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Journalist Glenn Greenwald charged with cybercrimes for reporting in Brazil

Authorities claim Greenwald colluded with phone hackers

BRAZIL-POLITICS-CORRUPTION-INTERCEPT-GREENWALD Photo credit should read EVARISTO SA/AFP via Getty Images

Brazilian prosecutors have charged journalist Glenn Greenwald with violating cybercrime laws, The New York Times reports. The complaint reportedly claims Greenwald was part of a “criminal organization” that hacked public officials’ phones — an accusation apparently linked to Greenwald’s extensive reporting for The Intercept on Brazilian politics.

Last year, The Intercept published a string of damning reports on an anti-corruption task force and a judge who is now President Jair Bolsonaro’s justice minister, based on leaked documents, chat messages, and other information obtained by an anonymous source. The Washington Post reported that Greenwald faced threats of retaliation for the work, and in July, the Bolsonaro administration arrested four people for allegedly hacking the Telegram account of Justice Minister Sérgio Moro, saying that the hackers had provided The Intercept with documents.

The Intercept refused to reveal the identity of its sources at that time, but it condemned the government’s “insinuations that The Intercept did anything in this matter other than exercise our right to practice journalism.”

Greenwald posted a response to the charges on Twitter, calling the move “an attack on Brazilian democracy” and stating that his reporting would continue. “The Bolsonaro government and the movement that supports it has made repeatedly clear that it does not believe in basic press freedoms, he wrote — citing an earlier police report concluding that “I exercised extreme caution and professionalism as a journalist never even to get close to any criminality.”

The Times reports that today’s criminal complaint accuses Greenwald of going beyond receiving and publishing leaked messages. Among other accusations, it argues that Greenwald was “communicating with the hackers while they were actively monitoring private chats on Telegram” and that he “encouraged the hackers to delete archives that had already been shared with The Intercept Brasil, in order to cover their tracks.”

The latter charge echoes an American criminal allegation against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange who was charged last year with helping whistleblower Chelsea Manning obtain confidential documents and who is widely seen as a test of how far legal protections for journalists reach.

Greenwald came under US government scrutiny for his work with former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, with one lawmaker calling for his arrest in the aftermath of the leaks in 2013. But Greenwald, who currently lives in Brazil with his husband and two children, faces a much clearer legal threat now.

Update and correction 1:50PM ET: Added statement from Glenn Greenwald, clarified the nature of Greenwald’s reporting on Moro.