HP turns over thousands of documents to House panel

But it would not say what's in the documents it handed over

Hewlett-Packard Co. has turned over thousands of documents to a U.S. House subcommittee investigating methods used by HP to find out who was leaking company information to the media, a subcommittee spokesman said yesterday.

"The committee did receive thousands of pages of documents from HP. Staff investigators are reviewing them now," said Terry Lane, a spokesman for the House Committee on Energy and Commerce's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

The subcommittee reported today that it added names to the invitation list for an upcoming hearing on the potentially illegal investigative techniques used by HP and private investigative firms.

HP confirmed that it has responded to the subcommittee's request but didn't go beyond that. "We are complying with the House subcommittee's request for information but are not releasing the details of what's being provided for the committee's inquiry," said HP spokesman Ryan Donovan.

The inquiry springs from revelations that HP hired an outside investigative firm that used questionable tactics to find the source of leaks from the HP board to news media in 2005 and 2006. HP, in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing Sept. 6, acknowledged that unnamed outside investigators used "pretexting," a form of subterfuge in which investigators pose as someone else, in order to obtain personal phone records of people it was investigating.

The committee is considering federal legislation to make pretexting illegal.

The House panel, in a Sept. 11 letter to HP board Chairman Patricia Dunn, asked HP to identify the outside investigative firms it hired; identify the people within HP who authorized, participated in or had knowledge of HP's investigation; provide copies of contracts between HP and any outside firms; disclose the identities of everyone whose phone records were procured or were attempted to be procured; and provide other information.

HP has refused to identify the outside firms it hired, but various media reports have identified them as Security Outsourcing Solutions Inc. in Needham, Mass., and Action Research Group in Melbourne, Fla.

Although HP has claimed that its legal advisers told it that the pretexting was within the law, an HP security specialist reportedly questioned its legality earlier this year.

Fred Adler, a computer crimes specialist within HP's global security division and a former FBI agent, notified his supervisors that acquiring people's phone records under false pretenses could be against the law, The Wall Street Journal reported today.

The subcommittee chairman, Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), yesterday sent letters to Anthony Gentilucci, HP's global security manager, and private investigator Joe Depante, owner of Action Research Group, to testify at the subcommittee hearing Sept. 28.

"I ask you to carefully consider this hearing an opportunity to be fully open and transparent with the testimony you provide," Whitfield stated in the letter to Depante, using similar language in his letter to Gentilucci.

The committee has already invited Dunn and HP General Counsel Ann Baskins and a committee source told the Wall Street Journal those two would appear. HP's Donovan would not comment on who from HP will appear.

Larry Sonsini of the Palo Alto, Calif., law firm Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati was also invited to testify but it's not known if he will appear. Ronald DeLia of Security Outsourcing Solutions, also invited, hasn't replied, but the Journal quoted a committee source as saying that if DeLia were to testify he said he would invoke his Fifth Amendment right to not testify to protect against self-incrimination

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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