A U.S. District Court judge yesterday ordered the Justice Department to produce all its video tapes of Rep. John M. Murphy (D-N.Y.) in connection with the Abscam bribery operation for a private review in the judge's chambers next Thursday.
Judge Thomas A. Flannery issued the order in connection with a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by Murphy, who wants access to all tapes and documents related to his alleged role in the FBI undercover operation. Neither Murphy nor his lawyers will be permitted to attend Flannery's review.
Justice Department lawyer Barbara Gordon argued yesterday that release of the information would interfere both with the Abscam investigation and with future law enforcement efforts. Gordon contended that the tapes and documents are exempt from disclosure because they relate to an ongoing investigation.
Murphy's lawyer, Michael E. Tigar, contended that his client, who is up for reelection, needs the information to defend himself against widespread media reports that have connected him to the bribery operation. Tigar also argued that information about the tapes has been leaked to the news media by the Justice Department and that some tapes have been shown to other persons -- or their lawyers -- allegedly connected to the Abscam case.
Flannery has not yet ruled on the merits of any of the arguments. Instead, he ordered the private review of the tapes and directed the government to submit a sworn statement that details any tapes or information relating to Murphy that was disclosed in any manner, and to specify how the Abscam investigation, a related grand jury proceeding or future law enforcement would be harmed by disclosing the information to Murphy.