As the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon dragged on for most of January, local law enforcement was spread thin and federal agents were nowhere to be seen.

Behind the quiet facade, however, the FBI was running surveillance on the occupation and recording the activists’ public statements, mostly drawn from media reports and the activists’ use of social media, while FBI agents encouraged locals to report their experiences with the new strangers in town.

According to the allegations in an indictment and supporting affidavit, the FBI was collecting information that confirmed the occupiers were armed, angry and willing to die.

The court documents detail how a source told a Harney County sheriff’s officer that the protesters “had explosives, night vision goggles, and weapons and that if they didn’t get the fight they wanted out there they would bring the fight to town.” The documents show that authorities grew concerned as the occupiers used increasingly heated rhetoric when discussing their plans and the occupation.

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