An explosive leak of internal communications among powerful politicians in Brazil could bring Lula his freedom. This week on Intercepted: In a bombshell series of reports, The Intercept Brasil has revealed dirty tricks used in the prosecution of leftist former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on corruption charges and improper coordination among prosecutors and judges. Glenn Greenwald discusses the documents in the leaked archive and what this means for Trump ally Jair Bolsonaro. While the 2020 horserace dominates the headlines, local elections for district attorney could have major ramifications for disadvantaged and targeted communities. Tiffany Cabán, a queer Latina public defender from Queens, New York, talks about her battle with the Democratic Party machine in her bid to become a prosecutor opposed to the carceral state. Chesa Boudin, whose parents were sentenced to lengthy prison terms when he was 14-months-old, is trying to overhaul San Francisco’s justice system and radically change the relationship between cops and the DA. He talks about his family story and why he wants to move from public defender to prosecutor. As paramilitary forces carry out a massacre against nonviolent protesters in Sudan, we get a report from filmmaker Hajooj Kuka, who was wounded in the raid in Khartoum last week. And we hear the music of Sudanese-American Ahmed Gallab, the lead singer-songwriter of the band Sinkane, and his experience of monitoring the major developments in his home country.
Donald J. Trump: Biden, sleepy Joe, sleepy guy.
Joe Biden: You know, I wish we were in high school. I could take him behind the gym.
DJT: Well, I heard Biden, who’s a loser, I mean look —
Announcer: They’re both grumpy, old men.
JB: The president is literally an existential threat.
DJT: Joe Biden is a dummy.
JB: No president has done something like that for God’s sake. I mean, it’s bizarre.
Announcer: They finally found something worth fighting for.
DJT: Joe Biden was a disaster.
JB: This White House is literally a bully.
Announcer: Grumpy, old men.
DJT: He acts different than he used to. He’s even slower than he used to be.
JB: I guess, he’s really fascinated with me.
Jeremy Scahill: This is Intercepted.
JS: I’m Jeremy Scahill, coming to you from the offices of The Intercept in New York City. And this is episode 97 of Intercepted.
DJT: The U.S. attorneys, state, local prosecutors, police officers, sheriffs, deputies, and federal agents who keep our country safe — you keep America safe. And you maybe don’t hear it enough or sometimes don’t feel it enough. You do an incredible job. The people in this country know it and they love you. Just remember that.
JS: We have another jam-packed show this week. We’re going to be talking to two fiery young candidates running to become District Attorneys in major U.S. cities. And they are very unorthodox candidates. We’re going to be talking to Tiffany Cabán, a queer Latina public defender. She’s running to become prosecutor in Queens, New York.
Tiffany Cabán: If you have money, if you know how to game the system, you can do whatever you want in this city.
JS: We are also going to be talking to Chesa Boudin. He’s running for district attorney in San Francisco. His parents were both sentenced to lengthy prison terms when he was just 14 months old.
Chesa Boudin: More than half of Americans have had a family member behind bars. I am one of them.
JS: Neither of these candidates for district attorney had ever dreamt of becoming prosecutors, but they both say that they plan to take on the prison industrial complex, stop the criminal prosecutions of many drug-related offenses and fight to protect sex workers. One of them is also talking about prosecuting ICE agents who abuse their authority.
These are two very fascinating people and they both are talking about issues that seldom make it to prime time in this country. That’s coming up on the program. We’re also going to be looking at the ongoing horrors coming out of Sudan as paramilitary forces raided an encampment of protesters last week, killing more than 100 people, raping dozens of women and injuring hundreds of others.
Hajooj Kuka: It was around 5:00 a.m. and then the attacks started. Thousands of Rapid Response Force people with sticks dashing in and just beating everybody else up.
JS: But, we begin in Brazil where The Intercept has just broken a bombshell series of stories about some of the most powerful people in that country. The series of investigative stories is based on messages, conversations, photos, videos, audio recordings and documents exchanged between members of the anti-corruption “Operation Car Wash” task force in Brazil. That was a multi-year anti-corruption investigation in the country that led to the imprisonment of the leftist former president of that country. The conversations included in these stories are part of a massive trove of files sent weeks ago to The Intercept in Brazil by an anonymous source. Now, after receiving these files, Intercept journalists and security specialists analyzed the material, consulted individuals close to members of the “Car Wash” operation, with the goal of verifying dates and private events mentioned in these conversations. And once the authenticity was confirmed, The Intercept Brasil began examining and reporting on that material.
Amy Goodman: A damning new report by The Intercept reveals the judge overseeing the case that put former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva behind bars likely aided federal prosecutors in their corruption cases against Lula and other high profile Brazilian figures.
JS: At the heart of these stories are the utterly scandalous revelations that top judicial officials in Brazil conspired to prevent the party of the former left wing president of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, from winning the presidential election. It was these elections that brought the fascist president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, to power. And one of the figures at the center of these new documents obtained by The Intercept is Sérgio Moro, Bolsanaro’s Justice Minister.
Moro was the presiding judge in “Operation Car Wash” and the documents show, in the words of my colleagues, that Moro “unethically collaborated with the Car Wash prosecutors to help design the case against Lula despite serious internal doubts about the evidence supporting the accusations, only for him to then pretend to be its neutral adjudicator.” This reporting is already causing a major controversy in Brazil. The country’s Supreme Court on Monday said that it was going to start a review of an appeal by Lula, the jailed former president.
And we go now to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil where I am joined by my colleague Glenn Greenwald. He’s one of the key journalists reporting this story out. Glenn, congrats on this very significant reporting to you and the whole team at Intercept Brasil and thanks for coming back again on Intercepted.
Glenn Greenwald: Thank you, Jeremy. I’m happy to talk to you about it.
JS: Give us the top line, headline here of what the significance of what you guys have obtained and begun publishing.
GG: Well, everyone knows there’s been a lot of political crises in Brazil — the impeachment of the former President Dilma Rousseff, the ascension to the presidency of Jair Bolsonaro — but by far the most significant event over the last five years has been this sweeping corruption probe that has put billionaires and extremely powerful politicians into prison. By far the most significant of which was last year when they put Lula, the two-term highly popular president, into prison at exactly the moment when he was intending to run for president in 2018. And all polls showed him as by far the bleeding front runner. Nobody could have beaten Lula and by convicting and imprisoning Lula, they made him ineligible to run and that’s what paved the way for Bolsonaro’s victory.So, it’s almost impossible to have done anything more significant.
And obviously there was a lot of suspicion that when you remove the front runner for president by putting him into prison, you’re doing it for political reasons, but you couldn’t prove it because everything they did was in secret. And so, we got this massive archive of secret documents that includes all their private chats and internal documents.
JS: When you say you got the internal communications and chats of these people, what people are you talking about?
GG: The people who have led this anti-corruption probe are what’s called the Carwash Task Force, who are a team of prosecutors led by someone who’s in his 30s named Deltan Dallagnol has become a huge celebrity and hero in Brazil. And then the most important figure is the judge who has presided over all of these cases and who has been finding everyone guilty and sentencing them to you know, he put Lula in prison for 10 years, Judge Sérgio Moro. And now, after Bolsonaro’s victory, he made Sérgio Moro, his super justice minister, which obviously looked like a quid pro quo.
So, our documents that we got are about Judge Moro, now Minister Moro, and this task force led by Deltan. Internally, they were actively saying that one of their critical goals was to prevent PT from winning the 2018 election. Judge Moro, who was presiding over these cases, and had the same duty as judges in the United States, which is to be neutral, to issue verdicts from a position of impartiality, was in fact doing what people long suspected he was doing, which was not just collaborating with the prosecutors, but basically being the chief of the whole operation — telling them how to construct their cases, how to prosecute the cases, what arguments to make, what arguments not to make.
So, he was designing the very criminal accusations that he was then pretending to neutrally adjudicate including the criminal charges against Lula that sent Lula to prison for a decade and removed him from the presidential race — a complete and undeniable violation of every ethical rule that governs what a judge can do. Almost nobody is defending Sérgio Moro who is after Bolsonaro, by far the most powerful figure in Brazil and even with Bolsonaro, by far the most admired one.
JS: Now, Sérgio Moro was on the Time 100 list. There also was just an embarrassingly soft puff interview on 60 Minutes.
Anderson Cooper: A small band of prosecutors is working long hours in cramped quarters on the biggest investigation Brazil has ever seen, Operation Carwash.
AC: How does Car Wash compare to Watergate?
Deltan Dallagnol: Car Wash is much, much bigger.
AC: Deltan Dallagnol is the lead prosecutor.
AC: Bigger than Watergate?
DD: Much bigger.
JS: Did all of these U.S. news outlets get it wrong in their praise of Sérgio Moro and their characterization of Operation Car Wash?
GG: I, like a lot of people, found it admirable that they were going after the most powerful people and finally putting an end to systemic corruption. But they went very wrong, because the power got to their head, and it turned political, and it became clear that they were only interested after a while, in making sure that PT — the Workers’ Party — was the only one that was destroyed so that the right wing could return to power. And that’s what these documents show. So, there were good parts of the Car Wash investigation. There still are good parts of it. The problem is that they abuse their celebrity, their unquestioned power, and the power of the state, the power of prosecutors for overtly political ends in a way that makes them just as corrupt as the people who they began imprisoning.
JS: Now, of course, Jair Bolsonaro, the relatively new president of Brazil, is an extreme right winger, very authoritarian, is waging war on all sorts of vulnerable classes of people in Brazil. What has been the response from the Bolsonaro government to your reporting?
GG: In general, the most important people who speak for the Bolsonaro government are his three sons, one of whom is a senator, one of whom is a member of the House of Representatives who got elected with the largest vote and one of whom is his sort of informal spokesman who’s a city councilman in Rio de Janeiro. And they have been relentlessly attacking me, my husband David, who’s a congressman from a left wing party and The Intercept Brazil just trying to kind of claim that we’re doing this because we’re enemies of Brazil. Thus far, though, there’s been no official response from the Bolsonaro government in the way of, say things we’re expecting and have been expecting like searches of our office to find out who our source is.
They are accusing our source of being a hacker saying he committed grave crimes. Minister Moro himself did respond and he just very arrogantly dismissed the notion that he did anything wrong. He said we took things out of context and sensationalized it, but nobody’s buying it. So, the tide is really turning against them. So, I think the Bolsonaro government feels very constrained in what they can do, because you just read the conversations between Morro and these prosecutors and there’s no way to conclude anything other than he egregiously broke every ethical rule that he was limited by and people are really, actually feel betrayed, those who have been supporting him to learn his true character.
JS: I cannot emphasize enough how significant this reporting is in Brazil, and at the same time we have to recognize, doing stories like this in the United States are very dangerous particularly for journalistic sources that they try to throw the book at. And in Brazil, people do get killed, people get killed for challenging established power. What are the threats you’re potentially facing in the current political context with Bolsonaro in power in Brazil?
GG: There’s been under Bolsonaro a series of censorship and prior restraint orders where they’ve gotten more aggressive, severely more aggressive with trying to censor and suppress reporting. But the biggest danger is that, you know, we’ve done a lot of reporting about the fact that the Bolsonaro family and the Bolsonaro movement is linked to paramilitary gangs who only know violence, and they kill indiscriminately. As you know, one of our best friends Marielle Franco, the black LGBT woman from the favelas who served on the city council with David was brutally murdered last March. They caught the two police officers who killed her but we still don’t know who ordered her murder. Her phone and her computer were seized and they found that they had been monitoring mine and David’s public events along with other left wing journalists and politicians.
So, political violence is a real thing here in Brazil, especially if you’re a journalist. And I mean, I have to say we have a team of mostly young Brazilian editors, journalists, and staff members. I think they’re all under 40. They are completely vulnerable. I cannot express how courageous they have been in doing this reporting — how unflinching, and aggressive, and professional. And we published four major exposes, you know, 3,000 words each about highly complex matters. There wasn’t a single error in any of the articles that anybody could point to and it was done in the most aggressive way possible.
And unlike me, who at least has the protection of being more public and having a husband who’s a member of Congress, but still faces threats, they face huge amounts of threats. And everybody here has just sort of jointly joined together and said, this is our job as journalists and have been really fearless about how their reporting has been done. They deserve huge credit for that.
JS: All right, Glenn, well, I hope you and the team there at Intercept Brazil stay safe. Thank you so much for this incredibly vital reporting you guys are doing.
GG: Thank you, Jeremy, really appreciate you having me on for this.
JS: Glenn Greenwald is co-founder of The Intercept and Intercept Brazil. Make sure to check out this series at TheIntercept.com and The Intercept Brazil. They’re both available in English and Portuguese.
JS: Television news networks in the U.S. and social media are in full 2020 mode — every new poll is being scrutinized and crystal balled. The Trump show is on 24/7. But for many people living in disadvantaged or targeted communities in this country, the most important elections that could impact their lives on a daily basis are not those involving Congress or the presidency. It’s those contests that determine who is going to be the prosecutor in your community. Who will be the district attorney? These are extremely powerful people who often have major control over who goes to prison, what crimes should result in jail terms, how long those sentences will be, what do you do with cops who kill people in an extra-judicial way.
They preside over systems where cash bail means that poor people have less constitutional rights than those with money. They are, at times, like dictators presiding over questions of basic liberty. And yet, the vast majority of prosecutors run unopposed in their elections and historically, prosecutors have cozy relationships with the police, with law enforcement.
But in recent years, we’ve started to see candidates running for district attorney across this country that have a very different track record. And these candidates are not your typical prosecutors. In fact, some of them say that they would never have even thought of being part of a system that locks people up. But running they are. And they say they want to wage war on the way prosecutions have historically been conducted.
They’re talking about taking on the prison industrial complex, decriminalizing and legalizing recreational drug possession and use. They’re talking about prosecuting ICE agents who abuse their authority and they’re talking about alternatives to jail and prison. They say they will go after cops who engage in killings of black and brown people.
And today, we’re going to be talking with two young candidates seeking to overhaul deeply entrenched, pro-police systems in their cities. In a moment, we’re going to be joined by Chesa Boudin who is running for DA in San Francisco. But we begin with Tiffany Cabán from Queens, New York.
Cabán is a constituent of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and she’s going to be going up against the same Democratic Party Machine in Queens that AOC defeated with her insurgent grassroots campaign. Coming up very soon – June 25th in fact – that election is going to be held for District Attorney in Queens. It’s a crowded race for the huge district of nearly 2.3 million people.
Newscaster: District Attorney Richard Brown has died. He served as district attorney since 1991.
The DA seat for Queens hasn’t been up for grabs in nearly 30 years, and now there’s an open seat, as the incumbent passed away in office. Tiffany Cabán is a queer Latina woman who has spent her career fighting against prosecutors. And if she is going to win this race, she will, once again, need to beat the Democratic machine.
Tiffany Cabán [campaign ad]: I’m a queer Latina from a working-class family. People like us are exactly who the system is trying to keep down.
JS: Tiffany Cabán has spent her life as a public defender, representing those in court who could not afford to hire an attorney. Now, she’s decided to take on a completely different role — one seemingly at odds with her career so far. Tiffany Cabán, welcome to intercepted.
TC: Thank you for having me.
JS: My first question, just a very simple one: why on earth do you want to be a prosecutor?
TC: It’s a question that I asked myself to start, as well. I think we’re moving in a place where it’s sort of the perfect storm of conditions, where as a country, we are really reckoning with our criminal justice system. Public defenders on the front lines have always known that our system is racist. It is classist. It is one that creates two systems of justice, one for the wealthy, and one for the poor. And right now, we are seeing an environment where district attorneys around the country are reimagining what it means to be a prosecutor and saying that instead of punishing for the sake of punishing, that we are going to strive to make sure that we are stabilizing communities. We’re de-carcerating. We’re centering community solutions. We are providing access to resources and support to keep people in their communities and just applying the law fairly across racial and class lines.
JS: You’ve adopted the term de-carceral prosecutor to describe yourself. Explain for people that may not know what you’re talking about what that means.
TC: The word progressive prosecutor, I think has been overused to the point where it just has lost all of its meaning. And we need to have a true commitment to ending our system of mass incarceration through decarceration. You know, too often so-called progressive prosecutors come out with policies that sound good on paper, but I’m in court seeing that those policies have asterisks and our clients that are the exception to the rule before — namely our black and brown, our low income, and our immigrant communities — they continue to be the exception to the rule.
JS: Now, you, of course, have gotten a very high profile endorsement that of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She, of course, beat a long-serving incumbent who was a very powerful figure in not just in Queens, but in the Democratic Party. And Joe Crowley, who AOC defeated, features in your race as well because he has been backing Melinda Katz, the Queens borough president, who is your opponent. And you said the following:
TC [campaign ad]: She’s a career politician who hasn’t spent a single day in criminal court.
Unknown voice: That’s not true.
TC: Yeah, it’s true.
JS: I want you to talk about Katz. But first, how the Democratic Party machine that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had to fight against, how they are approaching you and your candidacy in this race?
TC: I, in so many ways, represent a clean break from the status quo. What I represent is bold, transformative change. What I represent is really centering the experiences of our community members, the folks that have been most directly impacted by our justice system. This about building a movement where we are empowering communities. And it’s not just the folks that have typically been in office, in power, making decisions that have continued to harm the same communities that continue to be oppressed and marginalized. So, for me, this is movement-building. This is about speaking truth to power. And then, this is about saying that the folks who are most directly impacted should actually be the ones that are in power.
We have held strong on our positions from day one to the point where we’re really proud to say at this point, that not only are we, you know, shaping the conversation, controlling the conversation, but other candidates, including Melinda Katz are changing their policy positions to meet us where we’re at. So, my concerns are if our communities are calling for these changes in our justice system, who do you trust to implement them? You know, somebody who has always held these positions, or somebody who has decided just three, four months ago that these are the positions that they hold?
What we’re trying to do is take a DA’s office that has thrown black and brown people in jail for small amounts of marijuana, for jumping turnstiles, but then does nothing when a landlord turns off your heat in the middle of the winter, when a predatory lender, you know, steals your home. And if we’re going to start holding those bad actors accountable, we have to be entirely independent of them.
JS: You know, given your work as a public defender, I think it would be helpful if you explain to people what the cash bail system in this country and also in Queens where you are running for DA impacts the kinds of people that you end up defending in court.
TC: Absolutely. I mean, as a public defender, I represent folks who can’t afford to defend themselves. They are people who find themselves on Rikers Island, proven guilty of nothing, but they can’t get off of the island because they can’t afford their bail. So, I am in support of ending cash bail entirely. It is wrong, because we can’t have two systems of justice, right? You can’t say that if you are accused of a low level nonviolent offense and whether you are poor or whether you are wealthy, you’re going to be presumed to be released and you get to fight your case from your community and return to court on your own. But if you’re charged with a violent felony, if you are poor, you stay in a cage on Rikers Island. And if you are wealthy, you get to buy your constitutional right to the presumption of innocence, and that’s just wrong.
JS: Where do you fall on the issue of what should happen with Rikers Island and the prison there?
TC: Rikers Island absolutely has to be closed, there is no way to make Rikers Island a humane place. You can’t do it. And if we are going to, again, commit to dismantling the system of mass incarceration and de-carcerating our city— And so, often I talk about the fact that we get stuck in this place of well, good people and bad people and we need to lock up the bad people. But this is just really about people and access to resources and stabilizing services and so many different situations.
I don’t also support the building of massive new structures or jails because our prison industrial complex — it’s a money making business. And history shows that when you build jail cells, you fill them. And so again, if we’re going to have a real commitment to de-carcerating, if we are going to have a real commitment to changing behavior, reducing harm, and rehabilitating, we need to be expending more time, energy and resources into providing people access to things like health care, harm reduction services, job and education opportunities because in so many ways, stability equals public safety.
JS: On a very serious note, what do you think should be done with past abuses by prosecutors or the police?
TC: We still have folks that have done a lot of harm to our communities still employed. We still have police officers that have engaged in egregious misconduct still employed and making arrests on our streets. We still have prosecutors engaging and in misconduct and unethical practices, and those are folks that should not remain in their positions. So yes, we’re going to look forward and make a lot of these changes. But we also need to look back and say one, we’re going to make it untenable for bad officers to stay employed by refusing to take their cases when we know they have a history of misconduct.
JS: Can you talk about your position on decriminalizing sex work, but maybe begin by explaining the crisis impacting voluntary sex workers right now in Queens or in general in this country?
TC: In so many ways sex work is survival work. It’s sort of twofold. This is an economic issue. It is a human rights issue. If we want to effectively combat trafficking, we need to fully decriminalize sex work. Here in Queens, we have the largest community of trans Latina sex workers in Jackson Heights. In Flushing, for example, we have a population of migrant workers working in our massage parlors. These are folks that have been systematically discriminated against in our communities. And so literally, this is how people are being able to put food on their table and take care of themselves and their families.
By criminalizing sex workers, we’re creating a space where we drive the behavior underground, and we create barriers to access to health care and law enforcement help when folks are victims or survivors of trafficking, of coercion, of assault or sexual assault for fear of criminalization when they go and get help. We’ve seen in other places that if you decriminalize just sex workers, and continue to prosecute their customers, one, you’re not fixing the problem in terms of the economic inequities, right? Because you’re cutting off the way that they’re supporting themselves, but two, you’re incentivizing the harassment by law enforcement. So, you have police officers, over policing, coercing and harassing sex workers to get information about their customers, and it’s resulting in a lot of harm to our sex work community.
So, those are all the reasons why I support full decriminalization. You know, we have right here in Queens, a sex trafficking court that has been woefully ineffective at targeting true sex trafficking cases. And all it really has done has cycled again, already marginalized communities into our justice system and further destabilized their lives. And so, how long are we going to continue to do things that don’t work and continue to harm our communities rather than help them?
JS: On the issue of the actions of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, and agents who abuse their power, you’ve suggested that you want to go after them and prosecute them. How would that — what would that look like given that we’re talking about federal forces here that yes, they’re operating in your borough in Queens, but just explain your approach to that and why you think that would even be possible.
TC: Much in the way that we are going to hold police officers accountable, we’re not going to let people hide behind their badges, whether federal or state if they commit crimes against our community members. So, if somebody is assaulted, sexually assaulted, if somebody dies in their custody, and that occurs in Queens, we are going to hold them accountable. We need to create an environment where we are also showing our immigrant communities that we are there to protect them, and that we are not going to be cooperating with ICE in any manner.
And I always say, I never cease to be amazed by the new and creative and inventive ways that our district attorney’s offices have managed to continue to over-criminalize and over-prosecute our black and brown communities. And if we take that kind of commitment and creativity to helping keep our immigrant community safe here in Queens and making it so that it is not a place where ICE can come in and really ravage our communities, and we should be doing absolutely everything we can within the limits of the law to do that.
JS: There was a report, I’m sure you recall this back in 2015 by the San Francisco-based Women Donors Network and it was published by the New York Times and it examined the racial disparity of prosecutors in this country. And they found that prosecutors were 95 percent white in total, 79 percent men, and only one percent of local or federal district attorneys are women of color, four percent are men of color. How are you going to confront the entrenched power and reality of how these prosecutorial systems are run and who runs them?
TC: It’s not enough to say that I am going to go out and hire a diverse cross section of our communities to work in the office. I have always said that there is a reason why as a queer Latina from a low-income community that I became a public defender and not a prosecutor because I didn’t feel like I could go into a DA’s office and do anything other than harm my community rather than help the communities that I came from. So, in changing culture and changing those metrics of success and creating a system where we are prioritizing more equitable justice, then I think that’s the best way to naturally start to diversify our offices and that’s certainly step one.
JS: Share with people a little bit about your family background and your upbringing.
TC: Public defense work is trauma work, just like being a teacher is trauma work, being a doctor in so many ways, social worker — it’s trauma work. and oftentimes what brings you to trauma work is your own trauma. And the reason why I became a public defender and now, the reason why I want to be the district attorney is rooted in my family history. My grandfather was somebody who was incredibly physically abusive. He was an alcoholic and abusive to the point where my grandmother finally left him and my mom dropped out of high school to help take care of the family. And, you know, years later after my brother was born, after I was born, my mom let my grandfather back into our lives. He was dying. And she wanted him to know his grandchildren, his grandchildren to know him. And the man that I got to know was just absolutely incredible. Like I loved him so much. I hung on his every word. He told me these just wildly fantastical stories.
And long after he passed, I mean, after, when I was an adult, reflecting on this really abusive husband and father and this really incredible grandfather, and recognizing that they were both so equally true. And that ours was a system, our criminal justice system was one that he could have been cycling in and out of and it was also one that didn’t account for the fact that he was also a poor kid from Puerto Rico, who served our country in the Korean War, earned a Purple Heart, came home with PTSD, self medicated with alcohol and where were our systems in place to support him so that he could support his family, right? Like those are failures of our system. And then recognizing that it’s not just about his experiences and his own individual trauma, but then how that impacts generationally, how that impacts me and the way that I interact with the world.
So, often when I’m doing my work as a public defender, I think about the fact that there is very little that separates me from my clients, but for access to privileges and opportunities that they didn’t have, that my neighbors didn’t have, some of my family members didn’t have. And often, the one thing that I point to is the fact that my dad got a union job, which meant that I had a roof over my head. I had access to health care, education opportunities, and probably most important for me as an adult access to therapy services.
That goes back to this idea I talked about before that this is not about good people and bad people. This is just about people, and whether we give them access to the things that they need to be healthier, more whole human beings. We need to start looking at every single case from that trauma informed perspective and try to heal first before continuing to do harm because, you know, so much of our system is not corrective. It’s not rehabilitative, but we really do have this incredible opportunity to start changing that.
JS: Tiffany Cabán, thank you very much for the work that you’re doing and we wish you luck in your race.
TC: Thank you very much.
JS: Tiffany Cabán is running for District Attorney of Queens, New York. That election is on June 25th.
JS: We go now to San Francisco, one of the most liberal cities in the country, the home city of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, where the DA race there is looking increasingly competitive. In this race, the candidates are all calling for reform, paying lip service to a range of concerns about the injustices within the criminal justice system. But the records of several of the candidates in this race indicate a cozy relationship to law enforcement. One candidate in that race is very different from the rest. I’m talking about the current Deputy Public Defender of San Francisco, Chesa Boudin.
Chesa Boudin [campaign ad]: I learned that our criminal justice system is broken. It’s a system of mass incarceration plagued by racial disparities. Instead of equal justice, we have money bail. Instead of meaningful treatment, we use solitary confinement. Instead of funding schools, we build prisons.
JS: Chesa Boudin learned those lessons at an early age. His parents were members of the Weather Underground, a militant anti-imperialist anti-war organization that was active in the 1960s and 70s.
Newscaster: KPFK received a call from a woman identifying herself as a member of the Weather Underground.
Woman’s voice: Hello, I’m going to read a declaration of a state of war. This is the first communication from the Weatherman Underground.
JS: Chesa Boudin’s parents Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert were getaway drivers in a botched armed robbery in 1981 that tragically took the lives of three men. Boudin’s parents didn’t actually kill anyone but they were charged under New York’s felony murder rule. His father remains incarcerated, serving a 75 years to life sentence. His mom served 22 years before being paroled in 2003. Chesa Boudin was adopted by fellow Weather Underground activists Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn and he grew up in Chicago.
It’s a story that Boudin does not shy away from. Rather, it’s one that has taught him some hard lessons and set him on a path to becoming a public defender. He joins me now to talk about just how he plans on doing this.
Chesa Boudin welcome to Intercepted.
CB: Thanks so much, Jeremy, great to be here.
JS: This experience that you had beginning at just 14 months old, and then having to go and visit your parents and you’ve talked about your mother parenting you from prison. And I’m curious, given your life experience, why you would have decided to become a prosecutor, the very kind of people that put your parents away? Your dad, probably for his entire life and your mom for the majority of her young adult life.
CB: My whole life has been shaped by our criminal justice system. I saw firsthand the phrase that we hear used so often, mass incarceration, I saw firsthand what that meant. You know, growing up, my earliest memories are the lines of mostly black and brown women and children waiting to get searched so they could see or touch their father, their brother, their son behind bars. You know, my memories are of the invisible ink that guards would stamp on my hand, which was a passport back to freedom at the end of the prison visit as my parents were being strip-searched and going back to the cages that they called home.
And so, that experience is part of what led me to want to become a public defender. And this is the moment in San Francisco and across the country when there’s a political space to think outside the box about how we can redefine and reimagine the role of prosecutors to be something more than simply sending young black and brown men to prison.
JS: Just go through your top issues on why you’re running and how you think you could change the nature of the so-called criminal justice system in San Francisco.
CB: Big picture, it is all about public safety. But I think for far too long public safety has been narrowly defined to basically mean wealthy people’s property rights. And I think public safety actually is a much broader concept than that. And I think the criminal justice system has really broad implications for public safety.
For example, when we choose to send someone to jail or prison for a nonviolent offense, we know that there is a significant risk of them committing suicide while incarcerated. We know there’s a significant risk of them being sexually or physically assaulted while incarcerated. We know that their incarceration will actually make it more likely that when released, they engage in some other criminal conduct. All of that is public safety.
And by the same token, we know that the majority of people who go to prison our parents in this country. And when their children are left behind the way that I was, it actually increases the chances that their children will end up committing crime creating more victims.
JS: I was talking yesterday in preparation for our conversation with a longtime activist around immigration and police brutality issues and has done extensive work with the Black Alliance for Just Immigration. He basically — I said I was going to be talking to you and that I was going to be talking to Tiffany Cabán. And he said, “You know that that’s great that these guys are taking on cash bail, that they say they want police accountability, but what are they going to do about all the past crimes that have been committed by prosecutors against black and brown and immigrant communities? What is their position on holding people accountable for the crimes that have been committed systematically for decades against these communities that you’re describing?” What’s your stance on holding those accountable who came before you or actions that come before you if you win, take the position as district attorney?
CB: Well, we have a few plans on that. One is, I’ve already announced that I intend to create a wrongful conviction unit in the district attorney’s office. That will be a fully staffed unit that takes its marching orders from an outside advisory board of experts who will review past convictions, whether the person is still incarcerated or has already served their time and consider reopening and potentially reversing convictions that as you say, were a result of falsified evidence or, you know, racially motivated investigations, etcetera. Another thing is that there is a new law in California that allows prosecutors even in cases where the conviction was accurate or where the defendant in fact did commit the crime they were convicted of, but that allows us to reopen cases for purposes of re-sentencing. It’s a law that recognizes the extreme, draconian punishments that have been meted out for far too long and allows us to show some mercy and to ratchet down some old sentences.
JS: How would you approach working with the police while simultaneously going after some of the sacred cows of that system and how it has operated for basically forever?
CB: The relationship between the District Attorney’s office and the police department is a critical one. We have to work together. But we also have to be independent. And we also have to hold each other accountable and hold each other to high standard. Historically, police in San Francisco and so much of the country have been allowed to commit crimes, including murder with impunity, that has to stop. I actually don’t believe that in San Francisco, the Police Officers Association represents the views of the majority of officers. I think it represents the views of a small fringe extremist group of officers. We have a significant number of police officers in San Francisco who are honest, hard-working, who wake up every morning and put on their uniform and star with the intention of going out and serving and protect[ing] their communities.
It is imperative that the next district attorney liberate and empower those officers, and not allow the small minority who rob, steal, lie under oath, and even execute unarmed civilians to control the politics and the image of the department. We have to rebuild the trust between our communities and law enforcement. And that starts by letting every single person in San Francisco, including members of our police department know that police also must follow the law.
JS: You know, inequality in San Francisco is stark as it is in New York City where I’m speaking to you from and that city also has seen a sharp rise in homelessness. In your view, what role would you as district attorney play in combating systemic inequality in San Francisco?
CB: Many of the problems that have been dumped on the criminal justice system over the last several decades are not, primarily criminal justice problems. They’re public health crises, mental health crises, drug addiction, wealth inequality, as you say, housing. To be sure, in San Francisco a very high percentage of the crime that’s committed is motivated by mental illness, drug addiction and poverty. Seventy-five percent of the people booked into county jail suffer from extreme mental illness, drug addiction or both. And in the neighborhood of a third of people in county jail are homeless or marginally housed.
It is imperative that we start looking at the root causes of crime and holding people who commit crime accountable in ways that gets at those root causes. So, if someone commits a crime because of their mental illness, we need to ensure that their arrest results in mental health treatment. If someone commits a crime because of their drug addiction, we need to ensure that their arrest results and drug treatment and that needs to be true regardless of whether criminal charges are filed, or conviction is secured. It’s the only way that we’re going to break the cycle of recidivism. It’s the only way that we’re going to meaningfully make our community safer, and do so in a way that’s both cost effective and humane.
JS: Are there any classes of crimes that currently can result in people being sent to jail that you would refuse to prosecute as district attorney?
CB: I would not enforce laws that criminalize homelessness. We have people in San Francisco who don’t have the ability to pay for rent, who live in tents, or who camp out in various parts of the city. And we still see some of those people brought to court on criminal charges for things like illegal camping or public nuisance. I would never file those criminal charges. I believe we should solve the homelessness crisis not punish people for their poverty.
Similarly, with simple possession of drugs. You know, we still have people prosecuted for carrying a glass pipe, for example, or for carrying trace amounts of illegal drugs. I think it’s a terrible use of law enforcement resources. I think it is an intervention that actually results in more crime and more instability in members of our community who are already marginalized and at risk.
JS: San Francisco is aiming to close its juvenile hall by 2021 and that would make it understand the first city to shut down its juvenile detention center. And that move came as youth crime rates were dropping, and the cost of maintaining that facility were growing.
KRON 4: The 150-bed facility is housing just about 30 to 40 young people at one time, meaning the city of spending nearly $300,000 per child.
JS: What’s the significance first of all of San Francisco moving to close juvenile hall, and then more broadly, what will be your approach to juvenile justice or when minors are the subject of criminal inquiries or prosecution?
CB: Well, it’s really exciting, Jeremy. You know, San Francisco is well positioned to lead the rest of the country on a wide range of criminal justice reforms. That’s part of why I’m running for district attorney. To have a progressive majority on our board of supervisors that is committed to some of the same goals will really make possible things that wouldn’t have been even imaginable a few years ago.
Closing juvenile hall is a is a primary commitment of my campaign. I want to treat kids like kids. There’s no reason why we should put kids in cages. We should invest in education, not incarceration. And this resolution lays the groundwork for that. But to be successful, the Board of Supervisors will need a partner in the district attorney, they will need someone who is committed to the same fundamental goal.
I know that we can treat kids like kids. I know that we can do far more to keep our community safe, and to recognize the fundamental humanity and promise that every single child in this city has with the $300,000 a year we are currently spending to incarcerate kids. If we would invest even a fraction of that money in families, in schools, in communities, we could do more to support our kids and prevent recidivism than the current approach to caging kids would ever accomplish.
JS: You’ve talked about in your own biography, in your own story, notions of restorative justice. And you know, you’ve spoken quite openly about the process by which you were able to forgive your parents and, you know, and accept this unorthodox family that you grew up with where you essentially had four parents — two of whom were your adopted parents that were raising you in the outside world and two of whom were your biological parents that were incarcerated, and your dad, of course, continues to be incarcerated. How does that, the lessons you learned about restorative justice apply to your view of enforcing the law in San Francisco and how would you implement alternative structures of achieving justice that don’t involve handcuffs in prison and long sentences?
CB: Every victim of every crime in San Francisco should have the right to engage in a restorative justice process if they choose to do so. And when I’m district attorney, they will. What that means depends on the victim, depends on the person who caused harm, and depends on the specific charges. But at core, it means that we should be seeking to heal the harm that was caused, not simply to punish the perpetrator. All too often in today’s criminal justice system, victims are used to secure lengthy draconian punishment, but have nothing to show for their suffering and don’t experience any healing or tangible benefit from the billions of dollars that we invest in punishing people.
I know from my parents experience that far more significant to my mom’s change and growth than the 22 years she spent in prison was a relationship she built while in prison with one of the victims of her crime. That kind of experience was more transformative for my mother, and more healing for the victim than any number of years of incarceration would be. In San Francisco, whether it’s a broken car window, or whether it’s something far more serious, we should give victims the right to participate in the process, to have a voice and to be heard, and we should respond to their needs. Restorative justice is much more effective at holding people who cause harm accountable than prisons.
JS: I assume critics would come back and say, well, that sounds like you’re recommending that we all become social workers and that you’re going to be instead of the district attorney, kind of the lead social worker, or in some cases therapist and that this is untenable, and it’s too vague, and it requires an oversimplification of categories of crime to engage in this process, and that’s why we have to have laws and consequences if laws are broken. How would you respond to that?
CB: We should have laws and we should have consequences when laws are broken. But those consequences should focus on ensuring that the person who broke the law doesn’t do it again. And right now we have the most expensive and least effective system that you could possibly imagine or create when it comes to that core public safety function. We have recidivism rates in state prison in California that are above two-thirds. We have a recidivism rate in San Francisco County Jail of above 100 percent. And for the 10 percent of the California state budget that we spend on our prison system, we can do better, and we can do better in a way that specifically recognizes the real needs that victims have and that are being unmet today.
JS: Well, on that note, we will leave it there. Chesa Boudin, we wish you luck in the race and thank you very much for joining us on Intercepted.
CB: Thanks so much, Jeremy
JS: Chesa Boudin is San Francisco’s Deputy Public Defender who’s running for District Attorney of San Francisco.
[Shouting and gunshots.]
JS: Last week paramilitary forces in Sudan broke up a peaceful protest camp in the capital, Khartoum. Horrific video footage of the raid shows forces opening fire and killing civilians. Doctors in Sudan report more than 70 rapes occured, more than 100 people were killed, and hundreds more were injured in this raid.
The protest movement has been building since December with widespread demands for civilian rule. In April, the military ousted long-time dictator Omar al-Bashir. But now the interim military government has turned on the protesters.
Filmmaker and activist Hajooj Kuka brings us his account of what has transpired in recent days.
[Group of people singing at sit-in.]
Hajooj Kuka: On a normal day of the sit-in, we would have 30,000 people, if nothing’s happening. Then in the morning, there’ll be less people. I would stay in the sit-in. So for a whole month, I rarely left the sit-in. It became this whole mini community that had people from all over Sudan, and we’re talking a lot about the future was going to happen, how do we organize beyond this.
June 3, was when the transitional military council decided they’re gonna dismantle the sit-in. There was about 10,000 of us, and throughout the night, we’re there and then the sun started coming out. It was around 5:00 a.m. And then the attack started. Thousands of Rapid Response Force people with sticks dashing in and just beating everybody else up. Then they started the bullets. Once they started, they just continued and you just couldn’t hear anything except for continuous rounds of automatic firing.
Then at that point, we noticed that Rapid Response Force had entered the sit-in and we looked through the window and we saw them coming in numbers. We tried to go outside, but there was this sniper that was on the building next to us and apparently, he was within the sit-in. He didn’t come with them. And he was shooting so we couldn’t move out. So, we ran into another office, and we hid and we can hear the firing. And we can hear people being beaten up. And we stayed quiet for a while. And then they started knocking on our door.
And we all looked at each other, and we decided we’re going to leave, but we have to leave without anything. So we opened the door and we went outside and there was like a huge number of them all with sticks. And some had guns with them.
I have long dreads and somebody rushed, took out his knife and decided that now I’m going to cut the dread and he started like trying to cut the dread. And then somebody from the back with this huge thick stick just hit me on the head. And I started bleeding. And I fell on the ground and then my blood was just all over me. And then at that point somebody else was like if he’s on the ground, let’s just finish him up and somebody else was saying no, we shouldn’t. And then I got up and they were like walk. I was hit on the top of my head. So, the blood was from the top of my head coming down my face into my eye and the back into my neck.
So, who attacked us? They’re this group called the Rapid Response Force and the Rapid Response Force is led by Hemeti, who became notorious during the 2003, 2005 genocide in Darfur. He was a young janjaweed at the time and janjaweed is the term we gave to the people who are killing folks in Darfur and they were like burning, looting, raping, killing, beating the villagers in Darfur and they were armed by Omar al-Bashir at the time to fight the rebels but they did very little fighting of the rebels and mainly fought civilians and killed and raped.
So, this is exactly what they did. If you consider the sit-in as a small village, they actually burned the tents in the sit-in. They raped. They looted. They didn’t just rape the women. They also raped some men too, and kids. They used machetes to just cut folks. They killed people by beating them. They killed others by shooting them. They threw people into the Nile. Some of them we don’t know if they were dead already, but there is more than 40 bodies that were retrieved from the Nile.
So this is janjaweed This is who attacked us. And the main thing about Hemeti is he is the vice of the Transitional Military Council. So he’s the vice president of Sudan at the moment.
Initially, during the protest, a new slogan came about and it’s called Tuss-goot Bass which let it fall. It became the answer to everything. So anytime somebody wants to argue with you about government, about give it a chance, let’s try reform. Let’s try this, you just say Tuss-goot Bass, and this empowered everybody and the ask became very simple. The only way this is going to go forward is for Tuss-goot Bass.
[Protesters chanting continues.]
JS: Hajooj Kuka is the director of Beats of the Antonov, a documentary about war and music in the Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains regions of Sudan. His most recent film is called aKasha, a fictional love story in a war zone.
[“Ya Sudan” by Sinkane plays.]
That is the music of Ahmed Gallab, the lead singer-songwriter of the band, Sinkane. Gallab is Sudanese American and, like many in the diaspora, has been closely following the tick tock of the popular uprising in Sudan via Twitter, WhatsApp and other social media platforms.
Omar al-Bashir’s legacy and the ongoing struggle for an end to military rule in Sudan has particular significance for Gallab’s family. They sought political asylum in the United States following the coup that brought Bashir to power in 1989.
This story of displacement is a common one for Sudanese people globally as their country has witnessed multiple civil wars, genocide and catastrophic famines in just the past three decades.
Gallab’s new album is called “Depayse” — a French word that means “removed from one’s habitual surroundings.” Here is Ahmed Gallab of Sinkane.
[“Everyone” by Sinkane plays]
Ahmed Gallab: My name is Ahmed Gallab. Ahmed Gallab, if you can pronounce it. I am a Sudanese American musician based in Brooklyn, New York from Khartoum, Sudan. I’m a brother. I’m a friend. I’m really anything you want me to be.
AG: So, in 1989, there was a general election in Sudan. It was four years after Nimeiry was ousted, the former dictator and Sudan had a very short stint of democracy. My dad was a diplomat for the Sudanese government. In ’89, there was a general election and that year, my family was also living in Boston. My dad was studying at Boston University. The idea was we were going to be with him for the year and then we were going to go back. The election happened and Omar al-Bashir, who was running with the National Islamic Front at the time lost but overthrew the government of Sudan and established a coup that succeeded. My father’s friends started disappearing. A lot of people went to jail that were affiliated with the government. People died, and we applied for asylum in the United States, and stayed.
When Omar al-Bashir overthrew the government in 1989, I was a really young person. I was five years old. So, I didn’t know that it was dangerous in Sudan at the time. I didn’t know what happened politically. I just did what you do when you’re five years old, just follow your parents lead. It wasn’t until maybe I was 11 or 12 years old that I realized, “Oh, I’m not from America. My family’s Sudanese and we don’t live where we’re from.”
When I was 11 and 12, I was living in Provo, Utah, kind of the weirdest place for a person like me to be living. But I remember around that time, my family went back to Sudan just for a summer, you know, and I kind of like fit right back in. You know, I hadn’t spoken Arabic in four or five years because I lived in the United States. And I came back and I saw my cousins again and it was like, right where we left off. And then I went back to Sudan in high school, and I realized I wasn’t Sudanese. Everything started changing. All my cousins started growing up. And I realized how different I was from all my cousins and all the people in Sudan and that’s when this like, crazy identity thing started happening with me.
[“Stranger” by Sinkane plays.]
Music was definitely a part of our household. Waking up every weekend to, you know, Sudanese tapes, distorted, blaring out of our sound system at home.
[“Argos Farfish” by Sharhabeel Ahmed plays.]
Mohammed Wardi, Sharhabil, Kamal Tarbas, Al Balabil, Mohammed El-Amin…there’s so many.
Outside of the just the Sudanese stuff and the African music, there was a lot of like Phil Collins and Abba and Michael Jackson and Miles Davis and everything was very much rooted around drums.
You know, it sounded very beat driven and I was really attached and connected to the drums. So, I started creating makeshift drum kits in my house. I’d take like all the cookie jars that my parents had like, the tin cookie jars and create a drum kit. Around the sixth grade, my friends wanted to start a band and they needed a drummer. And so, I made every effort that I could to my parents to figure out a way to bring me a drum kit home, you know, and they brought me a drum kit home and I decided that that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
[“How We Be” by Sinkane plays.]
I started singing in 2006. I realized at the time that I had never really made music that really truly represented me. And what that turned into was like a study of my identity in a very like, deep way.
DJT: Remember this. So listen, Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.
AG: The Muslim ban and Trump being elected, you know, at the time, it was like, all of the police shootings were happening. And it felt like tensions were so high. And I just wanted to write music that made me feel good because I’d walk out of my rehearsal space and just hear about another person dying in the hands of a cop. And as I was playing the songs and connecting with people at Sinkane shows and finding more people like me at my shows, it really started to make me think about my place as a musician in the world and like to really talk about some important things, you know, in my way.
[“Everybody” by Sinkane plays.]
I realized a lot of people connected with Sinkane because it made them feel safe. And they were inspired that a person that looked like them and spoke their language and came from where they came from, was out there doing something, just by being a Sudanese American making music, that’s a political statement unto itself.
The name of the album is “Depayse,” which is a French word that means to be removed from one’s habitual surroundings. It’s a positive thing. And I thought that was just such a beautiful way to describe my experience. “Depayse,” the song came about out of a dream that I had. I woke up and in my dream I was walking around Sudan, you know, in Omdurman, really where my family’s from. It was at night time and you know, I was hearing this like melody. And I was kind of following the melody and I saw this person in front of my family’s house, sitting cross-legged playing guitar. In my dream, I’m walking a bit more and I get up close and it was my dad. I woke up, frantically woke up, and went straight to my phone and recorded what I had heard, you know, like in a haze and didn’t quite record the right, the right words, but I recorded it.
[Ahmed Gallab singing followed by “Depayse” by Sinkane.]
That kind of informed the entire song.
As a kid going back to Sudan, it was almost like everyone was walking on eggshells. You know, you couldn’t say anything bad about the government.
The current events happening in Sudan that led to Omar al-Bashir being overthrown, the price of bread became more expensive than an average person’s living wage. Gas shortages started happening. And inflation became so high that the money stopped having any real value. Omar al-Bashir had been in power for 30 years, almost 31 years at that point, you know, one of the longest dictatorships in the history of Africa.
People stopped having anything to lose. And they started responding to the famine, to the inflation, to everything that was going on. You know, it was just dismal. It was crazy. It was a domino effect. Once one person started doing something about it, 20 people and then it became 100 and then it became 1,000, then it became the whole city. And as I saw that, from the outside, I became so inspired by it and not only me, but other Sudanese people all outside of Sudan became very inspired. And we thought to ourselves individually, what can we all do to support our people in Sudan, you know?
They’re the ones sacrificing themselves. They’re the ones really fighting for all of us. And now what you’re seeing is a country still, almost seven months later, people camped up in the military complex of Sudan, saying we’re not going to leave. And we’re not going to get out of here until you transition power to a civilian government and you give us what we want. That just really showcases the resilience and the strength and the power of the people in Sudan, in the community that exists of all people in Sudan, all Sudanese people all over the world.
Sudan is a country made up of difference. There’s a lot of different cultures, a lot of different indigenous groups, a lot of different languages, a lot of different religions. And because of that, it’s a country rich in knowledge, you know, rich in like spirit, in generosity, in beauty, you know, in everything. You are challenged daily to understand other people and the more that you understand other people, the smarter you are, the better of a person that you are, the more harmony exists in your life.
JS: That was Ahmed Gallab of Sinkane. Their new album, “Deypase” is out know. Gallab spoke to our producer Jack D’Isidoro.
JS: And that does it for this week’s show. You can follow us on Twitter. Our handle is @intercepted. If you like what we do here on this program, you can support our show by going to TheIntercept.com/join to become a sustaining member.
Intercepted is a production of First Look Media and The Intercept. Our lead producer is Jack D’Isidoro, our producer is Laura Flynn. Elise Swain is our associate producer and graphic designer. Our executive producer is Leital Molad. Betsy Reed is editor in chief of The Intercept. Rick Kwan mixed the show. Transcription for this program is done by Nuria Marquez Martinez. Our music, as always, was composed by DJ Spooky. Until next week, I’m Jeremy Scahill.