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Federal Police Operation Seizes Lula Institute Communications Illegally

Mar 9, 2016 5:51 PM

During the search and seizure operation carried out at the Lula Institute on Friday, March 4, the Federal Police seized the account administrator password for the @institutolula emails.  The password was not included in the search warrant, which named a few specific email accounts. The demand was made under the threat of arrest of the computer technician.

The Lula Institute petitioned Judge Moro on Tuesday (8), asking that the administrator password be returned and that this abuse of power against an entity of Brazilian civil society come to an end.

With the information they obtained without mandate or warrant, the Federal Police became the sole administrative operator with the authority to create and block emails, and they gained free access to all Lula Institute email accounts, and so went far beyond the limits of the original warrant issued by Judge Sergio Moro.

Even more important, yesterday, using the administrator password, the confidentiality of five e-mail accounts was violated, all without the legal support of a court order.

It is not just a simple violation of the rule of law. The Police action does violence to the guarantees and fundamental rights expressed in Article 5 of the Federal Constitution, a legal safeguard defended by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all democracies around the world.

The illegal seizure and use of the administrator password for the Institute's e-mail allows the Federal Police to (1) access and read all messages in all the Institutes accounts (including all communications with the press, violating a constitutional principle), (2) add and delete information, and (3), change the password, preventing users from access to their accounts, interfering with their work and cutting off their ability to send and receive email.  This is, in fact, what occured.

The use of the password allowed them to create new (and fictitious) emails with the domain and send messages from any account at the Institute. The implications of this sort of abuse are enormous.  The emails or the e-mail accounts of any company, individual or organ of the press can easily be forged.

The Lula Institute is a non-profit organization in Brazilian civil society, with contacts and joint work projects with social movements, trade unions, international organizations, governments and present and former representatives from Africa, Latin America, United States, Europe, Asia and Oceania.

The Lula Institute has contractual agreements, partnerships and relationships with the FAO, CELAC, the African Union, the European Union, UNASUR, with the French Socialist Party and the German Social Democratic Party, with Podemos and the PSOE in Spain, with the autoworker’s union in the United States (UAW), the German metalworkers' union (IG Metall), the Central Trade union of South Africa (Cosatu), and with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Clinton Foundation, just to name a few.

The Institute hosts visits and receives communications from journalists, academics, ambassadors, party leaders, heads and former heads of state interested in discussing the world political scene, and specifically the Brazilian experience in combating poverty, with the Directors of the Institute and in particular with former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, one of the most well-known personalities in Brazil and abroad.

The Federal Police assault on the Institute’s privacy in electronic communications and our institutional and individual autonomy does violence to our democratic institutions and Brazil’s constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression and assembly.

If it is discovered that the Lula Institute’s email accounts that are used to contact the press are blocked or compromised, and if any unauthorized messages are sent as if an official statement by the Institute, the entity will respond to correct the abuse through its website and using our phone contacts.

We are waiting for the return of our password to assure our rights to privacy in our communications and our work, as guaranteed under the law, and the restoration of our rights as citizens in a Brazilian democracy.