RealTime IT News

Congress Wants HP Front And Center

HP is guaranteed another embarrassing day in the sun over its pretexting scandal, this time with the cameras rolling and a national audience.

Congress today requested Patricia Dunn, HP's outgoing chairman of the board, other company officials and HP's outside counsel to testify Sept. 28 before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight.

The hearing is part of the subcommittee's seven-month investigation into pretexting and data brokers. According to a committee spokesman, the hearing was scheduled before the HP scandal broke last week.

"I ask that HP carefully use this hearing as an opportunity to be fully open and transparent with the testimony that its officers and counsel provide," Ed Whitfield, the Kentucky Republican chairman of the panel, wrote in a letter.

Whitfield gave HP until Tuesday to respond to the request.

Also asked to testify were Ann Baskins, HP's senior vice president and general counsel, HP's outside counsel Larry Sonsini of the Silicon Valley law firm of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati and the managing director of Security Outsourcing Solutions, the firm HP used to investigate the leaks.

HP spokesman Michael Moeller confirmed that Dunn and Baskins have been asked to testify. While noting HP is "completely cooperating with all inquiries and investigations," Moeller told internetnews.com that the company is not commenting at this point whether anyone from HP will testify before the committee.

Last week, HP issued a public apology for using pretexting techniques in investigating which of its board members leaked confidential information to the media.

"We are dismayed that the phone records of reporters were accessed without their knowledge," Emma Wischhusen, an HP spokeswoman, told internetnews.com.

Dunn admits ordering the investigation, but claims she had no knowledge outside investigators would use pretexting techniques to obtain the phone records of board members and journalists.

Pretexting is the use of deception to gain access to confidential phone records. Federal law expressly prohibits pretexting for personal financial information but is vague about its use for telephone records.

Spurred by complaints from the public-privacy watchdog Electronic Privacy Information Center, Congress has been investigating and drafting bills to specifically criminalize pretexting for telephone records since the beginning of the year.

The House passed legislation in March banning the practice, but similar measures are bogged down in the Senate. With an Oct. 6 adjournment date nearing, Senate leaders told internetnews.com today compromise legislation is likely to go before the full Senate in the next two weeks.

David Needle contributed to this story.