On Jan. 21, Brazilian prosecutors announced that the country has officially charged renowned American journalist Glenn Greenwald with the act of committing cybercrimes in relation to a slew of damaging text messages that were leaked from the hacked cell phones of several public officials.
Greenwald, co-founder of online news publication The Intercept and one of the key journalists who aided whistleblower Edward Snowden in his exposal of the NSA’s numerous top-secret global surveillance programs, has attracted animus from President Jair Bolsonaro and others within Brazil’s government due to The Intercept’s “Secret Brazil Archive” special investigation series which has exposed the deep corruption surrounding those loyal to the Brazilian politician.
In their 95-page criminal complaint, the prosecutors have accused Greenwald of conspiring with the hackers responsible for obtaining the secret text messages that he published, a claim which Greenwald denies.
“The Bolsonaro government and the movement that supports it has made repeatedly clear that it does not believe in basic press freedoms,” Greenwald told The Daily Beast.
“Less than two months ago, the Federal Police…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…I did nothing more than do my job as a journalist—ethically and within the law.”
Greenwald then took aim at the prosecutors who presented the allegation.
“This denunciation—brought by the same prosecutor who just tried and failed to criminally prosecute the head of the Brazilian Bar Association for criticizing Minister [Sergio] Moro—is an obvious attempt to attack a free press in retaliation for the revelations we reported about Minister Moro and the Bolsonaro government.”
Greenwald, who lives in Rio de Janeiro with husband David Miranda and their two adopted children, has been in the Bolsonaro administration’s sights since he reported last year that Brazil’s “Operation Car Wash” investigation was used to frame and arrest the President’s 2018 election opponent Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, founding member of Brazil’s left-wing Workers’ Party, under false corruption charges. With Lula in prison, Bolsonaro rose in the polls.
Despite Lula’s endorsement of fellow Workers’ Party candidate Fernando Haddad, who ran in Lula’s place following his imprisonment, Bolsonaro secured victory with his brand of far-right, nationalist stances. Dubbed the “Trump of the Tropics,” both Bolsonaro and Trump have voiced mutual admiration of each other.
In 2019, Bolsonaro made several public statements regarding Greenwald, saying that he “may do jail time.” Staff members of The Intercept Brazil—The Intercept’s Brazilian outfit, led by Greenwald—have been targeted by Bolsonaro supporters and Greenwald himself was assaulted by a pro-Bolsonaro journalist during a live broadcast.
Bolsonaro has even gone so far as to regard the revelations as a “gay plot” against him orchestrated by both Greenwald and Miranda. Miranda—himself a politician—is a congressman and an affiliate of Brazil’s Socialism and Liberty Party.
Regarding the threats against him and his family, Greenwald remains defiant, saying:
“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.”
As of this writing, several outlets have denounced the charges against Greenwald.