An FBI surveillance contractor infiltrated the chatrooms of two airline industry groups opposed to vaccine mandates to collect intelligence on the groups’ organizing activities, investigative journalist Lee Fang reported.
The contractor, Flashpoint, which in the past infiltrated Islamic terror groups, now focuses on “anti-vaccine” groups and other domestic political organizations, according to Fang.
In a webinar presentation for clients last year, which Fang analyzed on his Substack, Flashpoint analyst Vlad Cuiujuclu demonstrated his company’s methods for identifying and entering encrypted Telegram chat groups.
He explained how the company attempted to join chatrooms of transportation workers resisting the COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
Fang described the presentation:
“‘In this case, we’re searching for a closed channel of U.S. Freedom Flyers,’ said Cuiujuclu. ‘It’s basically a group that opposed vaccination and masks.’
“As he clicked through a database, Cuiujuclu showed a chat group on Telegram sponsored by Airline Professionals For Justice, another group formed by airline industry workers opposed to the mandate. The forum, he added, provided useful insights, including Zoom links for meetings of the grassroots organization.
“‘Private chats,’ said Cuiujuclu, ‘require for you to have an invite link,’ which he noted can often either be found by scrolling through public forums or by ‘engag[ing] the admin of that channel.’”
Flashpoint also offers clients artificial intelligence and internet scraping tools.
According to Fang, the firm is a leader in the “threat intelligence industry,” a growing number of security and surveillance firms that create fake online identities to infiltrate Discord chats, WhatsApp groups, Reddit forums and dark web message boards to gather information for clients, including corporations and the FBI, to monitor potential threats.
Joshua Yoder, president of US Freedom Flyers, said he is aware that Flashpoint infiltrated private chat groups associated with his organization.