Time Essay: The Troubling Ethics of Abscam

Why, you simple creatures, the weakest of all weak things is a virtue which has not been tested in the fire.

—Mark Twain, The Man

That Corrupted Hadleyburg

Like the mysterious stranger in Mark Twain's tale, the FBI brought a bag of gold to tempt politicians. Did those who fell for the Abscam sting have only themselves to blame or can they, like Hadleyburg, blame the stranger for leading them astray? This question lies at the heart of the uproar over the tactics used to catch public officials in the act of allegedly taking a bribe. Did they willingly commit a crime, if indeed...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!