I’ve never met or corresponded with Glenn Greenwald, though we are both journalists living in Rio de Janeiro. But I have followed his career closely, in particular when the website he helped found, The Intercept, published in 2019 leaks that exposed corruption in the onetime moral crusade of Lava Jato (“Car Wash”), the supposed anti-corruption operation of a cabal in the Brazilian judiciary and public prosecutor’s office that, over the previous five years, had brought down half the political world in Brazil.
To read The Intercept Brasil is to see the Brazilian press return to the days of struggle against the dictatorship of businessmen and military that ruled Brazil from 1964-85. As of yesterday, my desire to shake Greenwald’s hand is even greater. I would like to tell him, as the residents of Rio commonly do: Juntos somos mais fortes; misturados somos imbatíveis (“together we are stronger; mixed, we are invincible,”) an expression that conveys a deep feeling of camaraderie and solidarity.
Greenwald is now being openly persecuted by elements of the Brazilian legal system aligned with the lawbreakers of Operation Car Wash—which, thanks to The Intercept, we have been discovering to have been a great fraud and a threat to individual freedoms in Brazil.
The context of the plot against not only Greenwald, but also the entire Brazilian press and Brazilian democracy itself, is as follows:
The far right extremist Federal Public Prosecutor Wellington Divino de Oliveira denounced Greenwald formally on January 21st, on charges of hacking into Lava Jato—in the absence of evidence or even an investigation, contrary to reports by the Brazilian Federal Police, and in contravention of an explicit order from Brazilian Supreme Court justice Gilmar Mendes prohibiting federal police from investigating Mr. Greenwald’s role in the dissemination of the hacked messages.
The truth is that Greenwald received from a whistleblower recordings of conversations between prosecutors and once-respected judge Sérgio Moro relating to the Car Wash operation; Moro later became Justice Minister in the racist, homophobic far-right government of Jair Bolsonaro.
After rigorous verification, Greenwald published the whistleblower information in The Intercept and in some of Brazil’s largest newspapers, and on television and news sites, in a broad and courageous action to defend the fragile democracy of this country.
Do you understand why I want to shake this man’s hand?
In spite of all that has happened so far, the worst is perhaps still to come. The prosecutor is not alone in his attack on democracy and civil rights in Brazil. He is in the worst imaginable company.
The accusation against Greenwald came less than a week after Brazil’s National Union of Journalists (FENAJ) released a report directly condemning the President of the Republic as directly responsible for 116 attacks against journalists and press agencies in Brazil in 2019, more than half of the total recorded. Most of these attacks came after The Intercept had revealed the illegal activities that took place during Operation Lava Jato.
Bolsonaro threatened last year that a recent decree authorizing the summary deportation of ‘dangerous’ foreigners could be used against Greenwald, and hinted at the possibility he could even be jailed.
But it’s a good thing that in Brazil there is still a lot of civic awareness.
The prosecutor’s action was immediately and harshly criticized—even by the Supreme Court of Justice, who, as mentioned earlier, in August last year ordered public authorities and their investigating agencies to refrain from “committing acts aimed at holding journalist Glenn Greenwald responsible for receiving, obtaining or transmitting information published in media outlets, in order to protect the constitutional confidentiality of the journalistic source.”
FENAJ also condemned the Prosecutor’s action. “We warn of the danger of restrictions on press freedom, especially when they come from established authorities. In the case of the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office, an institution created to oversee the legality and interests of society, the decision to denounce a journalist who has done nothing more than exercise his office is incomprehensible. The MPF’s denunciation is, therefore, a form of intimidation of the journalist and a threat to journalistic activity”.
A group of Brazil’s most distinguished criminal lawyers known as Grupo Prerrogativas (“Rights Group”), released a statement on the Greenwald case: “This accusation [of the Prosecutor] is a dangerous escalation in the rise of authoritarianism, as well as consecrating the political use of the criminal process and the fragility of our democracy… the accusation violently attacks the freedom of the press, in that it seeks the criminal responsibility of a journalist because of his professional activity. It distorts the content of the evidence collected in the course of the investigations and promotes completely fanciful conclusions.”
Millions of Brazilians have lived since January 1, 2019 under this dictatorship disguised as democracy by former Army Captain Jair Bolsonaro. If you ever have the opportunity to read this article, Glenn, please know that I would like to shake your hand and say, thank you.