September 29, 2006 9:04 AM PDT

Week in review: HP goes to Washington

Key players in Hewlett-Packard's pretexting probe appeared before a congressional committee to answer questions about the scandal. Some expressed regret, some claimed ignorance and some took the Fifth Amendment.

The committee began by grilling former Hewlett-Packard Chairman Patricia Dunn over why she didn't recognize that investigators would have to turn to dubious means to get personal phone records. Dunn said she relied on the advice of others, including HP's outside investigator, Ron DeLia.

"I did not know where this information could be found publicly, but I was aware that the kinds of investigations done by Mr. DeLia had previously been based solely on publicly available information," Dunn said.

The comments came at the start of two days of hearings by an oversight and investigations subcommittee of the House of Representatives' Energy and Commerce Committee. The hearings are focusing on the practice of pretexting, or obtaining phone records without consent and through the use of false pretenses.

Among those who refused to testify was Ann Baskins, who resigned Thursday morning as HP's general counsel.

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HP CEO Mark Hurd testified that he wishes he had asked more questions about the leak investigation.

"I wish I had asked more questions," Hurd said in his opening statement before being questioned by the House subcommittee. "There are signs I wish I had caught."

Hurd repeated an earlier apology to the victims and to HP's employees.

"If Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard were alive today, they'd be appalled. They'd be embarrassed," he said.

Many CNET News.com readers expressed anger and frustration at HP executives, but one reader placed the blame for the privacy intrusion on the telephone companies.

"There are many safeguards they can put in place to protect our privacy," wrote one reader to News.com's TalkBack forum. "How about a simple 'we will call you back on your home phone line before we can continue'?"

In other developments, News.com learned that a second HP employee warned others at the company that the tactics being used in its leak probe might be illegal. In a Feb. 7 e-mail, HP security official Vincent Nye told the company's head of security and a lawyer supervising a probe into unauthorized leaks that he had "serious reservations" about what the company was doing.

Nye said that his understanding of the methods HP was using to obtain telephone records using false pretenses "leaves me with the opinion that it is very unethical at the least and probably illegal," he said in the e-mail, which was turned over to the House Energy and Commerce Committee and seen by CNET News.com.

One self-described data broker's expertise in pretexting offers insight into the methods now popular with hundreds of data brokers around the country. And while the data broker, who declines to say what he's done for a living since leaving data brokering, is not believed to have had anything directly to do with the HP spying, he is closely linked to some of those involved.

Spotlight on the core
Intel has built a prototype of a processor with 80 cores that can perform a trillion floating-point operations per second. CEO Paul Otellini held up a silicon wafer with the prototype chips before several thousand attendees at this week's Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco.

The chips are capable of exchanging data at a terabyte a second, Otellini said during a keynote speech. The company hopes to have these chips ready for commercial production within a five-year window. Intel uses its twice-yearly conference to educate developers on its long- and short-term plans. Over three days, hardware developers and partners get a chance to interact with Intel employees and take classes on new technologies.

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pretexting, Patricia Dunn, Mark Hurd, Week in review, investigation

4 comments

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This is hilarious
A Congress that votes to torture detainees without evidence of wrongdoing, sentence them (possibly to death) in jury-less kangeroo military tribunals, use evidence gathered by means of torture, without a warrant or just hearsay in order to get the convictions they decide - a congress that has given the greenlight for the President to avoid a war crimes tribunal himself by deciding what is or isn't a violation of Geneva Conventions, a Congress that has said that foreign nationals detained without evidence or charge indefinitely have no right of appeal to their kangeroo military trials, and whilst awaiting trial do not have the same rights as a serf from Medieval England - in that they can't challenge their detention in court - a Congress that has said that declaring you're rights as defined by the Geneva Conventions have been violated is an illegal act, and thus not permissible in a court of law - this Congress of Cowards, Corruption, Lies and Torture are taking the moral high ground when a CEO follows their lead and illegally spies on US Citizens.

I find it shameful that I now live in a country represented by such cowards, that they are willing to abandon everything we've gained since the declaration of independance, willing to stain the memories of those that considered life less important than the freedom and liberties of foreign nationals whilst fighting in Europe during WWII - a congress so cowardly that they think the American people join them in their whimpering fear of Al Qaeda to the extent that they would be willing to allow them to pass such treasonous laws.

If I was Hurd I would laugh in their faces, they obviously lack the courage to respond and would no doubt quiver and whimper in the face of any challenge to their authority.
Posted by ajbright (447 comments )
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This is hilarious
So leave the country already - go to one of those "peoples paradise" Mideastern nations!
Posted by PseudoTech (1 comment )
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Their silence doesn't make them look good
'Ya know? Just by virtue of their silence, I simply don't believe them.

Not all corporations are like this, but an increasing number are and this is troubling.

Investigations of people need to be done by legal, and ethical means.

The silence of some of the HP repesentatives is troubling, to say the least.

Charles R. Whealton
Charles Whealton @ pleasedontspam.com
Posted by chuck_whealton (521 comments )
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Legal System Mones On, So should we....
I completely disagree with what HP did and I still think that congress needs to use this case as a "poster child" for new laws further defing privacy and ID theft. The HP debacle is not over but I think it's time for the public to see this for what it was, make their own determination whether they will deal with HP and now move.
Mark Hurd was somewhat forthcoming in his hearing before congress and whether you trust him or not this matter is moving on in the legal circles so maybe it's time we devoted more time to more serious matters and let this play out.
Posted by fred dunn (793 comments )
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