In 2013, journalist, Glenn Greenwald shocked the world by reporting in The Guardian, Edward Snowden’s revelations of a global surveillance apparatus. This earned Greenwald a Pulitzer and a movie portrayal by Zachary Quinto. Greenwald later cofounded The Intercept, an internet news outlet on the forefront of reporting on evidence of governmental wrong-doing.
On Feb. 6 a Brazilian judge, Ricardo Leite, ruled against criminal prosecution for Greenwald for reporting on Brazil’s Operation Carwash, a purported anti-corruption task force that used its powers for partisan gains. According to The Intercept’s editor-in-chief, Betsy Reed, “the ruling is narrow and procedural.”
“There remains enormous pressure to prosecute [Greenwald] in retaliation for his work on The Intercept’s Secret Brazil Archive series,” Reed said.
Greenwald’s reporting on Operation Carwash revealed a slow-moving coup against Brazil’s Worker’s Party (PT), elevating authoritarian, Jair Bolsonaro, to the presidency. In April 2018, PT leader, former president and presidential hopeful, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, began a twelve-year prison sentence based on dubious charges of corruption brought about by the Carwash taskforce.
Lula de Silva had twice served as president, leaving office with an 87 percent approval rating after lifting millions of people out of poverty. All polls predicted a landslide win for him. But his imprisonment came six months before the election, clearing the way for far-right Bolsonaro.
Greenwald and The Intercept’s reporting reveals bias by the prosecutorial team, illegal collaboration between the task force and Judge Sergio Moro, and flaws in the evidence against Lula. After the discovery of a 2010 article in Brazilian newspaper, O Globo, suggesting Lula owned a seaside apartment matching the description of one allegedly given to him as a bribe.
“I’m so horny for this O Globo article from 2010,” chief prosecutor, Deltan Dallagnol, wrote to other prosecutors. “I’m going to kiss whichever one of you found this.”
The apartment that O Globo mentions is near the apartment Lula is alleged to have accepted—but is not the same one.
Faulty evidence is even admitted to in the prosecutors’ private messages. “The indictment is based on a lot of indirect evidence of authorship,” Dallagnol wrote to Judge Moro, ” but it wouldn’t fit to say that in the indictment and in our communications we avoided that point. It was understood that the long exposition on command of the scheme was necessary to impute corruption to the former president.”
This was not the only time Moro spoke with Dallagnol about the case, a violation of Brazil’s Judiciary Code of Ethics. He also gave Dallagnol advice on courtroom tactics and handling sources. The partisanship is clear. They’re documented saying things like, “I remain very worried about the possible return of PT, but I have prayed frequently for God to enlighten our population and for a miracle to save us.”
Bolsonaro has praised the Brazilian military dictatorship of 1964–1985; “we want a Brazil that is similar to the one we had 40, 50 years ago.”
His minister of economy, Paulo Guedes, who plans to “privatize everything,” formerly worked under the U.S.-installed Pinochet dictatorship in Chile. This suggests frightening prospects for both Greenwald and Brazil. In 1962, democratically-elected Jão Goulart expropriated the Hanna Mining Company, an American corporation that controlled much of Brazil’s iron and silver markets. Two years later, Goulart was overthrown in a military coup entirely funded and organized by the CIA.
On the day of the coup, there was a menacing U.S. Naval presence off the coast of Brazil. The American Ambassador, Gordon, called the coup, the “single most decisive victory for freedom in the mid-twentieth century.”
From 1975 to 1977, the Brazilian regime, joined by other South American dictatorships, took part in Operation Condor, a campaign of political terror and repression aided and funded by the United States. According to Columbia University professor John Dinges, “Political police—described even by sympathetic US military observers as ‘Gestapo-like’—rounded up countless thousands of people who were suspected of affiliation with radical leftists.”
In Brazil, as many as one thousand people were executed for their political beliefs and tens of thousands were detained. A recently declassified CIA document shows collaboration and approval from U.S. Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, for the execution of “subversives.”
In 2014, a truth commission launched by then-President Dilma Rousseff accused more than 300 members of the military dictatorship of human-rights violations, documenting along with political executions, the killing of thousands of Indians. The Commission also documented U.S. complicity in training Brazilian officers to torture. Persecution was predicated on speech while the press was entirely censored.
Recent events suggest Bolsonaro’s rule continues this authoritarianism, making efforts to prosecute Greenwald alarming. Greenwald’s husband, David Miranda, is the only LGBTQ+ member of the Brazilian Congress. His LGBTQ+ predecessor fled the country due to death threats. Greenwald and Miranda have been attacked on social media while Greenwald was physically assaulted during an interview by a pro-Bolsonaro journalist, who had called for Greenwald and Miranda’s kids to be taken from them.
In 2018, Marielle Franco, a black LGBTQ+ city councilwoman from Rio de Janeiro and a friend of Greenwald and Miranda, was assassinated by far-right ideologies likely tied to Bolsonaro’s family. Evidence suggests they may have also been planning to murder Greenwald and Miranda.
In the favelas, Bolsonaro has openly called for an increase in police killings. In the first five months of 2019, 731 people were killed, a 20% increase from the first five months of 2018.
The U.S. has been on Bolsonaro’s side as they were on the side of the military dictatorship. Trump stated upon meeting Bolsonaro, “They say he is the Donald Trump of South America.” Bolsonaro’s candidacy was endorsed by the Wall Street Journal. He cut funding for Brazil’s largest environmental agency by 24% while allowing American companies free reign over the Amazon, likely contributing to the fires of 2019. In this case, Greenwald’s stance against fascism is also a stance against American empire, a formidable foe.