September 14, 2006 5:07 PM PDT

Congress plans hearings on HP 'pretexting'

In a move that promises to complicate Hewlett-Packard's attempts to put its boardroom scandal in the past, a U.S. House of Representatives committee is planning a special hearing on the company's conduct.

An aide to the House Energy and Commerce Committee told CNET News.com Thursday to expect a two-day investigative hearing on the legality and prevalence of telephone "pretexting," the tactic of posing as someone in an attempt to obtain their calling records.

HP has become the subject of intense scrutiny since acknowledging last week that it employed pretexting to determine which board members leaked information to reporters.

One day of the hearing will be dedicated to HP and will be conducted by the subcommittee on oversight and investigations, said the Democratic aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity. That would likely involve the House calling HP executives, board members and other parties as witnesses. Interviews with HP representatives before the hearing are also planned.

HP reiterated on Thursday that it intends to provide any documents or information requested by the committee. But HP spokesman Mike Moeller would not say whether executives would testify, if asked. "It's impossible for me to comment one way or the other," he said.

Because members of Congress are planning to leave town in the next few weeks so politicians can campaign for re-election, the hearings would have to be held soon. The House's target adjournment date is Oct. 6.

Federal authorities and the California attorney general are among those looking into the tactics of HP, whose investigation obtained phone records of at least nine journalists, including three News.com reporters, as well as some board members.

Earlier this week, top Democrats and Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a lengthy list of questions to HP and requested replies by Monday. HP has said it will cooperate with the investigation.

A Republican aide to the House Energy and Commerce Committee confirmed that pretexting hearings were being planned but said nothing has been scheduled yet and it was unclear what role HP would play.

CNET News.com reporter Ina Fried contributed to this report.

See more CNET content tagged:
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5 comments

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It Figures
Grandstanding Bastards. Shouldn't congress be concentrating on a multitude of other problems that currently burden our country. Let the FBI and the California AG take care of this. In the mean time be sure to vote against every worthless incumbent that cuurently resides in DC.
Posted by als (154 comments )
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Dunn's pretexting no better than a phisher
companies like Hewlett-Packard it's not surprising that the Calif. AG and Congress want to look at the hot water Patricia Dunn got her company into <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.iwantmyess.com/?p=100" target="_newWindow">http://www.iwantmyess.com/?p=100</a>

Guess she didn't get the memo that spying on fellow HP board members wasn't concurrent with HP's values, since CE Mark Hurd said yesterday, "inappropriate investigative techniques will not be employed again, they have no place in HP."

What's worse is that once the information was obtained they were able to gain email address information of reporters like CNET's Dawn Kwamoto. Pretexting leading to email theft - Not a good way to steer a company Ms. Dunn, she was no better than a phisher <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.essentialsecurity.com/Documents/article27.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.essentialsecurity.com/Documents/article27.htm</a>
Posted by marileev (292 comments )
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Witch hunt
The real problem with "pretexting" is that it is *completely* trivial to engage in, and telecom companies have little to no system in place to make customer records private by default. Indeed, SBC (now ATT - the carrier most often mentioned as having improperly given away phone records in this saga) uses a "negative option" tactic to opt customers in by default to their "marketing partner" communications, so that seems to be where the rubber really meets the road of privacy.

Furthermore, HP is a company which, from what I can tell, has a much better record than the average US corporation when it comes to ethics.

Therefore it's more than a little curious why there is such a hubbub about HP's role in this. I originally viewed Ms. Dunn as the "bad person" but after reading her comment about how powerful Thomas Perkins is, perhaps this may just be all about him calling in some political favors after his buddy Keyworth was exposed.
Posted by pjk0 (1198 comments )
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HPs Ethics Dunn, lacking scruples
pjk0, you're right, The case is surprising because the Hewlett-Packard's image was that of a responsible company with good corporate governance practices until now.

Patricia Dunn's approval of the leak investigation practices went completely against HPs grain.

Again, CEO Mark Hurd said, "Inappropriate investigative techniques will not be employed again, they have no place in HP." Patricia Dunn didn't get the memo on HP's Values <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.iwantmyess.com/?p=95" target="_newWindow">http://www.iwantmyess.com/?p=95</a>
Posted by marileev (292 comments )
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Surveillance
In a strange way, HP's surveillance seems to resonate rather well with the Bush president's "war on terror" activities. Maybe both will be pulled before a court and quashed?
Posted by hutchike (157 comments )
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