Glenn Greenwald’s Cybercrimes Charges

It’s early 2019, and Brazil’s up surging right-wing elects Jair Bolsonaro, a retired army Captain. With it, comes a new administration alongside him, carrying the promises of a political shift away from the claws of corruption which have historically scarred the Latin American country’s turbulent political past.

Brazil’s still young democracy felt the tension of electing a pro-military strongman figure considering its worrisome relation with its military, which ruled the country through means of a dictatorship up until 1985. 

Known for his controversial remarks, ranging from misogynistic statements to outright disregard for the rights of minorities and democratically established institutions, Bolsonaro’s reputation did not favor him when he came into office. Having significant low approval ratings from the start, the new president would have to gain the public’s trust. And by appointing lauded experts of their field as ministers of his administration, he found a way.

Out of the appointed, perhaps the most well-known figure was Judge Sergio Moro. Selected as the new Minister of Justice, the Federal Judge was a public favorite, being the leading figure of the Car Wash Operation, the largest corruption investigation in Brazil’s history, many entitled him a hero, asking for his candidacy in the 2018 presidential election.

One of the Operation’s most distinct feats, praised by Bolsonaro supporters and scorned at by the previous ruling Workers’ Party, was the arrest of former President Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva. A broadly popular political figure, Lula’s polling indicated he was poised to beat Bolsonaro had he taken part in the 2018 presidential election, however, following his indictment, the former president found himself unable to run under Brazilian law.

The decision to arrest Lula was met with heavy scrutiny, though its nature or validity were seldom questioned; most of the criticism towards it was labeled as partisanship from the left. 

Political Tensions rose after Bolsonaro spoke of nominating Judge Moro to the Ministry of Justice and Public Security, many in the left took this as another example that the Federal Judge had a political agenda and interest in the Operation’s arrest of former President Lula, as means of ensuring Bolsonaro’s victory.

No proof of such accusations existed. That was until Moro’s personal conversations on the app Telegram were unveiled by Glenn Greenwald’s The Intercept.

The hacked conversation between the Federal Judge and Deltan Dallagnol, a Car Wash Operation prosecutor, consisted of questions over the progress of certain cases and suggestions of courses of actions on behalf of the Judge. Overall, the group chat conversations between the Judge and Car Wash prosecutors over the period of 2015 to 2017 amounted to over 1700 pages.

The former Judge and current Justice Minister dismissed the accusations, regarding the exposed material as common practice on legal procedures in Brazil, that were of no illegal character and consisted only of questions regarding the cases’ progression. 

Greenwald’s article claimed the influence exercised over the prosecution represented a violation of the Ethical Code of the National Judiciary, approved by the National Justice Council in 2008, which established a Judge’s role as an impartial arbitrator. Moro’s actions now put in question the legal validity of the Operation’s arrests, in particular that of former President Lula.

In spite of Greenwald’s credentials on his field, a considerable part of the Brazilian public still discredited his work, perceiving it suspiciously due to the journalist’s proximity to the Socialism and Liberty Party, the PSOL, of which his husband is a member of. Greenwald’s ardent criticism of the Bolsonaro administration also rendered him the label of politically lenient to the left in the country. The move of bringing the leaked conversations to the public was then seen as biased.

Some, including Judge Moro, asked for the full audios, conversations and sources to be divulged, to which Greenwald and the Intercept did not respond on the grounds of protecting their sources.

In January of 2020, over six months after the hacking affair, the Federal Public Ministry formally accused Glenn Greenwald of participating and guiding the hacking of the Former Judge’s private telephone conversations, contradicting the Federal Police’s conclusion in the previous year that the journalist had had no involvement with any criminal activity.

The official filing of the criminal complaint was met with heavy criticism by press right advocates, Edward Snowden called it an existential threat to journalism. In a country where free press is still relatively new, under an administration with a problematic record on issues concerning democracy, the move is even more so worrisome.

President Bostoner had previously stated during the crisis in July of 2019 that Greenwald could be arrested for participating in the hacking. Bolsonaro also suggested the journalist had married a Brazilian citizen as means of avoiding deportation, though the latter always denied both accusations. Greenwald said instead he only intended to protect his sources’ confidentiality and quality journalism sometimes involved the use of stolen information. As was the case with the Pentagon Papers. (I wanted to be careful here not to unify the pentagon papers sentence with Greenwald’s comment so there isn’t confusion over whether Greenwald himself made the comment)

The timing of the accusations also coincide with the nomination of “The Edge of Democracy” to the Oscars, a documentary produced in Brazil depicting how frail its democracy still is, telling the director’s personal story alongside the political and social changes the country went through from 2003, from Lula’s election until Dilma’s Impeachment process in 2016, which ended the Workers’ Party rule.

The nomination of the documentary upset figures of Brazil’s political right, calling it biased and an inaccurate depiction of the Impeachment process.

With political tensions on the rise, Brazil will still have to overcome many challenges socially and politically to realize its true fight is not between the left or the right’s rule, but whether its young democratic institutions are able to survive the country’s truculent political oscillations and the test of time.


About the Author:
Ricardo Brum is a Brazilian-born Journalism student at Columbus State who has lived most of his life in Rio before relocating to Ohio.

Aside from living in Argentina for over a year, where he acquired proficiency in Spanish, Ricardo also resided in Finland through Rotary’s Youth Exchange to better learn about the Finnish educational system.


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