HP Probe Included Reporters, Family

Hewlett-Packard Chairwoman Patricia Dunn speaks during a news conference about new HP new CEO Mark Hurd at HP headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., Wednesday, March 30, 2005. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
AP Photo
The unethical and potentially illegal ruse used to root out media leaks on Hewlett-Packard Co.'s board extended beyond the directors and journalists to include a family member of at least one target.

Investigators hired by HP obtained the personal phone records of Thomas Shankland, the father of Stephen Shankland, a reporter at CNET Network Inc.'s News.com Web site who was one of nine journalists ensnared in the HP investigation.

It was unclear why the probe targeted Thomas Shankland, a semiretired physicist living in New Mexico. The younger Shankland is married to Associated Press reporter Rachel Konrad, who has also covered HP.

The addition of Shankland's father added to a growing scandal that embattled HP Chairwoman Patricia Dunn tried to defuse Friday in a series of media interviews. She described the investigators' tactics as "absolutely appalling" and "embarrassing" while defending the need to pursue the investigation to plug a leak on HP's board.

"I serve at the pleasure of the board," Dunn told the AP. "I totally trust their judgment. If they think it would be better for me to step aside, I would do that. But a number of directors have urged me to hang in there." She declined to say how many of HP's other nine directors support her.

The board plans to hold an emergency meeting by phone this weekend to discuss the concerns about the company's investigation as well as Dunn's job status.

California Attorney General Bill Lockyer already has concluded the HP investigation broke state law by obtaining people's private phone records under false pretenses — a charade known as "pretexting."

HP's investigators masqueraded as the directors and reporters targeted in the probe, using their Social Security numbers in some instances to dupe phone companies into turning over lists of personal phone calls.

Lockyer is still gathering evidence to determine the breadth of the violations and the culprits behind them, a process that he hopes to wrap up soon, his spokesman, Tom Dresslar, said Friday.

In a letter sent late Friday, U.S. Senator Richard Durbin, D-Illinois, asked U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to review whether HP's investigation broke any federal laws. "I am deeply troubled by these allegations," wrote Durbin, who wants to pass a federal law that would outlaw obtaining private phone records without an accountholder's consent.

The Federal Communications Commission also has taken the first step toward opening an investigation by sending a letter of inquiry to AT&T Inc., the source of the personal phone records obtained by HP.

The invasion of privacy so infuriated one HP director, longtime Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tom Perkins, that he resigned from the board in May and triggered a chain of events that finally forced the company to publicly disclose its role in the pretexting.