September 19, 2006 8:45 PM PDT

HP targeted reporters before they published

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The information provided by government investigators Tuesday also provides new insight into the aggressiveness of HP's leak hunt. Following the Jan. 23 story by Kawamoto and Krazit, an HP investigator posing as a tipster began e-mailing Kawamoto, starting with a Jan. 27 e-mail from a Hotmail account purporting to be from "Jacob Goldfarb," Kawamoto was told.

"I am a senior level executive with a high tech firm in the valley and an avid reader of your columns. My real name is not used, you might understand why," the bogus tipster wrote. "Not quite sure how to approach you on this, but I'll attempt anyway. In short, tired of broken promises, misguided initiatives and generally bad treatment. Have some information that I would be interested in passing along. Felt it might be appropriate to contact you."

A later e-mail from that same address included an attachment believed to have contained marketing information about a new HP product. That attachment, government investigators told Kawamoto, is believed to have had the ability to track the e-mail, notify the sender if it was opened, and tell the sender if the e-mail was forwarded and to which IP address it had been forwarded. Sending Kawamoto an attachment like that would not have been illegal, government investigators said, noting that the technology used was not believed to have been a keylogger loaded onto the computer.

HP investigators also employed physical surveillance on Kawamoto for three days starting on Feb. 9, she was told. One note by the investigators said: "Morning of Feb. 10: surveillance resumed on DK and on other subjects." Included in the notes is at least one surveillance photo of Kawamoto.

In a Feb. 23 e-mail discussion, HP investigators also discussed following Kawamoto to Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., because they suspected she was going to hand the bogus marketing material off to her source for confirmation, she was told. HP's investigators even called the hotel where she was staying, but nixed tracking her at the Magic Kingdom when they learned she had already checked out.

Kawamoto never wrote a story based on the bogus information, but the surveillance continued in some manner through at least March, she was told.

Interestingly, HP's investigators did not do a significant background check on her, Kawamoto was told, but they did take a look at Krazit's past by accessing public and private databases. They searched for his parents' names, his employment history, even the high school he attended in Connecticut, Krazit was told by government investigators.

In all, of the roughly 4,000 documents provided by HP to government investigators, 931 contain Kawamoto's name (including nearly every story she had written during the past five years), she was told. Kawamoto has worked at News.com since 1996. Krazit, who started at News.com on Jan. 16, is named in just 47, he was told.

The government's pretexting investigation should widen in the coming weeks.

A congressional subcommittee on Friday asked Dunn and Baskins to appear at a Sept. 28 hearing about the company's surveillance methods. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce also sent letters asking HP outside counsel Larry Sonsini and outside investigator Ronald DeLia to testify as part of the daylong hearing.

The committee has received indications that Dunn and Baskins will testify but has yet to receive a formal confirmation letter. Sonsini also plans to testify, but it's unclear how much he will be able to say, given that much of his work for HP may be covered by attorney-client privilege.

The San Francisco Chronicle and San Jose Mercury News reported on Tuesday that HP also targeted the phone records of former CEO Carly Fiorina, while The Wall Street Journal said Sonsini had his phone records targeted as well. HP declined to comment on whether either person had been pretexted.

The Journal also reported that an internal HP investigator e-mailed others at the company to warn that its use of pretexting might be illegal. HP declined to comment on the e-mail.

On Wednesday night, Dunn is expected to be inducted into the Bay Area Business Hall of Fame by the Bay Area Council, a local business and civic organization.

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9 comments

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Wonderful timing on Business Hall of Fame
"On Wednesday night, Dunn is expected to be inducted into the Bay
Area Business Hall of Fame by the Bay Area Council, a local
business and civic organization."

I expect the Bay Area Council is working hard to maintain a stiff
upper lip on this one. How long ago was the selection made?
Posted by pencoyd (82 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No, that's a typo -- surely it means....
Hall of Shame. It just couldn't be anything else. I'm sure CNET will correct that shortly.
Posted by giggles (46 comments )
Link Flag
What's Next, A Slush Fund? Poison Cigars?
So HP assembles a bunch of "plumbers" to plug a news "leak". It feels like Watergate all over again. All that is missing is a slush fund of unmarked small bills, and some poison cigars. Oh sorry, that was another well meaning but misguided effort.
Posted by CancerMan2 (74 comments )
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Dunn still a director
Given the coverage this story is getting, I find it hard to believe Dunn is still employed by HP. You'd think that at the very least, she'd be on "indefinite administrative leave."
Posted by Paul Schantz (11 comments )
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C|Net journalists: a request...
When this all blows over, I'd love to see an in-depth article about the personal experiences and opinions of the affected C|Net journalists. What do you think?
Posted by Paul Schantz (11 comments )
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HP's leak investigation
Yes - it would be nice to read the reporters experience with this. It would also be nice to read of the reporters winning a few civil suits against HP
Posted by Barbara-five (2 comments )
Link Flag
HP's leak investigation
Yes - it would be nice to read the reporters experience with this. It would also be nice to read of the reporters winning a few civil suits against HP
Posted by Barbara-five (2 comments )
Link Flag
Where are the ethics
Its dismaying to read an article where "pretexting" is described as a "legally questionalbe behavior". At best its fraud, plain and simple, pretending to be someone you're not for the purpose of getting their personal data. At worst its well beyond that, and the fact that we are willing to consider such behavior as "questionable" and not just plain illegal speaks volumes as to how far down hill our values have gone.
Posted by khammerberg (4 comments )
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Removing the Veil of the Corporation
It is amazing how the HP sewage widens every so more as time goes on, but the HP board members who were involved in this unethical, illegal, and immoral acts are still loose in public, even being awarded for the Business Hall of Fame. What a joke!

Now, I understand there is a seldom used legal tactic called "removing the veil of the corporation". If the judge rules that this veil is to be removed, the board of directors and any HP employees involved in these despicable acts could be held personally liable, both civilly and criminally. Basically, the protection of the corporation is removed because the individuals involved purposefully engaged in acts despite being advised not to, in essence demonstrating that they willfully blocked the ability to practice "due care". Now, will a judge really do that? Probably not, since HP has a lot of political clout in the state and federal governments. So the taxpayers and consumers are the big losers here...
Posted by treet007 (123 comments )
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