HP probe dug deep on CNET reporter, family

Investigators tried to draw a connection between a board member and the father of a CNET News.com reporter.

Ina Fried Former Staff writer, CNET News
During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley.
Ina Fried
4 min read
Hewlett-Packard thoroughly investigated a third CNET News.com reporter and his family as part of its controversial probe into unauthorized media leaks, News.com has learned.

According to a government investigator, the company pursued the home and cellular telephone records of reporter Stephen Shankland as well as those of his father and his wife, a former News.com reporter and current Associated Press correspondent. The company also obtained a yearbook photograph of Shankland's mother, a high school teacher, and attempted to find ties between board member George Keyworth and Shankland's father, a semi-retired geophysicist. Shankland's father, Thomas Shankland, and George Keyworth both worked for some years at New Mexico's Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Although HP has said that investigators targeted the records of Stephen Shankland, the latest revelations indicate the aggressive tactics and the lengths to which investigators went in their effort to tie Keyworth to media reports. Keyworth, who stepped down from the board last week, said in a press release that he was a source for a January News.com story.

HP has said that, as part of its leak probe, the company employed pretexting, which involves using false pretenses to try to obtain information--in this case, the telephone records of more than a dozen people, including board members, nine journalists, two employees and an unspecified number of others. The admissions have led to a congressional probe, state and federal criminal investigations and an Securities and Exchange Commission inquiry.

Earlier this week an investigator told two other CNET News.com reporters that their phone records were targeted the week of Jan. 17, the week before a key CNET News.com report on an internal strategy meeting, which citied an unnamed source. On Feb. 9, HP sent reporter Dawn Kawamoto a bogus e-mail tip with an attachment that may have had code designed to track whoever opened it, investigators told her. For the next three days, HP also used physical surveillance to track Kawamoto, she said investigators have told her.

The investigator did not give a specific date for the inquiry into Stephen Shankland, but said it stretched from very late January through March and possibly into April, Stephen Shankland said. It is not clear which records HP investigators obtained; however, the company has said it did obtain records for Stephen Shankland.

Apology to reporter
The company has declined to offer specific details on what reporters' records were obtained, but has said it is cooperating with the various government probes.

"The company has been working with an investigative team to discover the full extent of how the nine reporters' information was obtained," an HP representative said. "Until that investigation is complete, it would be premature for HP to comment."

Chairman Patricia Dunn, who ordered the launch of the investigation and subsequently agreed to step down in January, apologized in an e-mail earlier this month. CEO Mark Hurd is slated to become chairman.

"I want to write to you directly to offer my deepest, unreserved, personal apology that your phone records were obtained without your knowledge as part of HP's investigation into breaches of board confidentiality," Dunn said in a Sept. 12 e-mail to Stephen Shankland.

In a March document, HP investigators noted that they had located Stephen Shankland's home number but had not yet gotten specific call records, the government investigator said. Also in March, another notation said, "We are in the process of locating (Stephen) Shankland's wife's cell phone number and obtaining calls from Stephen's home and cell for January 2006," according to documents read to Stephen Shankland by the investigator.

Meanwhile, according to T-mobile records, on Feb. 28, there were three attempts within 11 minutes to access balance information for Stephen Shankland's cell phone account. In the first and third instance, the person identified himself as Stephen Shankland, while the second time the person claimed to be "Rachel Shankland." Stephen Shankland's wife is named Rachel but goes by the name Rachel Konrad. Neither called T-Mobile that day, Stephen Shankland said.

In an effort to tie Thomas Shankland to Keyworth, HP traced their activities, including organizations to which both belonged. In an interview, Thomas Shankland said that he was a rank-and-file staff member while Keyworth was a department head in another part of the laboratory.

"I have no memory of ever having met him," Thomas Shankland told News.com.

HP said Thursday that it "recently has received" a request from the SEC's enforcement division asking for records related to the leak probe and to the May resignation of board member Tom Perkins, who has said he resigned after disagreements with Dunn.

The company has scheduled a press conference with Hurd for Friday afternoon and said it will address the leak probe, but has not said specifically what it will announce. The company also said late on Thursday that Hurd will make himself available to testify at a Sept. 28 hearing of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which is looking into the HP leak probe's use of pretexting.

Thomas Shankland said that he is reserving ultimate judgment of the affair until more details are known, including how many people who were not journalists or directors got caught up in the investigation.

"Things keep coming out," Thomas Shankland said. "The more things that do come out, the less reputable the whole (process) appears."