February 2

This Day in History

General Interest

Feb 2, 1980:

ABSCAM operation revealed

On February 2, 1980, details of ABSCAM, an FBI operation to uncover political corruption in the government, are released to the public. Thirty-one public officials were targeted for investigation, including Representative John Murphy of New York, five other representatives, and Harrison Williams, a senator from New Jersey. In the operation, FBI agents posed as representatives of Abdul Enterprises, Ltd., a fictional business owned by an Arab sheik. Under FBI video surveillance, the agents met with the officials and offered them money or other considerations in exchange for special favors, such as the approval of government contracts for companies in which the sheik had invested.

Senator Williams, and Representatives Murphy, Michael J. Myers, Richard Kelly, and John W. Jenrette Jr., were ultimately convicted of bribery and corruption. All but Richard Kelly, who had his conviction overturned in 1982 on the basis that the FBI had unlawfully entrapped him, left Congress. John Murphy, whose term ended in 1981, was saved the fate of expulsion suffered by Williams and Myers. John Jenrette resigned in 1980.

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