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The Plot Thickens

"A cast of nearly two dozen top H-P executives, lawyers, security officials and outside investigators jammed the front rows of a Capitol Hill hearing room" yesterday, as the Wall Street Journal reported today, although their appearances didn't shed much more light on what exactly went on behind the scenes of the company's investigation of leaks to the media. Most of those called to testify invoked their 5th amendment rights. HP CEO Mark Hurd offered an apology to those journalists who had been "pretexted," by company investigators, although, "he acknowledged that he was aware that reporters had been sent fake e-mails to try to get information on the leaks and thought at the time it was OK, but doesn't now. There is a difference between illegal and unethical, he said," writes Broadcasting & Cable. You can read Hurd's prepared remarks here.

While the testimony itself did reveal anything terribly dramatic, an interesting (and disturbing) piece of information did arise, which reveals that an HP investigator had spied on a Wall Street Journal reporter before, as part of an investigation for another firm. The Wall Street Journal reports today that an e-mail to HP from its outside counsel reveals that Ronald DeLia, of Security Outsourcing Solutions, HP's private investigative firm, "told lawyers interviewing him in August 2006, that he had informed Ms. Dunn that 'he had undertaken a similar investigation involving leaks from a Big Five accounting firm to a Wall Street Journal reporter. Mr. DeLia was successful in finding the source of the leaks in that case.'"

The email reports that Mr. DeLia said he "had conducted visual -- not electronic -- surveillance of the reporter at issue while on vacation and had skip tracers call the hotel the reporter had been staying at to obtain his hotel call records via pretexting, which revealed a call to a senior executive with the company. Pretexting was also used to determine where the reporter was vacationing -- somebody called the reporter's office saying the reporter had requested certain information and asking someone in the office for the hotel number."

The email doesn't make clear who the Journal reporter was, or where or when the pretexting took place.

A spokesman for the Journal said the paper is "looking into this." Maybe they should hire a private investigator.
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