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Many Tough Questions, Few Satisfactory Answers in HP Spying Scandal Probe

Many tough questions were asked at the September 28th, 2006 House of Representatives hearing on the Hewlett-Packard spying scandal. Unfortunately, former chairwoman Patricia Dunn and current CEO Mark Hurd did not have credible answers about why they never questioned the legal foundation of either the Kona I or Kona II internal spying operations. As the New York Times reports here, at one point said a rather incredulous Representative Cliff Stearns, Republican of Florida, "'I get the sense that you still don’t believe that you did anything wrong.' After trying to answer obliquely, Ms. Dunn finally said, “I do not accept personal responsibility for what happened." By contrast,

an apologetic Mark V. Hurd, the chief executive and Ms. Dunn’s successor as chairman, encountered gentler questioning when he accepted blame for the spying “mess,” as he called it. “There is no excuse for this aberration,” he said. “It happened, and it will never happen again.”

Earlier in the hearings a number of people asserted their constitutional right to avoid self-incrimination. One of these individuals was the now former Hewlett-Packard General Counsel, Ann O. Baskins, "whose lawyers announced earlier today that she had resigned, while insisting that she had been repeatedly assured by subordinates that the operation was legal." However, the credibility of this claim was questioned with the release of her handwritten notes from June 15, 2005 (around the time of the start of the Kona I investigation which showed she was aware of “pretexts to extract info” at that early date.

The San Jose Mercury News reports here that the "committee members expressed disbelief that nobody at HP's top level stepped forward to say the practice, legal or not, was unethical and should be stopped." This article reveals that at least one member of the H-P investigative team had grave concerns about the investigative techniques being used. The article states:

that a member of the investigative team, Vince Nye, sounded a warning in a Feb. 7 e-mail to HP security manager Anthony Gentilucci. ``I have serious reservations about what we are doing,'' Nye wrote in an e-mail to Gentilucci. ``As I understand Ron's methodology in obtaining this phone record information it leaves me with the opinion that it is very unethical at the least and probably illegal. If it is not totally illegal, then it is leaving HP in a position that could damage our reputation or worse.

The e-mail continued, ``I am requesting that we cease this phone-number gathering method immediately and discount any of its information. I think we need to refocus our strategy and proceed on the high-ground course.'' The ``Ron'' referred to in Nye's e-mail was DeLia, head of a Boston-area private investigation firm who worked on HP's investigation and who also invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to testify today. Gentilucci resigned earlier this week as head of HP's global security unit in Boston, and he also cited his Fifth Amendment right to not testify.