RealTime IT News

Dunn Distances Herself from HP Probe Tactics

Former Hewlett-Packard Chairman Patricia Dunn plans to tell Congress today she only learned pretexting was used in a company investigation of boardroom media leaks until after the probe concluded.

In prepared testimony for Thursday morning's House hearing on the HP scandal, Dunn states she first heard of pretexting – assuming a false identity to obtain a person's personal telephone records – in a June e-mail exchange between former board member Tom Perkins and HP outside counsel Larry Sonsini.

By then, the HP investigation had already tabbed board member George Keyworth as the leaker.

"Mr. Sonsini used the word 'pretext' in connection with the investigation," Dunn's remarks state. "That was the first time I began to comprehend what the word meant. I still do not understand whether it is or is not legal, as opinions vary."

In that e-mail, Sonsini wrote pretexting was a "common investigatory method…the legal team also checked with outside counsel as to the legality of this methodology."

Dunn also insists, "I relied on trusted people who were lawyers and investigators to perform [the investigation]. Along the way I requested for and received assurances that the investigation was both legal and compliant with HP's Standards of Business Conduct."

HP admits it is guilty of using pretexting to gain access to the personal telephone records of its board members and journalists. It also admits it planted spyware on a journalist's computer.

The company has not revealed who in the chain of command actually authorized the use of pretexting.

In his prepared testimony, HP Chairman and CEO Mark Hurd admits he had knowledge of the investigation and approved of a plan to send a reporter e-mail containing false information in hopes of identifying the leaker.

"I do not recall seeing, nor do I recall approving, the user of tracer technology," the testimony states.

Hurd makes no mention of pretexting in his 10-page statement.

"What began as a proper and serious inquiry of leaks to the press of sensitive company information from within the HP board became a rogue investigation that violated HP's own principles and values," Hurd's testimony reads. "There is no excuse for this."

Hurd characterizes the investigation as the end justifying the means.

"The investigation team became so focused on finding the source of the leaks that they lost sight of the privacy of reporters and others," Hurd states in his testimony. "They lost sight of the values that HP has always represented."

The high profile case quickly drew the attention of the House Energy and Commerce's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, which has been conducting a probe into data brokers and the practice of pretexting since early this year.

The scandal prompted the resignation of Dunn last week. Kevin Hunsaker, HP's senior counsel and director of ethics, and Anthony Gentilucci, HP Boston's security manager, resigned this week.

As HP slowly revealed its investigative tactics over the last month and media leaks fueled a frenzy of who-knew-what-when speculation, the House panel called an all-star lineup of top HP executives, former and present, to explain their actions.

Dunn, Hurd and Ann Baskins, the company's general counsel, all agreed to testify Thursday morning.

Hurd said at a Friday press conference he also knew of the investigation and attended a meeting discussing the probe.

"I understand there is also a written report of the investigation addressed to me and others but I did not read it," he said. "I could have, and I should have."

Hurd added the results of an internal investigation into the matter "are very disturbing to me."

Hunsaker directed the investigation while Gentilucci is thought to have hired the private investigators.

Both were issued subpoenas to appear before the panel, as have private investigators contracted by HP to conduct its media leaks probe.

"HP has encouraged them to appear," HP spokesman Ryan Donovan said.

Also testifying Thursday will be Sonsini.

The private investigators subpoenaed include Ron DeLia, who operates Security Outsourcing Solutions in Boston and Joe Depante, owner of Action Research Group in Melbourne, Fla.

The House panel also issued subpoenas to five private investigators associated with DeLia and Depante.

In June, the panel subpoenaed 11 private investigators suspected of using pretexting to access telephone records. All of the investigators invoked their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

The House investigation into pretexting began in the aftermath of a series of hearings on personal telephone records for sale over the Internet. Telephone carriers, which are legally obligated to protect the personal records of consumers, testified they were victims of pretexting.

While most of the attention will be focused on Thursday's hearing, the panel is also holding a hearing Friday to hear testimony from Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin, Federal Trade Commission Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras and officials from T-Mobile, Cingular Wireless, Nextel and Verizon.