The new chief of the FBI’s criminal division, 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, reports McClatchy Newspapers. FBI Assistant Director James Burrus called the public corruption program “a sleeping giant that we’ve awoken” and predicted continued emphasis in that area “for many, many, many years to come.” So much evidence of wrongdoing is surfacing in Washington, D.C., that Burrus will add a fourth 15- to 20-member public corruption squad to the FBI’s Washington field office.
If conditions warrant, Burrus said, he wouldn’t balk at urging an undercover sting like the 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 sheiks. “We look for those opportunities a lot,” Burrus said. “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.” Harvard law Prof. Philip Heymann, who oversaw Abscam as chief of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division during the Carter administration, said, “It shows courage at the FBI.” He said a single FBI sting “might result in very large numbers of prosecutions.” Nationally over the last year, 600 agents worked 2,200 public corruption cases, resulting in 650 arrests, 1,000 indictments and 800 convictions.