Brazilian prosecutors have denounced American journalist Glenn Greenwald for his alleged involvement with a cybercrime organization that hacked cell phones to commit bank fraud.
Greenwald is best known for a series of reports published from June 2013 by The Guardian newspaper that detailed the global surveillance programs of the United Kingdom and the United States. The reports were based on classified documents disclosed by Edward Snowden and whistle-blowing events involving WikiLeaks.
In a criminal complaint filed by federal prosecutors in Brazil on Tuesday, Greenwald is accused of being involved with a criminal organization that hacked mobile devices and committed bank fraud and money laundering.
According to the complaint, the organization is behind a number of hacks perpetrated last year in which cell phones belonging to public officials and prosecutors were compromised. Among the officials whose devices were hacked was the Brazilian minister of justice and public security, Sérgio Moro.
Seven individuals are named and denounced in the complaint, including computer programmer Gustavo Henrique Elias Santos and his wife, Suelen Oliveira, who allegedly recruited people to participate in a series of scams.
Greenwald was named as an auxiliary to the criminal organization’s activities after a recording of a conversation between the journalist and the organization’s alleged hacker Luiz Molição emerged. The recording was found on a MacBook seized by Brazilian police from the house of Walter Delgatti Netto, who prosecutors allege was one of the organization’s leaders.
In the audio, Molição confirms that a phone hack is ongoing. He then asks Greenwald for guidance on the possibility of “downloading” the content of other people’s Telegram accounts before the journalist publishes certain articles on his website, The Intercept.
Prosecutors allege that Greenwald then advised Molição to cover the criminal gang’s tracks by deleting archives of material that they had sent to the journalist. Deleting the material could hinder a police investigation and possibly reduce the criminal liability of the individuals behind the hack.
The complaint states that the criminal organization carried out 126 telephone, telematic, or computer interceptions and 176 invasions of third-party computer devices. An investigation into whether the hacks resulted in financial profits is ongoing, and the possibility of future judicial proceedings has not yet been ruled out.
The Intercept and Greenwald both released statements on Tuesday labeling the federal prosecutor’s allegations as an attack on Brazil’s free press “in line with recent abuses by the government of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.”