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Reports show HP took more than phone logs
Directors, reporters may have been trailed, had their PCs bugged

Michael Liedtke / AP | September 19 2006

SAN FRANCISCO - Extending beyond the skullduggery that pried loose people's private phone records, Hewlett-Packard Co. investigators hunting for a boardroom leak shadowed the company's directors and tried to install snooping software on at least one reporter's computer, according to published reports.

While the additional surveillance reported by the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal may provoke more indignation about HP's probe, the tactics aren't likely to shift the focus of the inquiries into whether the company and its investigators broke any laws in their quest to identify the boardroom leaker.

Authorities and politicians remain primarily concerned about the deceptive measures that enabled HP's investigators to obtain the personal phone logs of several directors, nine reporters, two employees and a semiretired physicist.

MediaNews reported Monday that the company's practice of investigating company leaks started in earnest under former Chief Executive Carly Fiorina, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Fiorina became more concerned about the leaks in 2002 during the company's bruising battle between her and dissident former board member Walter Hewlett over whether the company should acquire Compaq Computer Corp. Since the deal required shareholder approval by proxy vote, the two fought for votes.

"It became more like a political campaign, and political tactics were used," one source told MediaNews. "A culture of paranoia set in during the proxy fight."

HP collected phone information on Fiorina in 2005, according to a source familiar with the investigation. To pull off a ruse known as "pretexting," HP's investigators masqueraded as the targeted individuals, using parts of their Social Security numbers to dupe telephone companies into turning over their calling records.

Tom Dresslar, a spokesman for California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, emphasized on Monday that the state's inquiry remains focused exclusively on pretexting.

Lockyer, who opened the first investigation into HP's tactics, already has said that he has enough evidence to indict people inside and outside HP but is still trying to determine the breadth of the suspected crimes. Other investigations are under way at the U.S. Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Communications Commission.

A congressional panel also has scheduled a Sept. 28 hearing to examine HP's investigation and wants several key figures involved in the probe to testify. Responding to a request made last week, HP on Monday handed over documents pertaining to its investigation to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The scandal -- the subject of intense media attention for nearly two weeks -- already has prompted HP to reshuffle its board.

Chairwoman Patricia Dunn, who authorized the investigation, has agreed to surrender that job to HP's chief executive, Mark Hurd, although she will remain a director after the change occurs in January. George Keyworth II, the director identified as the media source, also has resigned, following another board member, Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tom Perkins, who quit in May to signal his outrage over HP's probe.

Two corporate spokespeople also were targeted during the internal HP probe.

One was Michael Moeller, who said Saturday he had received apologies from Hurd and Dunn and planned to stay on the job. The second HP spokesperson whose phone records were secretly obtained was Brigida Bergkamp, HP spokesman Ryan Donovan confirmed Monday.

Bergkamp did not return calls for comment, instead referring questions to Donovan.

"The investigation has concluded that any suspicion of Brigida was baseless, and she plans to remain with HP," Donovan said on her behalf.

Besides digging into phone records under false pretenses, HP's investigators also followed some of the company's directors and possibly some reporters as well, according to the New York Times, which cited anonymous sources that had been briefed on the clandestine operation. The Wall Street Journal also reported the probe involved trailing at least one HP director and at least one reporter.

In another twist, the New York Times said HP's detectives tried to plant a software program that would have monitored the computer of a reporter for CNET Networks Inc.'s News.com, an online technology news site that published one of the articles containing information leaked anonymously by Keyworth.

That bit of attempted subterfuge apparently failed, the New York Times reported.

Donovan declined to comment on the latest reports.

The Palo Alto-based company already has apologized for the intrusion into private phone records, although Dunn has insisted she had no idea that investigators were going to such extremes. To help with the investigation, the company hired Security Outsourcing Solutions Inc., a Needham, Mass., firm that apparently hired other subcontractors.

Congress wants to question Ronald DeLia, the private investigator that runs Security Outsourcing, as well as Dunn, HP General Counsel Ann Baskins and the company's outside lawyer, Larry Sonsini, who had defended the pretexting tactics as "not generally unlawful."

 

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