Journalist Glenn Greenwald, a co-founder of The Intercept, was charged with a cyber crime by the right-wing government of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil. It was retaliation for the investigative journalism he spearheaded in 2019 that exposed rampant corruption among Bolsonaro officials.

The charge was also a product of the Bolsonaro government’s religious fanaticism, especially since Bolsonaro and other officials have mounted anti-LGBT attacks on Greenwald and his husband, David Miranda, a representative in Brazil’s Congress.

According to Greenwald, a source hacked into the telephones of Brazilian prosecutors and obtained details from years of conversation with the judge. The archive of material is bigger than the archive of documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

“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 crimes but the opposite: I exercised extreme caution and professionalism as a journalist never even [getting] close to any criminality,” Greenwald declared in a statement. “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.”

The Intercept put out a separate statement, “The Bolsonaro government has repeatedly made it clear that it does not believe in basic press freedoms. Today’s announcement that a criminal complaint has been filed against Intercept co-founding editor Glenn Greenwald is the latest example of journalists facing serious threats in Brazil.”

“We at The Intercept see this as an attempt to criminalize not only our journalism but also that of the dozens of partners who collaborated with our staff in over 95 stories based on the archives,” The Intercept added.

“Glenn Greenwald is our friend and longtime colleague, and he has bravely fought for journalistic freedom throughout his entire career,” said Trevor Timm, the executive director of the Freedom Of The Press Foundation. “These sham charges are a sickening escalation of the Bolsonaro administration’s authoritarian attacks on press freedom and the rule of law. They cannot be allowed to stand.”

“We call on the Brazilian government to immediately halt its persecution of Greenwald and respect press freedom — as the Brazilian Supreme Court has already ordered them to do,” Timm added.

The American Civil Liberties Union reacted, “[The United States] government must immediately condemn this outrageous assault on the freedom of the press and recognize that its attacks on press freedoms at home have consequences for American journalists doing their jobs abroad, like Glenn Greenwald.”

The Intercept’s Reporting On Brazilian Government

In 2019, Greenwald and the Intercept Brasil called attention to abuses by Sergio Moro, the minister of justice and public security, which were committed when he was the presiding judge for “Operation Car Wash.”

Prior to being charged, Greenwald appeared on the Rolling Stone podcast, “Useful Idiots,” hosted by Katie Halper and Matt Taibbi.

“Essentially, the biggest political presence in Brazil since 2014 has been this anti-corruption probe called Car Wash that has resulted in the imprisonment of dozens of business leaders, billionaires, oligarchs, political leaders from multiple parties, and the biggest head on the pik was the former two-term, highly popular President Lula da Silva,” Greenwald recalled.

“The judge, who oversaw that process and who endorsed all kinds of highly controversial practices that had never been previously used in Brazil” was Moro. He found Da Silva guilty on “very dubious charges” and sentenced him to prison for a decade. That meant Da Silva could not run for president in 2018, even though polls showed he would significantly beat Bolsonaro.

Moro subsequently became the minister of justice and public security for Bolsonaro, a position Greenwald described as one “where all the powers of law enforcement, surveillance, and investigation were consolidated.”

The Intercept Brasil’s series played a key role in Da Silva’s release from prison, which energized opposition to Bolsonaro.

Bolsonaro’s Homophobic Attacks On Glenn Greenwald’s Family

“One of the reasons why the reporting that I did was so dangerous is because my husband in January of 2019 took centerstage, when the only LGBT member of the Brazilian Congress in the history of the Congress” fled Brazil.

Miranda was an alternate in Congress. As Bolsonaro celebrated the fact that Jean Wyllys fled, automatically by law Miranda replaced Wyllys. It elevated Greenwald and Miranda “as a gay couple into this really bright spotlight.”

After publishing leaked conversations in June, Greenwald said so many of the attacks were “anti-gay in nature.” They also dragged their kids, who they adopted in 2017, into the spotlight as well.

“When Bolsonaro threatened to imprison me explicitly, he also in the same press conference claimed that David and I had married fraudulently and had adopted two Brazilian boys—and he emphasized boys—to avoid being deported.”

Miranda reported death threats against him and his family to federal police. He faced similar threats in March.

A prominent right-wing radio host named Augusto Nunes slapped Greenwald, when he appeared on the host’s show in November. The host had previously urged a judge to investigate whether Greenwald and Miranda were properly caring for their children. Greenwald used his appearance to confront the host over his grotesque suggestion that their children may need to be taken away to protect their “safety.”

Bolsonaro’s Alliance With Trump And Right Wing Governments

Like Rafael Tsavkko Garcia highlighted for Sojourners, Bolsonaro “positioned evangelical fundamentalists in key positions within his government. He has supported a foreign policy that aims to construct a conservative Christian alliance of sorts – with the United States’ Donald Trump, Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, Poland’s Law and Justice Party, and others.

“[Bolsonaro’s] first official visit after being elected was to see Donald Trump in the United States, a visit in which he also had time for a dinner with Steve Bannon, a strategist of the global far right whose plan for an alliance between leaders and parties from this ideological spectrum fits the ambitions of the Brazilian president.”

Garcia added, “At a recent event in Hungary, the Brazilian secretary of National Sovereignty and Citizenship Affairs, Ambassador Fabio Mendes Marzano, presented the Brazilian government’s official vision to the world: The [Christian] religion is now a determining factor in the process of public policy formulation.”

This development, along with the Bolsonaro government’s reverence for the days when Brazil was ruled by a military dictatorship, make what is essentially a leak prosecution against a journalist far more dangerous than well-known cases in the United States.

Ever since the first articles containing leaks were published in June, Greenwald has not left his house in Rio de Janeiro without armed guards and an armored vehicle. The security on his house was dramatically enhanced, and his children are well aware.”

“It radically changed our lives in every conceivable way, but that’s what it means to do actual resistance against a fascist government,” Greenwald declared on “Useful Idiots.”

Greenwald is not about to back down. “I am working right now on new reporting and will continue to publish stories from this archive in the public interest.”

“Many courageous Brazilians sacrificed their liberty and even their lives for Brazilian democracy and against repression, and I feel an obligation to continue their noble work,” he concluded.

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."