Week in review: HP goes to Washington

Key players in pretexting probe appear before Congress, expressing regret or taking the Fifth.

Key players in Hewlett-Packard's pretexting probe appeared before a congressional committee to answer questions about the scandal. Some expressed regret, some claimed ignorance and some took the Fifth Amendment.

The committee began by grilling former Hewlett-Packard Chairman Patricia Dunn over why she didn't recognize that investigators would have to turn to dubious means to get personal phone records. Dunn said she relied on the advice of others, including HP's outside investigator, Ron DeLia.

"I did not know where this information could be found publicly, but I was aware that the kinds of investigations done by Mr. DeLia had previously been based solely on publicly available information," Dunn said.

The comments came at the start of two days of hearings by an oversight and investigations subcommittee of the House of Representatives' Energy and Commerce Committee. The hearings are focusing on the practice of pretexting, or obtaining phone records without consent and through the use of false pretenses.

Among those who refused to testify was Ann Baskins, who resigned Thursday morning as HP's general counsel.

HP CEO Mark Hurd testified that he wishes he had asked more questions about the leak investigation.

"I wish I had asked more questions," Hurd said in his opening statement before being questioned by the House subcommittee. "There are signs I wish I had caught."

Hurd repeated an earlier apology to the victims and to HP's employees.

"If Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard were alive today, they'd be appalled. They'd be embarrassed," he said.

Many CNET News.com readers expressed anger and frustration at HP executives, but one reader placed the blame for the privacy intrusion on the telephone companies.

"There are many safeguards they can put in place to protect our privacy," wrote one reader to News.com's TalkBack forum. "How about a simple 'we will call you back on your home phone line before we can continue'?"

In other developments, News.com learned that a second HP employee warned others at the company that the tactics being used in its leak probe might be illegal . In a Feb. 7 e-mail, HP security official Vincent Nye told the company's head of security and a lawyer supervising a probe into unauthorized leaks that he had "serious reservations" about what the company was doing.

Nye said that his understanding of the methods HP was using to obtain telephone records using false pretenses "leaves me with the opinion that it is very unethical at the least and probably illegal," he said in the e-mail, which was turned over to the House Energy and Commerce Committee and seen by CNET News.com.

One self-described data broker's expertise in pretexting offers insight into the methods now popular with hundreds of data brokers around the country. And while the data broker, who declines to say what he's done for a living since leaving data brokering, is not believed to have had anything directly to do with the HP spying, he is closely linked to some of those involved.

Spotlight on the core
Intel has built a prototype of a processor with 80 cores that can perform a trillion floating-point operations per second. CEO Paul Otellini held up a silicon wafer with the prototype chips before several thousand attendees at this week's Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco.

The chips are capable of exchanging data at a terabyte a second, Otellini said during a keynote speech. The company hopes to have these chips ready for commercial production within a five-year window. Intel uses its twice-yearly conference to educate developers on its long- and short-term plans. Over three days, hardware developers and partners get a chance to interact with Intel employees and take classes on new technologies.

 

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