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It's The Stuff That Crappy Movies Are Made Of

If a Lifetime Original Movie were made about corporate malfeasance, the Hewlett Packard spying scandal would make for a fabulous plot. That is because it's absurd, bizarre and unintentionally funny.

Wall Street Journal reporter Pui Wing Tam, whom HP admitted was one of the subjects of its leak investigation, has an article in today's Journal (subsc. req.) detailing what she has since discovered about HP investigators' tactics. Tactics that, in the case of Tam's stories, were unsuccessful in revealing her source or sources.

Some of the information Tam outlines in today's piece has been gleaned from the now public information about the probe aired during Congressional hearings. During those hearings, HP CEO Mark Hurd promised that he would provide details into the investigation. HP also informed Tam in an e-mail that she would receive "'a complete accounting of the information that H-P gathered about you and exactly what methods were used to collect it.'" However, even after she met with HP's lawyer, John Schultz, she still is not entirely clear about all the details of who was watching her when. Some highlights of what was disclosed:

"H-P's agents had my photo and reviewed videotaped footage of me, said Mr. Schultz, of the law firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. They conducted 'surveillance' by looking for me at certain events to see if I would show up to meet an H-P director. (I didn't.) They also carried out 'pre-trash inspections' at my suburban home early this year, Mr. Schultz said.
And what is a "pre-trash inspection"? "On that," writes Tam, "Mr. Schultz said: 'We just don't know.'"

Schultz informed her further that "it isn't clear if H-P's investigators actually went through my trash or just looked around my house." To find out what "pre-trash inspection" might mean, Tam went to an expert, Ann Keating, vice president of a Washington, D.C., security consulting and investigations firm, who said that "terminology such as 'pre-trash-inspection' typically means that investigators scoped out neighborhoods and office buildings and tried to figure out if the garbage was easily accessible -- all in preparation for more-extensive digging-through at a later time."

Keating also said that "the methods H-P used on directors and journalists like me were 'far from standard practice,'" adding that "surveillance and trash inspection in particular, she says, are typically 'more tied to marital cases, such as when someone is trying to find out if his or her spouse is cheating.'"

At least Tam has a sense of humor about the ordeal: "Whether the sleuths ever encountered my toddler's dirty diapers, H-P said it doesn't know."

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