1948—Elliot Abrams was born on 24 January 1948.
1969—Elliott Abrams received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard.
1973—Earned a master’s in international relations from the London School of Economics and received his J.D. from Harvard Law School. At Harvard, Abrams considered himself a socialist and was a member of the Young People’s Socialist League. He practiced in New York and Washington, D.C., and spent four years in the 1970s working for the U.S. Senate as special counsel and then as chief of staff to Senator Daniel Moynihan.
1980—Abrams first came to national prominence when he served as Ronald Reagan’s assistant secretary of state for human rights in the early 1980s and later as assistant secretary for inter-American affairs. During this time, Abrams clashed regularly with church groups and human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, over the Reagan administration’s foreign policies. They accused him of covering up atrocities committed by the military forces of U.S.–backed governments, such as those in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, and the rebel Contras in Nicaragua.
1982—In early 1982, when reports of the El Mozote massacre of civilians by the military in El Salvador began appearing in U.S. media, Abrams told a Senate committee that the reports of hundreds of deaths at El Mozote “were not credible,” and that “it appears to be an incident that is at least being significantly misused, at the very best, by the guerrillas.” The massacre had come at a time when the Reagan administration was attempting to bolster the human rights image of the Salvadoran military. Abrams implied that reports of a massacre were simply FMLN propaganda and denounced U.S. investigative reports of the massacre as misleading. He later claimed Washington’s policy in El Salvador a “fabulous achievement.” When Congress shut down funding for the Contras with the 1982 Boland Amendment, the Reagan administration began looking for other avenues for funding the group. As part of this strategy, Abrams flew to London using a fake name to solicit a $10 million contribution from the Sultan of Brunei.
1987—On 30 June 1987, the State Department demanded the ouster of Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega. Abrams, then the assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs, made the announcement. Abrams took note of a resolution passed on 23 June by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee demanding the creation of a “democratic government” in Panama, and officially concurred, thus making the toppling of Noriega the official U.S. policy. Abrams also demanded that the Panamanian military be freed of “political corruption.”
1989—After Reagan left office in 1989, Abrams, like a number of other prominent neoconservatives, was not invited to serve in the George H.W. Bush administration. Instead, he worked for a number of think tanks and eventually became head of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he wrote widely on foreign-policy issues, including the Middle East, and the threats posed by U.S. secular society to Jewish identity. He also remained an integral part of the tight-knit neoconservative foreign-policy community in Washington, which revolved around one of his early mentors, Richard N. Perle and former UN Ambassador Jeane J. Kirkpatrick at the American Enterprise Institute.
1991—Abrams was heavily involved in the Iran–Contra scandal. In 1991, Abrams was indicted by the Iran–Contra special prosecutor for giving false testimony before Congress in 1987 about his role in illicitly raising money for the Nicaraguan Contras. He pleaded guilty to two lesser offenses of withholding information to Congress in order to avoid a trial and a possible jail term. During the Iran–Contra affair, Abrams was indicted for giving false testimony about his role in the illicit money-raising schemes by the special prosecutor handling the case, but he pleaded guilty to two lesser offenses of withholding information to Congress in order to avoid a trial and a possible jail term.
1992—He was pardoned by President George H.W. Bush along with a number of other Iran–Contra defendants on Christmas night 1992.
1997—Abrams published a book, Faith or Fear, which warned American Jews that assimilating within the secular U.S. culture posed the danger of a gradual loss of Jewish identity.
1998—Abrams is a member of the staunchly neoconservative Project for the New American Century and was one of the signatories of the 26 January 1998 PNAC Letter sent to President Bill Clinton calling for regime change in Iraq. Critics of the Bush administration see the letter as evidence that a second Gulf War was a foregone conclusion.
2002—Abrams was appointed to the post of special assistant to the president and senior director on the National Security Council for Near East and North African Affairs on 2 December 2002. His appointment by the White House was considered highly controversial due to his involvement in the Iran-Contra Affair.
2005–06—On 2 February 2005, President George W. Bush appointed Abrams deputy national security adviser.