Brazil: “The CPI of Phreaks and Leaks”


CC in June: “The Disneyland of Wiretapping. Outlaw it, no. Stop leaks, yes.” The siege of the President’s brother united government and opposition in criticism of federal police methods, but this should not be used to impede investigations. A Ministry of Justice proposal would widen the use of surveillance.” See also Behind the Music: The Estadão on the Leaky Police and Brazil: Globo and the Leaky Police. Again.

VERMELHO (Communist Party of Brazil) notes a fascinating development in the Brazlian Congress.

In establishing new parliamentary commmissions of inquiry (CPIs) for the session its has “tabled” the proposed CPI to examine the sale of the Grupo Abril’s TVA cable TV operation to Telefónica and chosen instead to install the “CPI of the Supreme Court wiretaps,” based on an “investigative report” by Veja magazine.

Foram instaladas, nesta semana, duas CPIs (Comissões Parlamentares de Inquéritos) pela Câmara dos Deputados. Uma destinada a investigar escutas telefônicas clandestinas e ilegais no Supremo Tribunal Federal (STF). A segunda irá investigar as causas e os responsáveis pela morte de crianças indígenas. Duas outras estão na fila para serem instaladas: CPI da Criança e do Adolescente Desaparecidos e a CPI da Abril-Telefônica.

Two CPIs were installed last week by the lower house of Congress. One is destined to investigate illegal wiretapping of the Supreme Court. The second will investigate the causes of infant mortality among indigenous children. Two others are in the queue, waiting to be installed: The CPI of Abril-Telefônica and the CPI of Missing Children and Teens.

A primeira reunião da CPI das escutas telefônicas do STF está marcada para o dia 13 de fevereiro. O relator da CPI é o deputado Nelson Pellegrino (PT-BA). O presidente da CPI é o deputado Marcelo Itagiba (PMDB-RJ).

The first meeting of the CPI of Supreme Court Wiretapping is scheduled for February 13. The [lead counsel-equivalent] is Nelson Pellegrino (PT-Bahia). The presdient of the CPI is Marcelo Itagiba (PMDB-Rio de Janeiro).

The relator is something like the chief counsel of a Congressional hearing, except that in the Brazilian CPI, he or she is an elected lawmaker and not a staff member.

Itagiba, a former federal police delegado, is notable for a couple of things:

  1. A recent bill that would to strip federal prosecutors of their power to conduct independent investigations of police misconduct, and
  2. a very loud screaming match with the O Globo daily of Rio over its observation that he received very substantial majorities of the vote in militia-controlled shantytowns. I need to look into the background of that set-to.

Segundo o requerimento para a instalação da CPI, a comissão foi motivada por matéria publicada na Revista Veja, segundo a qual houve escutas telefônicas clandestinas registradas por vários ministros da mais alta Corte judiciária brasileira.

According to the petition to create the CPI, it was motivated by an article published in Veja magazine according to which various Supreme Court justices reported being the target of clandestine wiretaps.

The Veja report on alleged illegal wiretapping at the Supreme Court is, on the face of it, another masterpiece of empty innuendo without a factual foundation from the same magazine that published the fraudulent dossier on offshore bank accounts allegedly held by senior government officials.

See

The amazing thing, I think, is that none of the Supreme Court justices cited in that report actually charged that they are being wiretapped.

The only concrete charge to this effect was proven to be hoax — an e-mail sent in by a disgruntled employee of some sort with crudely forged documents attached.

One of the Justices, who also presides over the federal election tribunal (TSE), created a stir last year when he reported that a contractor hired by the court had found bugs at the TSE.

Federal police double-checked the contractor’s work, found nothing, and recommended charging the contractor with making false accusations.

Veja reported:

Recently, the suspicions grew more robust. Justice Mello received an e-mail from an anonymous source. The writer told him his phones were tapped and that policemen were offering up the recordings in Campo Grande.

Veja insinuates that the federal police were covering up for their own actions when they disqualified the accusation, which was likewise sent to the presiding justice of the TSE.

The case was looked into, but the federal police — yes, the federal police again — concluded that message was the work of fraudsters making a false charges.

The odd thing is that Veja‘s source on that point, Justice Mello, immediately retracted any statement he might have made that would have led Veja to describe the suspicion as “robust.”

The president of the federal elections tribunal (TSE), Marco Aurélio Mello, said that accusations that federal agents might be dealing in illegal telephone wiretaps with conversations of Supreme Court justice are false.

See

Did you see that? Veja describes as a “robust” the suspicion raised by a Supreme Court justice, based on an anonymous e-mail, that he is being wiretapped.

The Minister of Justice rebuts:

The minister of justice, Tarso Genro, said today that accusations that federal agents might be dealing in illegal telephone wiretaps with conversations of Supreme Court justice are false. An article published last weekend by Veja reports that Supreme Court justices suspect they are being “watched.” The magazine cites the result of a federal police investigation that found that part of the charges were the work of “document-forging swindlers.”

That same Supreme Court justice then tells another news source that the Minister of Justice is absolutely right: Those accusations were quacking frauds.

Veja‘s source has now basically contradicted what Veja reported, as to “robust suspicions.”

And the Congress is dedicating finite resources to following up on those “robust suspicions.”

Go figure.

A Justice who recently took early retirement, shortly before the mandatory retirement age and full pension —  Justice Pertence — is the main complainant cited in the Veja article, along with Justice Mello of the TSE. He does not charge that he was wiretapped.

Pertence’s wife, Suely, in an interview with the blog of journalist Richardo Noblat, said that her husband’s retirement was due to health problems. The justice, however, says that the suspicion that the police is manipulating telephone recordings hastened his decision. “They made that recording public to embarrass me at a moment when I was being considered for Minister of Justice, a body to which the federal police is subordinated. It may have been mere coincidence, but I do not believe it,” he says.

Made what recording public, you ask?

He is referring to a wiretap of crooked Sino-Paraguayan lobbysts — it’s like reading dialogue from Goodfellas, only in Portuguese — who claim to a client that they can buy favorable verdicts from the justice and his aides, leaked to Bob Fernandes of Terra Magazine. See

The Justice has a point of course: The leak-fest and lack of institutional message control is just astonishing sometimes. Poster child for the phenomenon: Edmilson “Bruno Surfistinha” Bruno. See

Justice Mello was mentioned in the same (leaked) conversations, albeit, as the colorful Abramoff of Mato Grosso who is at the center of the (leaked) probe, puts it, as “merchandise I haven’t got in stock.”

A federal police operation in Rio de Janeiro last year wound up charging senior members of the judiciary with selling verdicts that allowed gambling mafias to continue operating under the protection of a court order. Selling them for a lot of money.

Back to Vermelho, the chief counsel on the case confirms:

O relator da CPI, deputado Nelson Pellegrino, confirmou que o ponto de partida dos trabalhos é a denúncia da revista Veja. “A idéia é seguirmos esse roteiro original e termos uma primeira reunião com a ministra Ellen Gracie (presidente do STF) para conversarmos sobre o procedimento de audiências públicas com os ministros do STF”, disse.

The CPI’s relator, Pellegrino, confirmed that the point of departure for the CPI’s work is the Veja accusation. “The idea is to follow this original script and have a preliminary meeting with Chief Justice Ellen Gracie to discuss procedures for public hearings with Supreme Court justices.

Roteiro can also mean “original screenplay.” I think maybe Pellegrino is making a little joke here about facts and fiction. Or I could just have an overactive imagination in this instance. There is a satirical joke in there somewhere.

Another very loud debate over the privacy of Supreme Court justices occurred with the capture, by telephoto lenses, and publication of private instant messages on the laptops of some of the justices during a sensational public hearing earlier this year.

O Globo has since been awarded the Esso Journalism Prize for that reporting.

The Order of Brazilian Attorneys called it a “criminal act.”

See

(The U.S. Supreme Court — for Brazilian dittoheads who like to trot out that “in civilized countries like the United States” argument — barred all cameras from its public proceedings after a similar incident in 1965, and has never been prevailed upon to reverse that resolution. And no one can make them, either. They are Supreme.

This is perhaps the most significant application of the maxim that “with great press freedom comes great press responsibility” in our history, but no one comments much on it. )

Segundo Pellegrino, a CPI também pretende fazer um diagnóstico sobre como a escuta legal está ocorrendo no país e sobre os vazamentos de informações. Pellegrino destacou que o roteiro de trabalho será definido durante o recesso parlamentar e contemplará também as demandas dos deputados integrantes da comissão.

According to Pellegrino also intends to look into how legal wiretapping works in Brazil and about the leak of information. He emphasizes that the agenda will be defined over the recess and will also consider other topics requested by commission members.

A CPI of the Leaky Police might actually be a useful thing to do.

And no congressional probe of the Leaky Police worth its salt would, of course, be complete without a look at the professional ethics of Police Leakees — and leak journalism in general, as part of the debate on updating Brazil’s press law and interpreting its New Civil Code provisions on libel and editorial responsibility.

If you print gabbling bullshit, and call yourself a journalist, but have failed to check whether it is gabbling bullshit or not, and refuse to run a correction if it turns out to be be gabbling bullshit unless someone sues you into doing so, have you personally vouched for that gabbling bullshit?

If not, are you really a journalist?

The tendency is for Veja to try to maintain two contradictory propositions simultaneously:

  1. We merely print these rumors; we are uncommitted to their truth or falsity; we take no editorial responsibility for anything we print
  2. We are world-class journalists and you should pay money to read what we have to say

No, thank you.

Back to the daily fishwrap with the hammer and sickle on it:

CPI da Abril-Telefônica

The Abril Probe

Após quatro meses da entrada do requerimento da CPI, contendo 182 assinaturas de parlamentares da base do governo e da oposição, a comissão ainda não foi instalada.

Four months since being submitted with 182 signatures of government and opposition lawmakers, this CPI has yet to be installed.

A autoria é do deputado Wladimir Costa (PMDB-PA) e a CPI foi requerida “para investigar as circunstâncias e as conseqüências decorrentes do processo de autorização, por parte da Anatel, referente à reestruturação societária e transferência de controle de outorga envolvendo as empresas da TVA (do Grupo Abril) e a empresa Telesp, no que diz respeito aos princípios da defesa da livre concorrência, dos direitos do consumidor e da soberania nacional”.

The proposals was by Costa of Pará and proposed to “investigate the circumstances and consequences of the authorization, by Anatel, of the corporate restructuring and transfer of control of Abril’s TVA to Telesp, with respect to the defense of open competition, the rights of the consumer, and national sovereignty.

O deputado Fernando Ferro (PE), vice-líder do PT na Casa, acredita que a comissão será a próxima a ser instalada. No entanto, o vice-líder petista percebe que há uma articulação política para que ela não seja instalada.

Ferro of Pernambuco, vice-leader of the PT in the lower house, believes it will be the next to be installed. However, he says he sees political maneuvering to prevent this.

Para que isso aconteça, o deputado pernambucano entende que os líderes partidários devem estar de acordo. Ele revela que o presidente da Casa, Arlindo Chinaglia (PT-SP), mostra-se disposto a instaurar a Comissão, faltando apenas o pronunciamento dos partidos.

For this to happen, the Pernambucan believes, the party leaders have to reach concensus. He reveals that the speaker of the house, Chinaglia of São Paulo, is inclined to install it, and is just waiting for the parties to pronounce.

We tend to think of Chinaglia as sort of an Italo-Tupi Tip O’Neill, though lacking Tip’s decades-long iron grip on power.

“Infelizmente me parece que, de certa maneira, há um certo desinteresse, um receio ou medo, não sei, em relação a esse assunto. Eu já conversei e aguardo uma manifestação das lideranças, mas há algo de estranho que está parando a seqüência dessa CPI”, lamenta Ferro.

“Unfortunately, it is seems to me that there is a certain disinterest, reluctance, or fear, I am not sure what, in relation to this matter. I have have already talked with leadership and am waiting for them to weigh in, but something weird is getting in the way of the process going forward here,” he lamented.

This is a quite a peculiar moment.

In a way, it seems as though Veja and Abril scored a coup of sorts — our investigative reporting led to a Congressional probe (of suspicions that the sources for our report now say were cases of quacking fraud)!

They can put this in their next annual report as proof of their excellence in journalism

On the other hand, Abril has also recently forced all its employees to sign a commitment to a new Code of Conduct representing a new determination to do business in a transparent and aboveboard manner (but whose precise contents seem to be a trade secret.)

See

Mino Carta passed along some pure gossip some months ago according to which, when the big boss told Veja to cool it on the art of the gabbling ratfink — Abril does a lot of business with the government, and there is pressure on the goverment to put some $0 spectrum concessions it got back in the early 1990s back out for competitive biddig — it just ignored him.

See

I do not know if I really believe that.

But this whole “code of conduct” and “culture of accountability” routine sort of tends to reinforce the same narrative, does it not? “Look at me, I am putting my house in order and exerting some hierarchical discipline in the interest of social responsibility!”

I will believe it when they fire a senior gabbling Moonie for violating the Code.

In a way, it is telling the same story about itself as it is about the federal police: That this crap is the fault of some insubordinate banda podre that is out of control.

The federal police, however, have done a pretty credible job — or at least made a credible start — of arresting and prosecuting, or otherwise neutralizing, its banda podre in recent years.

At Abril, the banda podre apparently still runs the show.

Hastening to fabricate a case for one’s competence as a self-regulator often accompanies a sudden realization that you have fucked up so badly, and so publicly, and public opinion is running so hot and heavy against you, that the goverment might really have the political clout to lower the boom on you this time.

(I am reminded of some of the startlingly bloodthirsty rhetoric of the PCAOB post-Enron, and how scared and angry that made the financial services industry, especially at a time when it was gearing up for another foray into “finacial-product innovation” — what we now know and love as mortage-backed securitization gizmos.

That was precisely when “self-regulation” became the buzzword of the century.)

The thing about the TVA deal is that it is now done: Anatel required some changes to the shareholders agreement. I doubt that ruling is readily reversible, or that the deal is at risk of being undone. CADE, the antitrust regulator, might surprise us, but I tend to doubt it.

The real risk may be, not to Abril and its deal, but to everybody else around this cartelized poker table of media and telecom.

Congress could look at this deal and decide to pass a law that changes the rules of the game for everyone.
So it may eventually be peer pressure more than anything else that is prompting Abril to don its altar-boy robes. Its shennanigans are starting to pollute the trough the other horses in the stable have to drink from.

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