RealTime IT News

Dunn, Hurd Keep Their Distance

WASHINGTON -- UPDATED: Patricia Dunn, former chairwoman of HP's board of directors, repeatedly told a House committee today that she had no recollection of specific spying tactics used in the HP spying scandal.

During testimony here today before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Dunn also suggested that HP CEO Mark Hurd had been made aware of the tactics used.

But she didn't think any e-mail or voice mail was sent about it.

Hurd, who later testified to the same subcommittee on oversight and investigations, later sought to distance himself from the tactics used in HP's boardroom leak probe. He said he hadn't been able to read through all the reports and e-mails that were being generated about the investigation into boardroom leaks to the media.

"Not my finest hour, Mr. Chairman," Hurd said.

"I'll speak for myself. I didn't catch them," he said of key e-mails and reports raising concerns about using false pretenses to gain access to board members, reporters and two HP employees' phone records.

From a checks and balances perspective, he continued, the CEO has a lot of details to manage. "We're a small city. The CEO cannot be a backstop for every process in the company," and some processes and decisions are pushed down to middle levels of management.

It wasn't my personal number one priority," he said, noting that he had a shareholders meeting to prepare for at the same time some of the e-mails from HP senior management were raising issues about ethical and legal questions about the tactics used.

Other approaches used in the boardroom leak probe, launched by Dunn, included an attempt to place keystroke logging software on a reporter's computer, and a sting operation involving someone posing as a disgruntled employee with a reporter in order to find out who on the board was leaking boardroom deliberations to the press.

Hurd also said he has sent out very clear instructions that illegal and ethically questionable tactics are to stop. "And that does apply to spyware technology," he added.

Hurd's testimony followed an extensive afternoon of questions for Dunn, outside HP counsel Larry Sonsini, and Fred Adler, who heads up IT security investigations for HP, all of whom sought to distance themselves from answers that might suggest they were aware of the questionable legality of the pretexting methods.

During questions to Dunn, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) referred to notes by Baskins that suggested Dunn was aware of the pretexting much earlier than the June, 2006 time frame when she said she became aware of what pretexting entailed.

Dunn said she had no recollection of that conversation with Ms. Baskins."

Other e-mails obtained by the committee showed that DeLia himself, one of the private investigators contracted in the leak probe, had discussed as far back as 2005 the pretexting methods used to acess the phone records.

"I don't recall being at that meeting," Dunn said.

Dunn repeatedly said the first time she heard about pretexting was in June of 2006. "It was the first time the word 'pretexting' jumped out at me and I understood what pretexting could entail," she said.

Dunn was asked about another e-mail from investigators that said: "We need to get the approval of Ann [Baskins], Mark [Hurd], and Patti [Patricia Dunn]" concerning some of the tactics already described.

Dunn didn't say if Hurd sent an e-mail or left a voicemail. "But they said they gained the approval they were seeking," she said.

Hurd would later say the investigators asking for such permission went around him, while noting that he should have been aware of the communications about it.

DeGette also referred to a fictitious character named Jacob who, according to the committee, was designed to find out what a reporter was up to concerning the probe.

"Is it common practice to create fake disgruntled employees" in order to fake out a reporter, the congresswoman asked Dunn.

"I really can't answer that question in a way I think you need it answered," Dunn replied.

Dunn's appearance came after a string of witnesses appeared before the committee and proceeded to invoke their Fifth Amendment rights protecting them from providing self-incriminating testimony, including Ann Baskins, general counsel of HP who announced her resignation from the company today.

Anthony Gentillucci, who was manager of HP's global security at the time of the probe, and Ronald DeLia, an outside investigator used to conduct the spy probe, also invoked the Fifth Amendment.

Joe Depante, another investigator who was apparently contracted to help obtain phone records of suspected leakers, also told the committee he would invoke the Fifth Amendment in order to protect himself from self-incrimination.

Hurd said there were no excuses for not paying closer attention to the e-mail communications from HP senior management that raised questions about spying tactics used on board members, their families, reporters and two HP reporters.

Do you feel going forward you can restore HP's integrity? Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) asked Hurd. "Congressman, I will."

"The people of HP are some of the most hard working, high integrity people around," he said. "We're going to get this right."