In A Blatant Attack On Press Freedom, Brazilian Government Charges Glenn Greenwald With 'Cybercrimes' For Reporting On Leaked Documents
from the silencing-the-press dept
I don’t always agree with Glenn Greenwald, and over the last few years have grown increasingly frustrated with either his confusing and contradictory positions or his bizarre stubbornness in being purposefully obtuse in his explanations of his positions. However, his general commitment to freedom of the press is hard to question. Over the last few years, Greenwald has been particularly focused on reporting about the federal government of Jair Bolsonaro in his adopted home of Brazil. Given that Bolsonaro has a reputation for attacking the press, many people wondered how long it would take for the Brazilian government to go after Greenwald.
And, indeed, today it was announced that Greenwald has been charged with “cybercrimes” for his reporting on leaked documents regarding the current Justice Minister, Sergio Moro, who was the federal judge who oversaw the trial of former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Many in Brazil, including Greenwald, have argued that the corruption trial and jailing of Lula was a corrupt show trial designed to get Lula out of office and prevent his re-election in 2018 (when Bolsonaro was elected). The leaked documents showed that Moro, while presiding over the trial, worked closely with prosecutors and helped them strategize.
Since then, there has been speculation that the government was trying to build a case against Greenwald. In July, Greenwald was called before a Congressional committee in which he was directly told he should be jailed. Back in August, the Brazilian Supreme Court actually put a stop to an attempt to investigate Greenwald, after Bolsonaro himself called for Greenwald to be jailed.
However, that appears not to have actually stopped the government’s attempts to find some reason to throw Greenwald in jail. The charges against Greenwald argue that he wasn’t just reporting on the leaked documents, but that he was part of a “criminal organization” and worked with people to hack into the phones of officials in order to access the documents:
Citing intercepted messages between Mr. Greenwald and the hackers, prosecutors say the journalist played a ?clear role in facilitating the commission of a crime.?
For instance, prosecutors contend that Mr. Greenwald encouraged the hackers to delete archives that had already been shared with The Intercept Brasil, in order to cover their tracks.
Prosecutors also say that Mr. Greenwald was communicating with the hackers while they were actively monitoring private chats on Telegram, a messaging app.
Some may argue that there is a fine line between reporting on leaked documents and encouraging people to hack to get those documents, but from what’s described so far, Greenwald’s actions sound like pretty typical efforts by a journalist to work with whistleblowing sources to help them protect themselves. Telling people to delete their archive is just good security advice for a source to protect themselves, and should never be seen as meaning that you’re a part of the hacking activity. But, of course, when an oppressive government wants to blur the lines, that’s what happens. Indeed, this is quite similar to many of the DOJ’s charges against Julian Assange, taking standard journalistic practices and arguing that they make you an accomplice.
For now Greenwald is (as you would expect) not backing down, and claiming (with good reason) that this is an attack on a free press in Brazil. In a lengthy statement he gave to the Daily Beast, it’s clear what he thinks of these charges:
?The Bolsonaro government and the movement that supports it has made repeatedly clear that it does not believe in basic press freedoms?from Bolsonaro’s threats against Folha to his attacks on journalists that have incited violence to Sergio Moro?s threats from the start to classify us as ?allies of the hackers? for revealing his corruption,? Greenwald said in a statement to The Daily Beast.
?Less than two months ago, the Federal Police, examining all the same evidence cited by the Public Ministry, stated explicitly that not only have I never committed any crime but that I exercised extreme caution as a journalist never even to get close to any participation,? he continued. ?Even the Federal Police under Minister Moro’s command said what is clear to any rational person: I did nothing more than do my job as a journalist?ethically and within the law.?
He also calls out that Supreme Court ruling from last August:
?It is also on an attack on the Brazilian Supreme Court, which ruled in July that I am entitled to have my press freedom protected in response to other retaliatory attacks from Judge Moro, and even an attack on the findings of the Federal Police, which concluded explicitly after a comprehensive investigation that I committed no crimes and solely acted as a journalist.
?We will not be intimidated by these tyrannical attempts to silence journalists. I am working right now on new reporting and will continue to do so. Many courageous Brazilians sacrificed their liberty and even life for Brazilian democracy and against repression, and I feel an obligation to continue their noble work.?
No matter what you think of Greenwald, this appears to be an intimidation technique by the Bolsonaro government, and an outright attack on a free press.
Of course, it also has one other effect: I hadn’t followed closely that original story about Moro and his collaboration with prosecutors while being the judge in a case. Yet now I’ve gone back to read all of the reporting on it, and it certainly suggests a deeply, deeply corrupt Brazilian government.