On June 9, The Intercept Brasil disclosed what could be the beginning of an unprecedented crisis in Brazil. Private conversations through the communication app Telegram were obtained from an anonymous source showing a less-than-republican chat between judge Sérgio Moro and members of the attorney general’s office, including Deltan Dallagnol, the public prosecutor who coordinates the task force of Operation Car Wash that investigates corruption crimes at Petrobrás and other state-owned companies.
Among the conversations, the report shows Dallagnol reticent about the robustness of evidence against former President Lula da Silva and the disclosure of an apparent coordination of Car Wash prosecutors to prevent former president Lula da Silva from being interviewed while in prison before the 2018 presidential elections. Prosecutors feared the interview would help then candidate Fernando Haddad, supported by Lula.
Finally, and even more seriously, is the clear and illegal collusion between Moro and prosecutors to convict those involved in the operation. The material could have been obtained through a hack on the cell phones of several judges and members of the prosecution. Leandro Demori, editor of The Intercept, tweeted that they don’t talk about their sources, which means that any attempt to find out if there really were hackers involved or if someone with access to the conversations decided to disclose them anonymously will be nothing more than a lucky guess.
What is important is to know that collusion between a judge and members of the federal prosecutor’s office is illegal, and that the chats between Moro and Dallagnol show that there was clear coordination between the judge and the prosecutor, with charging agility in new operations, strategic advices, clues to investigation, etc. The leak would also potentially involve a Supreme Court judge, Luis Fux, who would have supported judge Moro in a confrontation against another Supreme Court judge, Teori Zavascki, Car Wash’s rapporteur at the time who died in a plane crash in January 2017. Moro is quoted saying “In Fux we trust”.
All eyes in Brazil are on the leak, especially because The Intercept chose to disseminate the content that had been accessed little by little, keeping suspense and attention focused on the new content emerging. Today, Moro is Jair Bolsonaro’s Justice Minister and has seen his chances of being appointed to a vacancy in the Federal Supreme Court diminish, as well as his approval in recent opinion polls. However, so far the accusations have not made him leave office or apparently lose his prestige with the president.
The tactic of those who have had their conversations leaked is, so far, to deny the authenticity of the conversations, but as Demori pointed out, on more than one occasion, those involved have admitted, even implicitly, that the conversations are real. In fact, in a press conference on June 10, Moro said that he “didn’t see anything [wrong] in the messages”.
In fact, some may not have seen a problem with his exchange of messages, but the pressure from the population, journalists and even the judiciary authorities made him change his speech and start to deny the truthfulness of what was disclosed by The Intercept. In addition, those involved also seek to delegitimize the content of the conversations by stating that they were victims of a crime when they were hacked, a fact that was not proven and would not alter the political and even legal effects of the leak. Telegram also denied that there was any hack.
Meanwhile, Glenn Greenwald, one of the founders of The Intercept and one of the journalists working to publicize the existence of the United States’ secret global surveillance programs with Edward Snowden, has been receiving threats for his role in publicizing the conversations of Moro and other members of the judiciary. His husband, Congressman David Miranda, has also reported receiving death threats against him and his family.
Miranda and Greenwald have been married for 15 years. The congressman took office after the resignation of Jean Wyllys, who left Brazil for fear of his life after receiving a series of death threats from, he said, supporters of Jair Bolsonaro. Conspiracy theories involving the pair circulate the internet. One such theory is the idea that Greenwald hired a Russian hacker to invade Car Wash promotors’ phones. Another theory is that Greenwald bought Wylls’ spot in government to give to his husband. These rumours are incited and reproduced by supporters of, and politicians linked to, far-right president Jair Bolsonaro. What one can immediately be sure of is that the operation that lead to the uncovering of one of Brazil’s major corruptions scandals just ended up with its main promoters involved in corruption.
Not surprisingly, then, in The Intercept‘s most recent report, former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1995-2003) was mentioned in the leaks, where prosecutor Dallagnol mentions the concern to “pass on a message of impartiality”. Judge Moro says investigating Fernando Henrique would be “questionable because it would offend someone whose support [to the operation] is important”. According to the dialogue, there would be a suspicion of slush funding during the election campaign of the former president.
While Operation Car Wash has sent dozens of politicians to jail, investigating years of corruption and embezzlement, the investigation into the operation also seems to be bringing to light years of crimes – but committed by the operation itself.