Brazil’s Minister of Justice Sergio Moro passed a decree Friday allowing the summary deportation, or reduction in permitted time in the country, of individuals considered “dangerous” to the state, following the revelation that hackers targeted President Jair Bolsonaro’s mobile phone.
Authorities arrested four suspects this week on charges of hacking into Moro’s account on Telegram, an encrypted messaging service. The arrests followed months of transcripts of conversations featuring Moro on investigative site The Intercept, leading to suspicions that the arrested were the sources used by journalist Glenn Greenwald to acquire the messages the site published.
One of the suspects arrested said he anonymously sent hacked messages to The Intercept.
Greenwald adamantly denies any involvement with the suspects arrested this week and shared transcripts of a conversation with his anonymous source to the Brazilian magazine Veja on Friday in which the source insists they were not involved and that those arrested made “newbie” mistakes in accessing Moro’s Telegram account.
Greenwald is American by birth but has lived in Brazil since 2004. Many in Brazilian media have suspected that the deportation decree against “dangerous” persons may be targeting him, and Greenwald himself appeared to suggest that on his Twitter account.
Moro published the decree on Friday in the national gazette. The ordinance allows “the impediment of entry, repatriation, and summary deportation of a dangerous person, or one who has committed an act contrary to the principles and objectives of the federal Constitution.” If identified as a “dangerous” person, the individual in question has 48 hours to make a successful appeal, or leave the country.
In revealing that he was the target of a hacking scheme, President Bolsonaro made cyberattacks on prominent government officials the main national security threat on the nation’s mind late Thursday. Bolsonaro posted a message on Twitter confirming not only that hackers had targeted his phone, but that the suspects attempting to read his messages were those arrested on Tuesday.
“As a matter of national security, I was informed by the Federal Police and [the Ministry of Justice] that my cell phones were invaded by the gang arrested this Tuesday, the 23rd,” Bolsonaro wrote. “A grave attempt against Brazil and its institutions. May they be harshly punished! Brazil is no longer a lawless land.”
“As is appropriate, I state that I have never dealt with sensitive or national security issues via cell phone,” he added.
Por oportuno, informo que jamais tratei temas sensíveis ou de segurança nacional via celular.
— Jair M. Bolsonaro (@jairbolsonaro) July 25, 2019
Bolsonaro and Moro are among several other senior officials Brazilian media have named as the targets, though police are still seeking evidence that the hackers sought to invade the message apps of others.
Police arrested four individuals – identified as Gustavo Henrique Elias Santos, Suelen Priscilla de Oliveira, Danilo Cristiano Marques, and Walter Delgatti Neto – on charges of hacking into Moro’s Telegram app on Tuesday. Authorities told the media that six other individuals are being monitored as playing a potential role in the hacking. The Brazilian newspaper O Globo identified at least one of those six, Anderson José da Silva, whose IP address was linked to the hacking. Police reportedly have not confirmed whether da Silva himself used his account for the hacking or the main suspects also hacked da Silva’s account to use to hide their identities.
Walter Delgatti Neto confessed to police following his arrest that he was the main hacker responsible for the crime. Police are continuing the investigation into the others, finding an unexplained sum of $100,000 in cash at the home of dos Santos and Oliveira, who deny involvement in the crime. An attorney for the couple did say that Delgatto Neto showed dos Santos hacked messages on his phone from senior government officials.
Delgatti also explicitly claimed to be the source for Greenwald’s leaks, which attempted to portray Moro as biased when he was leading “Operation Car Wash,” a sprawling investigation into government corruption at Petrobras, the state-run oil company.
“Operation Car Wash” revealed that dozens of politicians of nearly every active political party had accepted kickbacks from private companies in exchange for overpriced government infrastructure contracts. Part of the excess taxpayer money paid to the firms would end up in politicians’ hands, investigators found.
The most prominent politician arrested as a result of the investigation was Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a socialist former president with aspirations to run again in 2018. Da Silva was sentenced to about a decade in prison – appeals have kept his sentence swinging from between nine and a half to 12 years – for spending taxpayers’ dollars acquired through the kickback scheme on a luxury beachfront property. The sentence ensured he could not run for president again.
“Operation Car Wash” made Moro a national hero and a clear choice as Bolsonaro’s justice minister following his election to the presidency. Conservative anti-corruption protesters often feature Moro’s likeness on posters and balloons at rallies.
The Intercept leaks revealed that, throughout the course of the investigation of da Silva, Moro grew to develop a distaste for the socialist former president. More recently, The Intercept revealed that, as justice minister, Moro sought to help the Venezuelan opposition against socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro.
The police are now reportedly attempting to confirm Delgatti’s confession. O Globo noted that his relatives and friends say he has a history of using anti-depressants and self-aggrandizement that makes him an untrustworthy source on the story.
Greenwald has forcefully denied involvement with Delgatti. He also shared a screenshot of an exchange he had with his source following the arrests in which he asked the source if they had read the arrest reports, published in Veja.
“With that, the dough is going to be hot and it is good to be careful,” the source replies, using an idiom meaning the situation will become more perilous. “I can guarantee it wasn’t us, we never exchange messages, we just take them.”
The arrested reportedly sent data from Moro’s Telegram account out rather than only taking the messages.
“We aren’t ‘newbie hackers,’ the news does not match our mode of operating,” the source continued in the image shared by Veja. “We access Telegram with the goal of extracting conversation and doing justice, bringing the truth to the people.”
Greenwald told Veja he does not know his source’s identity and that he neither paid the source nor did they ask for money. The source also claimed not to pay for the files, Greenwald said.
Greenwald has expressed outrage that Moro, in his capacity as justice minister, is leading the current investigation into the arrested alleged hackers.
“How is it possible that Sergio Moro, as minister of Justice, is at the helm of a Federal Police investigation … when Moro himself is a direct part of the investigation, as the reports were about him? The conflict of interest in enormous and obvious,” Greenwald wrote on Twitter Friday:
Como é possível que Sergio Moro, como ministro da Justiça, esteja comandando uma investigação da Polícia Federal (e vazando constantemente) quando o próprio Moro é parte direta da investigação, já que a reportagem é sobre ele? O conflito de interesses é enorme e óbvio.
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) July 26, 2019
Greenwald also called Moro’s role “unthinkable in any democracy.”