: The fact that it recorded REDACTED isn’t what interests me.

    Michael Kitz: [pauses] Continue.

    Rachel Constantine: What interests me is that it recorded approximately 43 PAGES of it.

    Michael Kitz: [leans forward so he is looking directly in the camera] That is interesting, isn’t it?

    Panel member: Doctor Arroway, you come to us with no evidence, no record, no artifacts. Only a REDACTED that to put it mildly strains credibility. Over half a Zillion dollars was spent, dozens of lives were wasted investigating Burning Man. Are you really going to sit there and tell us we should just take this all… on faith?

    Michael Kitz: Please answer the question, doctor.

    Ellie Arroway: Is it possible that it didn’t happen? Yes. As a Burner, I must concede that, I must volunteer that.

    Michael Kitz: Wait a minute, let me get this straight. You admit that you have absolutely no physical evidence to back up your story.

    Ellie Arroway: Yes.

    Michael Kitz: You admit that you very well may have hallucinated this whole thing.

    Ellie Arroway: Yes.

    Michael Kitz: You admit that if you were in our position, you would respond with exactly the same degree of incredulity and skepticism!

    Ellie Arroway: Yes!

    Michael Kitz: [standing, angrily] Then why don’t you simply withdraw your testimony, and concede that this “journey to the center of the BURNING MAN,” in fact, never took place!

    Ellie Arroway: Because I can’t. I… had an experience… I can’t prove it, I can’t even explain it, but everything that I know as a human being, everything that I am tells me that it was real! I was given something wonderful, something that changed me forever… A vision… of the universe, that tells us, undeniably, how tiny, and insignificant and how… rare, and precious we all are! A vision that tells us that we belong to something that is greater then ourselves, that we are *not*, that none of us are alone! I wish… I… could share that… I wish, that everyone, if only for one… moment, could feel… that awe, and humility, and hope. But… That continues to be my wish.

    DRUGS MAN, drugs!!! 🙂

    • Good precedent, Doctor Feelgood. What we need is an alternate site for Burning Man to happen. The BOrg have effectively destroyed the original site, the NV burn.

      Here is the deal:

      1. Gifting and Gratitude must be the first and primary principles.
      2. ALL burners must provide what is necessary to meet their individual Physical needs without selling anything.
      3. It has to provide Safety for the burners.
      4. It has to encourage Love and Belonging, Esteem, Self-actualization and Self-transcendence.
      5. It has to move, as necessary, to allow it to rediscover, recreate and redefine itself, or allow as many to attend as want to.
      6. All on-site event staffing must be all volunteer, so the burners know that everyone they encounter is there as a gift to them. Exceptions might be medical staff or security staff, but they should only be in contact with burners when necessary to provide Safety.
      7. Event management must be all-volunteer, and hard costs must be no less than 80% of the event revenues (following the precedent for basic efficiency in heath care insurance).
      8. It has to cost $199 or less (precedent set by the NV burn 10 years ago).

  13. This was literally the laziest and dumbest article” ever. Thanks for links that any fool knows DEA wouldn’t share, and therefore what is the point ?
    On a brighter note- at least it isn’t the normal seething with jealousy hate filled bashing of the BMORG
    . Jeesh,! try harder or hire someone to do it for you ?

    • Try harder? What aspect of drugs at Burning Man did you want the article to cover, that you feel was missing from this one?

      You do realize that this is a post discussing an article from VICE, right? Is it their original article that you are objecting to, or our analysis?

      • She doesn’t know what she objects to, she is just objectionable.

        43 pages of redacted activity is a lot of tax Dollars spent on what? Stupid fuking LEOs wasting their time(OUR MONEY)(WE PAY THEM) on the playa looking at titties, hunting for wabbits… and then those littledickdumbfucks go home at night and imagine they are doing some good? lmao at them. “Every cop is a criminal”

        Good article and worthy of posting.
        Fk the trolls sent to haze you, you are doing good.
        If you didn’t post this stuff, it wouldn’t get done. Thanks

  14. says here in this taxpayer provided report “the greatest danger at this event is crowd control and illegal drug use by the participants” …really? i happen to love dancin’ & rubbin’ up on that particular “crowd”… never felt happier or safer in my life. )*(

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