The Scammer Who Wanted to Save His Country

Last year, a hacker gave Glenn Greenwald a trove of damning messages between Brazil’s leaders. Some suspected the Russians. The truth was far less boring.

ONE SLEEPY SUNDAY morning in May 2019, Glenn Greenwald was sitting in his home office in Rio de Janeiro when he received a phone call from a number he didn’t recognize. He didn’t answer. But 30 seconds later a  WhatsApp message arrived from Manuela d’Ávila, a Brazilian leftist politician who had run for vice president the previous year alongside the center-left Workers’ Party’s candidate for president; their ticket had come in second to the far-right former military captain Jair Bolsonaro. “Glenn,” she wrote, “I need to speak to you about something urgent.”

Greenwald, the American journalist who broke the story of Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks, didn’t know d’Ávila well, so his interest was piqued by the weekend message. When she explained that she had stumbled into a huge potential story and wanted to talk on the phone, Greenwald rushed downstairs to the bedroom to wake his husband, the left-wing Brazilian politician David Miranda, who knew d’Ávila better.

When the two men put her on speakerphone, d’Ávila plunged into an odd tale: Someone had just hacked her Telegram account, then promised to send her evidence that would “save the country.” Greenwald had to ask her to slow down. “She was excited,” he says. D’Ávila explained that the hacker claimed to possess explosive material that implicated Bolsonaro’s government, and in particular Brazil’s Ministry of Justice and Public Security.


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November 13, 2020, Published on WIRED

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