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HP memos shed light on past pretexting

Internal documents say HP has pretexted before and that its investigators trailed a reporter while on vacation.

WASHINGTON--Internal memos released Thursday during a congressional probe of Hewlett-Packard shed more light on how the company's investigators surreptitiously obtained phone records.

Attorneys for Ann Baskins, HP's general counsel who resigned earlier in the day, distributed a sheaf of documents to reporters in the Rayburn House Office building here. The documents said, among other things, that HP acknowledged pretexting in other instances unrelated to the company's leak hunt, and that its outside investigators had pretexted a Wall Street Journal reporter for another client. ("Pretexting" means posing, often fraudulently, as someone else to obtain access to their personal records.)

Robert Christie, a spokesman for the Journal, said of the new information, "we are looking it." HP declined to comment about the revelation that it had been pretexting since 2005.

"As Mark Hurd said in his testimony today," HP spokesman Mike Moeller said on Thursday, "pretexting has no place in HP and in no way shape or form will be used as a technique in the future."

The memos were prepared by two associates for Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, a law firm that has done extensive work for HP and had been given the task of investigating what happened in the company's boardroom leaks.

One memo was about the actions of Kevin Hunsaker, HP's senior counsel and ethics officer. The other was about Ronald DeLia, managing director of Security Outsourcing Solutions, a Massachusetts investigation firm. DeLia refused to testify to the congressional committee on Thursday, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Excerpts follow from the two memos.

TO: HP Securities Litigation Team
FROM: Bahram Seyedin-Noor and Bryan Ketroser
SUBJECT: Interview of Ron DeLia
DATE: August 25, 2006

"DeLia said he has a contract with HP and historically about half of his work has been for HP. DeLia first learned about Kona I in mid-April 2005. Patricia Dunn contacted him directly. DeLia said that he had done HP-related due diligence and background work for her before on several occasions, but did not feel comfortable telling us that without her permission.

"Initially, DeLia reported directly to Dunn about once every week to 10 days. DeLia also spoke with Ann Baskins, who was brought in on the investigation sometime in June.

[Dunn inquired about whether DeLia had done these kind of investigations in the past.] "DeLia replied that he had undertaken a similar investigation involving leaks from a Big Five accounting firm to a Wall Street Journal reporter. DeLia was successful in finding the source of the leaks in that case.

"(DeLia) had conducted visual--not electronic--surveillance of the reporter at issue while on vacation and had skip tracers call the hotel the reporter had been staying at to obtain his hotel call records via pretexting, which revealed a call to a senior executive with the company. Pretexting was also used to determine where the reporter was vacationing--somebody called the reporter's office saying the reporter had requested certain information and asking someone in the office for the hotel number."

TO: HP Securities Litigation Team
FROM: Bahram Seyedin-Noor and Bryan Ketroser
SUBJECT: Interview of Kevin Hunsaker (draft)
DATE: August 25, 2006

"Hunsaker first learned that HP had used pretexting to obtain phone records in July 2005 in connection with an unrelated HP investigation. One of the subjects of that investigation was going through a messy divorce, and his attorney contacted Hunsaker, claiming that HP had attempted to change his PIN in order to access his voice mail. Hunsaker's team told him they had not altered the subject's PIN or voicemail but had used pretexting to obtain phone information about the subject.

"Hunsaker did not do any research into pretexting until the first week or two of the Kona II investigation."