Watergate Braziliense: The Leaky Police on the Leaky Police

The Fake News Cycle

The "fake-news cycle" according to John Koblin of the NYO -- himself a key link in the chain that recycled rumors from the tabloids into the blogosphere,where the same tabloids that started the rumor in the first place wound up picking them back up again. Really, the diagram should take the form of a closed loop leading back to the NYP. Click to zoom.

I  gave New York Observer reporter John Koblin a blogospheric beat-down recently for his role in perpetuating rumors and soliciting leaks about a possibly impending political scandal in New York.

I personally would never let a reporter representing my paper go around Twitting plagiarized (in that the source of the rumor — the New York Post, hence “gabbling” in the completion of the primary dependent clause, once I have finished my hyperbaton — was not identified) gabbling rumors.

Much less would I proudly feature his pontificating about the fake-news cycle afterwards. It was not treated “fake news” when he twitted the rumor, without attribution to its source, in the first place. It was treaed as a hot tip with an open casting call out for leakers and phreakers willing to substantiate it.

Having said that, I will now myself transfer a strategically leaked, anonymously sourced story about allegations of shady strategic leaks by other, as yet unnamed, police, from one blogosphere — the Portuguese-speaking one — into another — pra inglês ver.

Unfortunately, in Brazil, that is sometimes the best you can expect from the local press. You have to piece the story together from a variety of leaks and counterleaks, like the blind men with their elephant. Fear, uncertainty and doubt rule the day.

So caveat lector.

According to O Globo, the Rio metro daily, the governor of the federal district, already in federal custody to prevent further acts of witness-tampering, may be in even hotter water.

He is now accused — the federal police leak out new evidence in dribs and drabs to keep the soap opera going — of using state security agencies as a personal political police force.

Police intelligence officers are said to have spied on prosecutors building cases against Arruda and then preempted those confidential investigations with leaks.

Documento em poder de investigadores da Operação Caixa de Pandora contém indícios de que setores da inteligência da Polícia Civil foram usados para espionar o Ministério Público do Distrito Federal, base de onde partiram as primeiras investigações sobre o suposto pagamento de propina a Arruda, ao governador em exercício, Paulo Octávio, e a parlamentares da base governista.

A document in the possession of federal investigators working on Operation Pandora’s Box contains indications that resources of the district police intelligence service were used to spy on the district prosecutor’ office, source of the first investigations into alleged bribe-taking by Governor Arruda, the current interim governor Paulo Octávio (DEM), and pro-situation lawmakers.

A bit of back story here: Antônio Carlos Magalhães, the dark overlord of Brazil’s PFL political party — recently rebaptized as the “Democratic” party, in a bid to disassociate itself from its roots in ARENA, party of the situation in the Potemkin congress maintained by the 1964-1985 military dictatorship — was himself a reputed master of using public security agencies to spy on political adversaries.

In 2003, federal investigators alleged that police working for ACM were falsifying the wiretap authorizations issued by judges, adding the names of parties totally unrelated to the case at hand but considered enemies, or untrusted allies, by the Senator. IstoÉ magazine, just to give you an idea, reported at a given moment in the scandal:

Novas investigações da Polícia Federal constataram que o número original de 232 telefones monitorados eram, na verdade, a ponta de um iceberg criminoso. Os policiais da Secretaria de Segurança Pública da Bahia estavam gravando conversas de mais de mil pessoas em cinco Estados. O delegado Valdir Barbosa e o técnico Alan Farias, os principais executores do grampo e já indiciados pelos crimes de falsificação de documentos e escuta ilegal no inquérito da PF, fizeram quase 900 pedidos de escuta. Os pedidos mais recentes datam de fevereiro de 2003, quando ACM já tinha tomado posse no Senado …

New investigations by the federal police have found that the 232 illegal wiretaps installed were in fact merely the tip of the iceberg. Policemen from the State Security Secretariate of Bahia were recording the conversations of over 1,000 persons in five states. Police captain Valdir Barbosa and technician Alan Farias, the principal operators of these bugs, who have already been charged by the feds with falsifying documents and illegal wiretapping, had made over 900 requests for judicially authorized surveillance. The most recent date from February 2003, when Magalhães had already assumed his seat in the Senate ...

The 2003 reelection of Magalhães followed his resignation from the Senate in 2001 to avoid impeachment proceedings on charges of having violated the confidentiality of the vote on the Senate floor.

(His political machine was dealt a blow in the 2006 elections, losing the governorship to Jaques Wagner of the PT.  His son still occupies his Senate seat, however, even as his grandson leads the DEM-PFL benches in the lower house.)

Our governor Arruda — at the time the leader of the situation in the lower house as a member of the PSDB — after initially denying having conspired with ACM to coopt the Senate technical staff in order to learn the secret votes of Senate members in an impeachment trial, later admitted to doing so in a tearful farewell address, then resigned along with ACM.

He would also make a mythic, almost immediate Nixonian comeback, now affiliated with the party of Magalhães:

The new charge against Arruda is based on a document reportedly seized in the case (O Globo does not confirm, as is customary, that it has seen the document in question):

O documento, apreendido entre os pertences do governador afastado, é um relatório sobre cinco importantes investigações preliminares que promotores do Distrito Federal estavam fazendo em sigilo sobre fraudes em diversos setores do governo Arruda. Para um dos investigadores, não há dúvidas de que o governo local estava informado sobre cada passo dos promotores.

The document, found among the belongings of the suspended governor, is a report on five major preliminary investigations into fraud in various areas of the Arruda administration, conducted in secret by district prosecutors. According to one of the federal investigators, there is no doubt but that the local government was kept abreast of every step the prosecutors took.

Sem o elemento surpresa, as investigações dificilmente produziriam os resultados esperados.

Without the element of surprise, the investigations were largely prevented from achieving the expected results.

— Pelo menos cinco investigações foram “vendidas”, vazadas — disse um dos investigadores do caso.

“At least five investigations were ‘sold out,’ leaked,” said one of the feds working the case.

Source: Ricardo Noblat / O Globo.

The Folha de S. Paulo produces some worthwhile (albeit mostly leaked) follow-up:

O secretário Valmir Lemos (Segurança) — que esteve reunido na tarde de sábado com Arruda– disse que ainda não foi informado da suspeita. “Não sei qual é o fato que está sendo apurado. Se houver algo, deve ser apurado com tranquilidade até porque o Ministério Público e a Polícia Federal devem ter elementos concretos que justifiquem essa situação”, afirmou. A procuradoria, por sua vez, não comentou a notícia.

State security secretary Valmir Lemos — who met with Arruda on Saturday afternoon — said he has yet to be advised of the allegation. “I don’t know what incident is being looked at. If there is something, the investigation should go smoothly if only because the prosecutor and the federal police must have some concrete evidence to back up the  charge,” He said. The prosecutor’s office would not comment on the report.

A suspeita de que o governador espionava aliados e adversários ganhou força no início do mês quando dois policiais civis de Goiás foram presos acusados de monitorar parlamentares. Em depoimento à Polícia Civil de Goiás, Luiz Henrique Ferreira negou que tivesse sido pago para grampear deputados, mas para analisar vídeos que fazem parte do inquérito do STJ (Superior Tribunal de Justiça) sobre o mensalão, contratado por Francisco do Nascimento Monteiro.

The suspicion that the governor was spying on allies and adversaries was strengthened by the arrest early this month of two state police agents from Goiás on charges of trying to conduct surveillance of lawmakers. In a statement to Goiás police, Luiz Henrique Ferreira denied having been paid to monitor district legislators. He said he was paid by Francisco do Nascimento Monteiro to analyze the videos that form part of the evidence in the case before the federal high court relating to the bribery affair.

Other coverage has reported that the two policemen were in possession of ambient listening devices when arrested in front of the district assembly, but that no such devices were found in a subsequent search of the premises.

There is no direct evidence of that in this report from the Folha, at least.

O policial disse ter sido avisado que o serviço tinha sido encomendado pelo próprio governador. A Polícia Civil e a Corregedoria da Polícia Civil de Goiás abriram inquérito para apurar a denúncia.

The policeman said he was told that the job was ordered by Arruda personally. The district police and the internal affairs bureau of the Goias state police are formally investigating the charged.

Geographical note: Brasília, D.F., is embedded in the state of Goiás — sort of a Brazilian Kansas.

Goiás is currently governed by Alcides Rodrigues of the PP, a party allied with the DEM and Arruda. Which may or may not turn out to be relevant.

Ferreira foi preso nas proximidades da Câmara do DF de Brasília, ao lado do colega de corporação José Henrique Cordeiro. Eles prestaram depoimento e foram liberados. Eles portavam um cheque de R$ 20 mil e um notebook que será periciado.

Feirreira was arrested near the premises of the district legislative assembly along with fellow Goiás police agent José Henrique Cordeiro. They were questioned and then released. When detained, they were carrying a check for R$20,000 and a laptop that will be inspected by computer experts.

Ferreira afirmou que o cheque seria o primeiro pagamento pela análise dos vídeos que foram gravados por Durval Barbosa, delator do esquema de corrupção. As imagens mostram Arruda, assessores, deputados distritais e empresários recebendo dinheiro.

Ferreira said the check was the first installment on the payment he was to receive for analyzing the videos recorded by Durval Barbosa, who denounced the corruption scheme [as part of a plea deal with the feds. --Ed.] The images show Arruda, Arruda aides, district lawmakers and business owners receiving cash.

Folha não localizou Monteiro para comentar as declarações do policial. Segundo informações da Polícia Civil de Brasília, Monteiro teria contratado serviços dos policiais para instalar equipamentos de segurança numa creche em São Sebastião, perto de Brasília.

The Folha could not locate Monteiro to comment on the police agent’s statements. According to the Brasília district judicial police, Monteiro supposedly hired the two cops to install security equipment at a daycare center in São Sebastião, near Brasília.

The Brasília police — no spokesman identified by name — calling the Goiás police a bunch of liars. Invoking a laudable concern for the safety of little children. Wow.

Até a semana passada, Monteiro trabalhava no gabinete do deputado distrital Benedito Domingos (PP), também investigado por suposta participação no esquema, mas foi exonerado. A Polícia Civil e a Corregedoria da Polícia Civil de Goiás abriram um inquérito para apurar a denúncia.

Until last week, Monteiro worked in the office of district deputy Benedito Domingos (PP), also an investigation target in the bribery probe, but has since been dismissed from that post. …

This is some decent work by the Folha, although all they really did was Ctl-C Ctl-V what the feds wanted leaked. At least they added some detail to the whole story. And made some phone calls.

I really cannot understand why this young man Koblin of the NYO — a fun, playful read, but usually also based on the expenditure of reportorial shoe leather — did not likewise use the telephone, e-mail or even IM to actively pursue the answer to his question, rather than sitting back and waiting for the twits to come pouring in … from the usual twits.

I always like to read in detail about the Five Ws of these things — and especially the H — where the Devil often is.

Postscript: ACM

If you were curious about whatever happened to the case against bug-happy Senator, his bacon was saved (1) with a ruling by the president of the Senate overruling an ethics committee vote to impeach him, and (2) with his reelection, which afforded him the “privileged forum” enjoyed by elected officials — only the Supreme Court could try him, and such cases can drag on for a decade or more.

As Terra summed up the affair:

Após as denúncias, em 2003, o Conselho de Ética e Decoro Parlamentar do Senado abriu investigação sobre o caso e ACM apresentou sua defesa por escrito. ACM não negou de forma categórica a autoria dos grampos, disse que o escândalo antecedia aquela legislatura, o que tornaria a investigação realizada pelo Conselho inconstitucional. Mesmo assim, o relator do caso, senador Geraldo Mesquita (PSB-AC), acabou pedindo a abertura de processo por quebra de decoro parlamentar contra ACM e a cassação do mandato. Com uma votação apertada – oito votos a sete – o parecer foi aprovado.

After the charges emerged in 2003, the Senate ethics committee looked into the case. ACM presented his defense in writing. He did not categorically deny the charges, but argued that the scandal predated the mandate of the current legislature and therefore, under the Consitution, could not be investigated by it. The lawmaker overseeing the case, Geraldo Mesquita of the Brazilian Socialist Party, recommended that ACM be tried for conduct unbecoming and impeached. In a tight 8-7 vote, the recommendation was approved.

Apesar da votação, a mesa diretora do Senado, então presidida por José Sarney (amigo e aliado de ACM), arquivou o pedido no dia seguinte e remeteu a denúncia ao Supremo Tribunal Federal(STF) sob a alegação, usada na defesa de ACM, de que as acusações se baseavam em fatos ocorridos antes da posse de ACM como senador.

After the vote, the Senate leadership, presided over at the time by former president Sarney, a friend and ally of ACM, tabled the motion the following day and referred the charge to the Supreme Court on the grounds that ACM was correct to argue that the alleged events took place before ACM took the oath of office.

When Lula was elected, Sarney jumped ship from the PFL to the PT-allied PMDB, returned to the presidency of the Senate, and made himself indispensable to any solution to the problem of “governability.”

His daughter Roseane governs his home state of Maranhão (where the family illegally owns TV Globo affiliates and a statewide newspaper chain, through fronts). Opponents successfully defeated Sarney for the Senate seat he occupied there, whereupon he moved to Amapá and became one of its Senators.

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