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 privacy; 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?
Meanwhile, 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.
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…
Reminds me of this old saying we have, back in Australia…