National Security Law: what is it, how does it work what changes with repeal? – two

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What does the National Security Law say, how does it work, and what changes with its repeal?

In 2021, the National Security Law returned to the center of debates due to the opening of investigations into politicians and public figures who criticized authorities.

This legislation was drafted during the period of military dictatorship and, since redemocratization, it had been rarely used.

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in the government of Jair Bolsonaro🇧🇷 the law was signed into law with some vetoes and began to receive more attention due to the increasing number of investigations opened under the law.

In all, 77 inquiries were opened, a record that corresponds to the sum of the previous ten years.

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The wording of Law 14.197/21 establishes what are the crimes against the Democratic State of Law.

There are several criticisms that question the authoritarian content of the legislation and put some articles of the law under debate, such as Article 23, which talks about “inciting subversion of the political order” without specifying exactly the subversion actions.

If you want to understand what this legal document is and how the Brazilian National Security Law works, check out the following topics:

What is the National Security Law?

The National Security Act is a legal apparatus used in many countries to establish rules regarding state security.

In Brazil, several national security laws have already been created, the oldest being the 1935 law.

The 1983 LSN (Law No. 7,170), which was updated by President Jair Bolsonaro in Law 14.197/21, presents the rules to guarantee national security against the subversion of the law and political and social order, in addition to establishing the trial process.

Among the crimes that configure attacks against political and social order are the damages or injuries to the territorial integrity and national sovereignty, threat to the regime adopted in the country, to the Federation, to the rule of law and heads of the Powers of the Union.

What are the functions of the National Security Law?

The LSN emerged in Brazil and in several other countries as a protection mechanism for national governments against internal political opposition groups and, as a result, it underwent several specific adaptations by each government.

In practice, it is a text that establishes the rules on what are the crimes that attack the State and the political and social order, in addition to how the judgment and punishment of those who break the law should be.

The National Security Law in Brazil

Understand the National Security Law in Brazil

Brazil has already had several national security laws, check out the timeline:


THE Law No. 38 of 1935 it was the first version of LSN created in the country to define crimes against military and state security.


In this year, the Law 1802of January 5, 1953, which defined the crimes against the State and the political and social order that should be judged or the rule of law.


O Decree of Law 314of March 13, 1967, transformed the National Security Doctrine into law, which provided some fundamentals on what the national defense law should be in a post-Cold War world scenario and in a Brazil with the government taken over by the military in 1964.


The 1969 LSN (Decree of Law 898) was the one that remained in effect for the longest period of time during the military regime.

During this period of dictatorship, both the 1967 and 1969 LSN brought the doctrine of National Security influenced by the Cold War🇧🇷 idealized in the country by names such as General Pedro Aurélio de Góis Monteiro and Golbery do Couto e Silva.

The great concern of the period was to protect the State against “internal dangers and enemies”.


THE Law 6620 The 1978 Act also featured crimes against the state and required trials, but technically it was a milder piece of legislation than earlier ones.


The 1983 wording, which we saw throughout the definition of LSN, emerged during the mandate of President João Batista Figueiredo, still during the period of the Brazilian military dictatorship, close to the process of political opening that would initiate redemocratization years later.

This was the text that went into effect until 2021, when it was then revoked in the Bolsonaro government.


THE Law No. 14,197 revokes the 1983 SNL and brings a new text on crimes against the democratic rule of law.

What are the crimes against the Democratic Rule of Law of the National Security Law?

What is a crime against national security?

The new National Security Law presents what are the crimes against the Democratic State of Law, how they should be judged in accordance with the new current wording and penalty.

Compared to other legislation, this is a version considered by many jurists to be “more modern”, which prioritizes the defense of the democratic regime, sovereignty and integrity of the country, taking care not to criminalize freedom of expression.

Some articles were vetoed by President Jair Bolsonaro, but, in summary, the text typifies the following new crimes against national security:

  • attack on sovereignty,
  • Assault on national integrity,
  • Espionage,
  • Violent abolition of the democratic rule of law,
  • Coup d’etat🇧🇷
  • Interruption of the electoral process,
  • political violence and
  • Sabotage.

The vetoes of the new National Security Law

The new legislation makes it clear that manifestations critical of the Powers, journalistic activity or claiming rights and constitutional guarantees through marches, meetings, strikes and agglomerations and political and social manifestations are not crimes against the State.

In addition, the new LSN was sanctioned with vetoes by President Bolsonaro, they are:

fake news

One of the LSN articles defined misleading mass communication as a crime, either by promoting and/or financing a campaign or initiative to disseminate false news, with a penalty of one to five years, in addition to a fine.

The veto was carried out with the justification that the text did not clarify which conduct would be the object of criminalization, whether the person who generated the fake news or shared.

The right to demonstrate

The chapter that dealt with crimes against citizenship and included in the Penal Code the crime of attacking the right to demonstrate was also vetoed.

The veto was made with the justification of “difficulty in characterizing, a priori and at the time of operational action, what would become a peaceful demonstration”.

Crimes committed by military

President Bolsonaro also vetoed the device in the new law that provided for an increase in penalties for military personnel who commit crimes against the rule of law by half, with cumulative loss of rank, rank or graduation.

According to him, the text “violates the principle of proportionality, putting the military in a more serious situation than that of other state agents, in addition to representing an attempt to prevent the manifestations of thought emanating from more conservative groups”.

Crimes committed by public official

There was also a veto of the sections of the LSN that provided for an increase in the penalty if the crime was committed with violence or serious threat with the use of a firearm or, even, if it was committed by a public official.

In this type of crime, there would be loss of office or public function as well.

The response to the veto was that “the proposal goes against the public interest, as it cannot be made worse by the mere condition of a public agent in the broad sense, under penalty of objective criminal liability, which is prohibited”.

After all, is the new law better?

The National Security Law that is in force today is far from being the most authoritarian that Brazil has ever had.

During the Vargas Dictatorship and the Military Dictatorship, similar laws allowed the military justice to keep the accused incommunicado for more than ten days and even provided for the death penalty and life imprisonment.

But if it is not as truculent as that of a dictatorship, the National Security Law in force in Brazil today is also far from being the consensus that one would expect in a democracy.

The remnants of authoritarianism take shape in articles of the law such as 23, which talks about “inciting subversion of the political order”. What this subversion would be, a word so present in dictatorial regimes, the law does not specify.

In the episode of And There’s MoreMonalisa Perrone talks about the National Security Law, which has returned to the center of debates in recent weeks with the opening of investigations into politicians and public figures who have criticized authorities.

In the first part of the episode, law professor Fabiana Santiago outlines an overview of the law and comments on the dissent among specialists.

Santiago is the author of the book “National Security Law, from the Getúlio Vargas era to the Michel Temer administration”.

Also participating in the conversation is jurist Carlos Velloso, who was once president of the Federal Supreme Court. Velloso assesses the STF’s dilemma in relation to the law.

keep reading the latest policy news here on CNN Brazil!


The National Security Act is an important legal document used in many countries to establish rules regarding state security.

As seen, Brazil has already had several security laws created with the objective of ensuring damage or injuries to the territorial integrity and national sovereignty, such as threats to the regime adopted in the country, to the Federation, to the Rule of Law and to the heads of the Powers

The first version of an LSN appeared in 1935, but the newest National Security Law in force, which provoked recent discussions, is Law 14.197/21, which establishes which are the crimes against the Democratic State of Law that must be valid from from then.

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