Cingular sues investigator over HP pretexting

The wireless carrier's lawsuit is aimed at those responsible for obtaining the phone records of a CNET reporter in an HP probe.

Cingular Wireless has filed a federal lawsuit against those it says are responsible for improperly obtaining the phone records of a CNET reporter.

The cellular carrier filed suit in the Northern District of Georgia on Friday against Charles Kelly and the CAS Agency, as well as against other unnamed individuals and companies that may be responsible for accessing the records of CNET News reporter Dawn Kawamoto in Hewlett-Packard's now infamous leak investigation.

"Defendants do not have authorization from Cingular, from its customers, or from validly issued subpoenas or court orders to access Cingular's confidential customer information," the wireless carrier said in its lawsuit. It named Kelly and his firm, CAS Agency, but did not specifically name as a defendant HP or any of the tech company's other outside investigations firms.

Kelly was asked at a congressional hearing on Thursday about his role in obtaining Kawamoto's records, but declined to answer questions, citing his constitutional right against self-incrimination. HP has said that as part of its investigation, more than a dozen people had their phone records improperly accessed, or "pretexted." Those included seven current or former board members, nine reporters, two employees and an unspecified number of others.

Cingular's suit seeks unspecified damages as well as an injunction prohibiting the defendants from, among other things, ever contacting Cingular for any reason. Verizon Wireless has also filed a similar suit against unnamed individuals responsible for improperly obtaining the phone records of one of HP's directors.

In addition to the congressional hearing, there are state and federal criminal inquiries into the matter, as well as an Securities and Exchange Commission inquiry over HP's disclosures related to the matter.

Several figures in the case have left HP amid the scandal. These include former HP Chairman Patricia Dunn, who initiated the leak probe, and general counsel Ann Baskins, who stepped down just ahead of Thursday's hearing.

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