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NBC Flashback: Oscars Edition

<p>Which former NBC News reporter broke news of the FBI's undercover operation that the film "American Hustle" was based on? </p>
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Answer: Brian Ross

The Oscar-nominated film "American Hustle" begins with the words "some of this actually happened." A look back through NBC's archives uncovers the story behind that claim.

American Hustle's central plot, following FBI agents and conmen targeting elected officials, is based on a real-life story that was uncovered in one of NBC's major investigative reporting efforts: the Abscam scandal. NBC reporter Brian Ross broke the story on Feb. 2, 1980, revealing that earlier that very day, a major undercover FBI operation, codenamed "Abscam,' had finally reached its intended targets -- some of the biggest names in politics.

Ross's report on NBC's Primetime Saturday outlined how "what was routine for the FBI soon became extraordinary" over the past year, as FBI agents ran an undercover sting operation on members of Congress, bribing them while posing as wealthy businessmen. Ross showed dramatic NBC night-vision video of the Washington mansion that the FBI had used as a base during the operation, along with footage of agents entering the house of the operation's most prominent target, New Jersey Democratic Sen. Harrison Williams.

After NBC News broke the news that evening, Abscam would develop, as anchor Tom Snyder predicted, into one of the biggest political scandals of its era. It would result in jail time for its political targets, and - of course - now an Oscar-nominated movie. You'll have to see the fictional version to catch a glimpse of Bradley Cooper or Amy Adams, but watch the exclusive clip below, courtesy of NBC Universal Archives, to see history in the making: Brian Ross's full NBC report on the Abscam scandal from February 2, 1980.