The award-winning Intercept reporter talks about charges filed against him by Brazil’s right-wing government.
By Matt Taibbi and cross-posted from Rolling Stone.
A day after federal prosecutors loyal to Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, filed charges against him for being a member of a “criminal organization,” Pulitzer Prize winner Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept was in good enough spirits. The Brazilian government’s decision to hit him with 126 felony charges came out of the blue — he learned about it Tuesday while preparing to go horseback riding with his son.
“I was scrolling through my phone, and suddenly I see a headline, ‘Glenn Greenwald indicted …’ ” he says. “I thought, ‘What?’ ”
A day later, he’s sorting it all out while taking a noontime walk on a farm outside Rio.
“If you’re going to get criminally indicted or something, I highly recommend nature,” he says, laughing.
Six and a half years after rattling the U.S. government by publishing revelations by former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden, Greenwald is now once again clashing with authority in a high-profile test case for speech and press freedoms.
The charges he faces are a reaction to an exposé series he published in June with Rafael Moro Martins, Victor Pougy, Leandro Demori, and Alexandre de Santi in The Intercept Brazil. It centers around an archive of “private chats, audio recordings, videos, photos, court proceedings, and other documentation” sent to them from an unnamed source, who obtained these materials prior to contact, ostensibly by hacking cellphones.
The archive exposed corruption in Operation Car Wash, a law-enforcement case that led to the imprisonment of popular former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The hacked materials showed how a judge, Sergio Moro, gave prosecutors advance notice of his decisions, privately critiqued prosecutorial filings, and gave advice on the order of interrogations and warrant applications.
The conviction of Lula on bribery charges — he was accused of receiving an apartment as a kickback to a state oil concern — left him ineligible to run for the presidency, paving the way for Trumpian reactionary Bolsonaro to win the presidency.
Before publication, the anonymous hacker source asked Greenwald if records of contacts with The Intercept should be destroyed. Greenwald replied, carefully, that by law he could not advise the source one way or another. This non-act is at the heart of the case against him, says Greenwald.
“They’re calling that implicit encouragement to destroy evidence,” he says.
Although the case sounds like a legal absurdity, Greenwald is aware that might not be much of a consolation. “There’s a question: Does the law even matter in Brazil anymore?” he asks, in a fatalistic voice…