Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Abscam II

Back in the early 1980s the FBI set up a sting operation designed to catch politicians who would be accept money to do favors for an "Arab sheikh". The operation was known as Abscam in the media. Abscam sailed close to the wind legally and certainly the ethics of it were questionable. However, at least there was the argument that the intention was to root out corruption among powerful politicians.

Flash forward to January 15, 2006 and we have another powerful man caught out by a similar scheme. Only this time the man is Sven Goran Erickson, manager of England's national soccer team, and the sting was carried out by the News of the World and the intention was to catch Eriksson saying things he shouldn't have. The News of the World set up a false job interview for Eriksson with an "Arab Sheikh" in Dubai. And, what do you know? Erickson said some things that he shouldn't have.

First of all, almost nobody has taken account that Erickson was seeking a new job when he talked to the "sheikh". His employer knows he won't be in the position come mid-July, so I see nothing wrong with Erickson trying to line-up something new to do from mid-July.

Also, it was a job interview (as far as Erickson was concerned). Who knows if what he said is what he believes? He may have done what everyone else does - say what he thinks the interviewer wants to hear. Anyone who's ever gone for an interview can recognize that behavior. (And, based on what I've read, he hardly said anything that was Earth-shatteringly revealing.)

So, is this a big deal? Well, it is to my mind. It's 100% unethical behavior by a newspaper to set up such a sting. There was too little public interest (other than trying to destroy one man) and too much that smells of entrapment. I'd like to imagine that the public will shun this publication after this, but I'm pretty sure that's not going to happen. Almost none of the discussion I've heard has questioned the paper's methods. Eriksson's future is now in doubt, but not the paper's or the editor's.