House to Issue Subpoenas; HP CEO to Address Scandal
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UPDATED: Less than a day after HP submitted documents to a U.S. House investigative committee relating to the company's pretexting scandal, the panel wants even more HP officials to testify at a Sept. 28 hearing.
Seperately, late Wednesday, HP confirmed it plans a press conference for this Friday afternoon at which company CEO Mark Hurd is slated to speak. However, company spokesman Ryan Donovan would not verify reports the HP board of directors is meeting today. "We don't comment on when the board meets," Donovan told internetnews.com.
New revelations about the extent of HP's expanding boardroom leak scandal tumbled out today as a House committee voted to issue subpoenas to figures whose actions to snoop on journalists are at the heart of the scandal.
By a vote of 31-0, the House Energy and Commerce committee voted to issue subpoenas to several people hired to help HP in its investigation of boardroom leaks, to compel them to testify. As requested, HP already submitted documents this week to the committee.
"Subpoenas are clearly needed in this case, given the rapid pace of the investigation, and the refusal of some witnesses to cooperate with this committee," said Joe Barton (R-Texas), committee chairman, during the hearing.
The committee has already tapped Patricia Dunn, HP's outgoing chairman of the board, and Ann Baskins, the company's senior vice president and general counsel, to testify at the hearing.
The panel also asked HP outside counsel Larry Sonsini and Ron DeLia, who operates Security Outsourcing Solutions in Boston, to testify. DeLia is one of the outside investigators HP used in media leaks investigation.
"Ron DeLia has already declined our invitation and a subpoena will be necessary" added Ed Whitfield (R-Ky).
DeLia's refusal to even appear at the hearing before the committee, slated for Sept. 28th, is the latest development among many in the case. The committee had been under the impression that DeLia would appear, but would take the Fifth Amendment in order to protect himself from making incriminating statements about his actions in the pretexting case.
Other figures in the case have declined to appear as well, committee members said, which helped to spur the subpoena vote.
In another twist, the New York Times reported today that HP conducted feasibility studies on planting spies in the San Francisco news bureaus of CNET and the Wall Street Journal as part its leak investigation.
Also today, a controversy arose over just when HP initiated the investigation that led to the pretexting.
Mark Corallo, a spokeman for former HP board member Tom Perkins, confirmed a report that Perkins believed an article about the company in CNET on January 23 was the trigger for the pretexting investigation. But today the online news site said that two of its reporters were told their phone records were accessed the week of January 17, several days prior to the article's publication.
"We don't know the scope of this, every day it changes, Corallo told internetnews.com. "We're letting the regulators and law enforcement do their job."
Tuesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent letters to HP's senior counsel, Kevin Hunsaker, and Fred Adler, an HP computer security investigator, asking them to appear next week before the panel.
Yesterday, the committee expanded its list to include HP's global security manager, Anthony Gentilucci, and private investigator Joe Despante, who runs Action Research Group in Melbourne, Fla.
A committee spokesman confirmed Tuesday Dunn and Sonsini have indicated they will appear before the panel.
The panel gave Gentilucci and Despante until today to respond to the request while Hunsaker and Adler have until noon Thursday to reply.
While the Energy and Commerce's subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations has been investigating the relationship between data brokers and pretexting for more than seven months, the HP scandal ignited a renewed interest in pretexting by lawmakers.
Pretexting is using false pretenses to gain access to someone's personal information. Doing so for financial information is illegal under federal law, but the practice falls into a legal gray area when it comes to telephone records.
The practice is at the heart of the scandal gripping HP. The company has admitted pretexting was used in its probe of media leaks by HP's board of directors.
In addition to its own board members, HP said it used pretexting to investigate journalists' phone records.
Earlier this month, Emma Wischhusen, an HP spokeswoman, told internetnews.com, "We are dismayed that the phone records of reporters were accessed without their knowledge."
Concerned over board members leaking information about the ouster of former CEO Carly Fiorina, Dunn ordered an investigation into the leaks.
Dunn denies she knew pretexting was used in the probe.
Days later, Dunn announced she will step down as chairwoman in January, with HP CEO Mark Hurd succeeding her on Jan. 18. Hurd will remain HP's CEO.
The House passed a bill outlawing pretexting, but the legislation has bogged down in the Senate over a jurisdictional fight between the Senate Commerce Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee.