They should have called it the U.S.S. Abscam 

Disregarding public outrage, the U.S. Navy will name a warship after the late Rep. Jack Murtha, D-Pa.,who had accused Marines of murdering Iraqi civilians in 2006. But the problem with naming the ship doesn't just stop at what Murtha called a branch of the military that would occupy the ship, but also with his willingness to entertain bribery.

A few years ago, In the 1980s, Murtha became a target for the ABSCAM investigation which caught him on video offering assistance to FBI agents posing as intermediaries for Saudis attempting to bribe their way through the immigration process. When he was caught, he agreed to testify against other congressmen caught on video taking cash bribes.

At the W Street townhouse, Murtha tried to set the terms for his future involvement, bragged about his influence, and apparently tried to cut out Criden and the other congressmen. And the agents certainly did offer money: $50,000. Murtha testified that there was no doubt in his mind that $50,000 was being offered to him. Steve Kaufman, attorney for Congressman Thompson, asked Murtha in cross-examination, "You feel you were offered a bribe when you went to W Street?" Murtha answered, "Yes, I feel they were offering me money, yes."

... [W]hen given a chance to back out of the deal altogether, Murtha instead brags about his influence.

How does he handle the possibility of a bribe? Why, look at this transcript of the FBI video to hear what he unwittingly told the undercover agents:

I haven't been here a long time but I know the right people and I know the system and I went to the ballgame with the president -- in other words there were three of us -- me, Tip [O'Neill, speaker of the House], and that's it -- so I've got as much influence, and I know as much about the goddamn workings as any -- you're not going to have any trouble. And there's no use me telling you are going to have any trouble -- and I'm not going to be flippant about the son of a bitch -- you're not going to have any trouble. Now, to introduce legislation would be the last thing that you'd want done -- in other words what should be done, and I mentioned this to Howard before, should look into this thing to see exactly what the circumstances are about the situation -- now that I know a little more about it I can tell you, in a week or so, I can tell you exactly what. I have a guy who has more influence in immigration than anybody in Congress. He and I are like that. He can tell me in five minutes if there's gonna be a problem. If anything can be done, if anything can't be done, and I honestly don't think you got a problem.

But Murtha suffered no consequences for entertaining the offer, or for failing to report it on his own accord.

After the sheiks' representatives offered Murtha the bribe and investments in his district on January 7, who did Murtha call? Not the FBI. In fact, when the FBI talked with him on February 2, he was not truthful about his contacts about the investments with Congressman Thompson or his January 7 meeting, Thompson's attorney revealed in cross-examination with Murtha. Murtha did not report to the agents that he was offered money, or that Thompson discussed splitting money with him. He told the agents that he never had any indication of money having been paid to Thompson. He also told the FBI that Criden first called him to arrange the meeting, though he later testified it was Thompson who first called.

Did he call the Ethics Committee, of which he was a member, or Tip O'Neill, the speaker of the House, to report the bribe offer? Murtha testified that he did not report any of Congressman Thompson's statements or anything else to the Ethics Committee or to anyone else in Congress.

But Murtha did call his guy in immigration. He testified that within one week of the townhouse meeting he spoke to an immigration official about getting the sheiks into the country. Sometime after that call and after January 21, Murtha ran into Thompson at the voting slot on the House floor. There, he told Thompson that he had "talked to Immigration and [Murtha] thought something could be done." Whatever Murtha expected in return, be it friendship, or investments in his district, or "walking around money," he was doing what he told the sheiks' representatives he could do.

This is the man whose name will adorn a United States warship. Congratulations, Navy.

About The Author

J.P. Freire

J.P. Freire is the associate editor of commentary. Previously he was the managing editor of the American Spectator. Freire was named journalist of the year for 2009 by the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). You can follow him on Twitter here. Besides the Spectator, Freire's work has appeared in... more
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