The Return of Abscam

Posted: November 6, 2006 in 2006 Elections, Beltway Drama, October Surprise

A few weeks ago, I facetiously suggested that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies open up a field office on Capitol Hill because of all the investigations going on. They might not do that, but the Feds gave a huge hint that they’ve still got work to do.

FBI willing to go undercover in Congress if necessary
By Greg Gordon
McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON – The new chief of the FBI’s Criminal Division, which is swamped with public corruption cases, says the bureau is ramping up its ability to catch crooked politicians and might run an undercover sting on Congress.

Assistant FBI Director James Burrus called the bureau’s public corruption program “a sleeping giant that we’ve awoken,” and predicted the nation will see continued emphasis in that area “for many, many, many years to come.”

So much evidence of wrongdoing is surfacing in the nation’s capital that Burrus recently committed to adding a fourth 15- to 20-member public corruption squad to the FBI’s Washington field office.

In the past year, former Republican Reps. Duke Cunningham and Bob Ney have pleaded guilty to corruption charges. FBI agents are investigating about a dozen other members of Congress, including as many as three senators. The Justice Department also is expected to begin seeking indictments soon after a massive FBI investigation of the Alaska Legislature.

If conditions warrant, Burrus said, he wouldn’t balk at urging an undercover sting like the famed Abscam operation in the late 1970s in which a U.S. senator and six House members agreed on camera to take bribes from FBI agents posing as Arab sheikhs.

“We look for those opportunities a lot,” Burrus said, using words rarely heard at the bureau over the last quarter century. “I would do it on Capitol Hill. I would do it in any state legislature. … If we could do an undercover operation, and it would get me better evidence, I’d do it in a second.”

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