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HP Dragnet Grabbed 9 Reporters




HP Dragnet Grabbed 9 Reporters
HP Dragnet Grabbed 9 Reporters



http://www.wired.com/news/politics/privacy/0,71749-0.html 

By Kim Zetter
Sept, 07, 2006

At least nine journalists were swept up in Hewlett-Packard chairman 
Patricia Dunn's furious search for a media leak on the company's board 
of directors, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Dawn Kawamoto and Tom Krazit of CNET, and Pui-Wing Tam of The Wall 
Street Journal were contacted this week by the California attorney 
general's office regarding allegations that investigators working for HP 
had impersonated them to obtain their private phone records, according 
to stories in their publications. The company has maintained that it was 
unaware that its investigator was engaging in fraudulent methods.

Seven other reporters were also caught up in the investigation, 
according to the source, including a Business Week reporter.

According to CNET, on Wednesday HP provided the attorney general with a 
partial list of reporters who might have been victims of the pretexting 
but did not say how many were on the list. That list could include more 
reporters than just Kawamoto and Tam but the attorney general's office 
would not confirm that it had received such a list.

Nathan Barankin, spokesman for the California attorney general's office, 
would not confirm the details in the CNET story. "It is an ongoing 
criminal investigation," Barankin said. "I'm not saying anything about 
anything."

Ryan Donovan, HP spokesman, also would not confirm whether HP had 
provided the attorney general with a list of reporters' names. He did 
confirm that more than one reporter is involved, but would not say how 
many or provide Wired News with names. "I can't tell you what list of 
materials they have requested or what we have provided only to say that 
we are fully cooperating with any requests they make to us," he said, 
adding that "HP is dismayed that the phone records of journalists were 
accessed without their knowledge."

CNET did not respond to a request for comment by deadline time, but 
information it published agrees with information that Wired News has 
obtained from other sources.

The attorney general's office notified Kawamoto on Tuesday, the day that 
initial facts about the HP issue came to light, to let her know that she 
might have been a target of HP's investigation, according to the CNET 
story and a source who spoke with Wired News. Then on Thursday the 
office contacted her again to say that AT&T had confirmed that her 
records had been pretexted and that the party who obtained her records 
fraudulently provided AT&T with the last four digits of her husband's 
Social Security number. According to the story, Kawamoto's home phone 
number is registered in her husband's name.

HP's investigation of Kawamoto was sparked by a story that she 
co-authored in January about a confidential meeting of Hewlett-Packard 
board members that was based on information from an anonymous source.  
According to one source who spoke with Wired News, board chairman Dunn 
was incensed by the leak, as well as past media leaks about HP, and 
hired an outside firm to determine who was speaking with reporters.

Dunn disclosed the investigation to the board on May 18, announced she 
had discovered the source of the leak -- George Keyworth -- and asked 
for the leaker's resignation. He refused. Board member Tom Perkins, a 
founder of Silicon Valley venture capital giant Kliener Perkins Caufield 
and Byers, resigned on the spot and subsequently asked for a review of 
the investigators' methods.

HP on Wednesday issued a securities filing announcing Keyworth will not 
be renominated to the board; disclosing the circumstances of Perkins' 
resignation; and admitting it used pretexting to gain private phone 
records of the board members. The filing did not mention its use of 
pretexting to investigate reporters.

Perkins is currently out on his yacht and unavailable for comment. But 
his attorney Viet Dinh said Perkins was pleased that HP appeared to be 
acknowledging responsibility for its actions.

"HP's (SEC) filing on Wednesday was a significant step toward the 
company recognizing its legal obligations to the shareholders," said 
Dinh. "Law enforcement agencies are investigating these various charges 
and we will let the chips fall where they may. Despite the controversy 
Perkins believes in the performance and prospects of HP under the 
leadership of Mark Hurd."

The Wall Street Journal also revealed in a story published today that 
its reporter, Pui-Wing Tam, who broke a previous story about Carly 
Fiorina's difficulties with the HP board, received an e-mail from a 
California attorney general who told her she might have been a victim of 
pretexting. The Journal declined to comment on the matter.

When asked if HP had conducted similar investigations in the past that 
might have involved obtaining reporters' phone records, HP's Donovan 
said, "I can't speak to the past. I don't have any information regarding 
previous investigations."

He added that "unauthorized disclosure of confidential information is a 
violation of our standard of conduct. That's applicable to everyone -- 
including board members and employees. We investigate any and all 
violations of those and take appropriate action."

He emphasized, however, that HP was unaware that its investigators were 
engaging in anything that might be considered illegal.

Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom 
of the Press was appalled by news of HP's conduct.

"It shows incredible arrogance on the part of the company and disrespect 
for the role that a free press plays in a democracy,"  Dalglish said. 
"It's completely inappropriate and it clearly will have a chilling 
effect on reporters being able to do stories where they have to rely on 
confidential sources. There's a reason why there are so many safeguards 
and hoops that the Justice Department has to go through to get phone 
records."

Dalglish said there are legal methods for a private party to seek to 
obtain information about a media source without assaulting the media.  
Typically in such cases, the party will file a "John Doe" lawsuit and 
subpoena the reporter or publication for information about the identity 
of their source. Although she said that generally such cases are not 
successful if they are brought in a state court rather than a federal 
court, if the state has strong laws that protect reporters' sources.

"If you are in state court, and it's a state offense, you would not be 
successful in identifying the source, but in federal court you probably 
would be," Dalglish said. She noted that there was a reason that HP 
likely went the route it did instead of going through the court.

"California is one of the better states as far as protecting 
confidential sources," she said. "My guess is they had to resort to the 
illegal method because they knew that if they were to go to court in 
California they wouldn't get it."

But even seeking a court remedy, Dalglish said, would have been extreme 
in this case given that one of HPs former board members, who resigned in 
the wake of the controversy, has said he didn't believe the CNET story 
was particularly negative or embarrassing for HP.

"My response to that is (HP) should grow up," Dalglish said.


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