By Brett Wilkins

A Brazilian judge has declined to proceed with cybercrime charges against Glenn Greenwald, the American Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist whose work uncovering corruption in the South American nation’s judicial system has infuriated top officials in President Jair Bolsonaro’s far-right administration.

The Intercept reports Judge Ricardo Augusto Soares Leite ruled on February 6 that Greenwald will not be prosecuted. Leite’s decision was based on previous rulings by Brazil’s Supreme Court that found Greenwald’s reporting for The Intercept Brasil on Operation Car Wash —  an ongoing, wide-ranging criminal investigation of prominent politicians and business leaders — had not broken any laws. 

Last August, Supreme Court Minister Gilmar Mendes prohibited the Bolsonaro administration and Justice Minister Sergio Moro from investigating either the journalist or the site he co-edits. Much of Greenwald’s investigation has focused on Moro, who is accused of unethical and possibly illegal acts, including alleged close coordination with prosecutors in order to influence the outcome of cases. Leite said if the high court injunction against investigating Greenwald were to be lifted, he would be open to charging him. 

Bolsonaro owes his presidency to Car Wash, which began in 2014 and ultimately resulted in the removal of two of his predecessors, Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva and Dilma Rousseff of the left-wing Workers’ Party. Da Silva was tried, convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison for corruption in 2018. However, he was released last November after serving 580 days behind bars. Da Silva and Rousseff maintain their innocence and claim that the charges against them are politically motivated. Moro, the lead Car Wash judge, was appointed justice minister by Bolsonaro.

Greenwald lives in Rio de Janeiro with his husband David Miranda, a federal congressman in the left-wing Socialism and Liberation Party (PSOL), and their two adopted children. Greenwald is best known outside of Brazil for his reporting on US National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden and the classified documents he leaked revealing the global scale and scope of NSA mass surveillance and other government misdeeds. 

As Greenwald and Miranda have become leading critics of the Bolsonaro administration, the president, his allies and supporters have hit back hard. The president has repeatedly threatened Greenwald with imprisonment, while other government officials have threatened to probe the couple’s finances and even strip them of custody of their children. Death threats from enraged Bolsonaro supporters have become a regular fact of life. 

Homophobic attacks are also common. Last November during a radio interview, far-right journalist Augusto Nunes, an ardent Bolsonaro supporter, called on Brazil’s juvenile court to investigate Greenwald’s family. When Greenwald called Nunes a “coward,” Nunes slapped Greenwald, who then slapped him back. 

“I think I trigger a lot of their primal rage,” Greenwald told the New York Times. “They view me as someone who deserves to be punished.” 

“I think this movement believes in repression and governing through intimidation and fear, as opposed to persuasion and debate,” he added. “One of the things you have to do, if that’s your vision, is to frighten your political opponents, credibly frighten them.”

Greenwald has been reporting unfavorably about Bolosnaro since 2014, when he was a junior member of Congress. An article titled “The Most Misogynistic, Hateful Elected Official in the Democratic World: Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro” raised the future president’s eyebrows and ire, and he has had his sights set on Greenwald ever since. 

Bolsonaro has faced intense criticism in Brazil and around the world for his homophobic, misogynistic and other bigoted remarks, for voicing support for the country’s former murderous military dictatorship, for his blatant and sometimes deadly disregard for the welfare of indigenous peoples, his administration’s climate change denial and rapacious destruction of the Amazon and other critical ecosystems and for his close relationship with US President Donald Trump. 

Greenwald reacted to the news that he wouldn’t be charged — for now — with guarded optimism. “While I welcome the fact that this investigation will not move forward, this decision is insufficient to guarantee the rights of a free press,” he said in a statement. “The rejection is based on the fact that the Supreme Court already issued an injunction against attempts of official persecution against me,” he added. “This is not enough. We seek a decisive rejection from the Supreme Court of this abusive prosecution on the grounds that it is a clear and grave assault on core press freedoms. Anything less would leave open the possibility of further erosion of the fundamental freedom of the press against other journalists.”

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