HP probe snared a third News.com reporter

In a surprising twist, telephone records of CNET News.com reporter Stephen Shankland's father were targeted.

The personal telephone records of a third CNET News.com reporter were targeted during Hewlett-Packard's investigation into boardroom leaks, HP confirmed Friday afternoon.

An HP spokesman said reporter Stephen Shankland's records were targeted by a subcontractor working for a private investigator hired by the company. Shankland was a contributing reporter on a Jan. 23 article about a long-term board planning session that apparently angered HP Chairman Patricia Dunn, who launched the investigation.

In a twist that indicates the extent of HP's investigation, the personal phone records of Shankland's father, Thomas, a semi-retired physicist in New Mexico, were also targeted, a prosecutor for the California attorney general's office said. The attorney general's office said the HP investigator obtained Thomas Shankland's home and cell phone numbers and requested that his full phone records be obtained. It's not clear if the investigators actually obtained the records.

It's also unclear why HP's investigators would have been interested in Thomas Shankland's records.

The co-authors of that Jan. 23 News.com article, Dawn Kawamoto and Tom Krazit, by the California attorney general's office that their phone records were also accessed using a controversial method called "pretexting," where someone poses as a telephone subscriber to gain access to that subscriber's records.

The personal phone records of six other reporters, including Pui-Wing Tam and George Anders of The Wall Street Journal and John Markoff of The New York Times, were also targeted by HP's investigators. Friday afternoon, BusinessWeek reported on its Web site that the phone records of three of its reporters, Peter Burrows, Ben Elgin and Roger Crockett, were also targeted.

HP spokesman Ryan Donovan said he is not certain when the pretexting of Stephen Shankland's records occurred, whether home or cell phone records were targeted, or whether the investigators actually obtained his records.

On Thursday, an investigator with the California attorney general's office contacted Kawamoto and said AT&T had confirmed that her records had been accessed. Krazit was notified later on Thursday that a similar breach had occurred with his cellular phone account.

On Friday, Kawamoto learned the cellular phone numbers for both her and her husband had also been pretexted.

Also on Friday, Dunn apologized to Kawamoto and Krazit, and said she first learned two days earlier that reporters' records were pretexted. Nonetheless, Dunn still defended the need for HP's investigation.

"HP's reputation has been damaged by a leaker who refused to come forward knowing this investigation was going on," she said, a person who "lied to the rest of the board, by omission and commission, about the fact that he was the source of this information for a long period of time."

Also on Friday afternoon, HP CEO Mark Hurd sent a memo to employees addressing the controversy.

About the author

Jim Kerstetter has been writing about the high-tech industry since the 1990s. He has been a senior editor at PC Week and a Silicon Valley correspondent at BusinessWeek. He is now senior executive editor at CNET News. He moved back to Boston because he missed the Red Sox. E-mail Jim.

 

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