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9/28/2006
02:27 PM
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An HP Blow-By-Blow

As soon as Patricia Dunn walked into Room 2123 of the Rayburn Building here on Capitol Hill, camera shutters went off like machine guns, all directed at the former Hewlett-Packard chairwoman, her curt dark hair, and her beige pantsuit. But the throngs of paparazzi stalking dark- and beige-suited business types alike before (and during, especially at the short lunch break) today's congressional hearings on Hewlett-Packard's probes into boardroom leaks and so-called "

As soon as Patricia Dunn walked into Room 2123 of the Rayburn Building here on Capitol Hill, camera shutters went off like machine guns, all directed at the former Hewlett-Packard chairwoman, her curt dark hair, and her beige pantsuit.

But the throngs of paparazzi stalking dark- and beige-suited business types alike before (and during, especially at the short lunch break) today's congressional hearings on Hewlett-Packard's probes into boardroom leaks and so-called "pretexting" only foreshadowed the fireworks to follow.Indeed, it took less than an hour for members of Congress to invoke former Enron CEO Ken Lay and less than a half hour for Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., to compare HP's investigations with the Watergate break-in. The bloviating opening statements, complete with a reference to the "I know nothing" philosophy of Hogan's Heroes character and bumbling German prison camp aide Sgt. Hans Schultz, led into the first set of witnesses.

One by one those witnesses declined to testify. Ten came to the stand, 10 invoked the Fifth Amendment. The perfect strike included now former HP general counsel Ann Baskins, former head of HP security investigations Anthony Gentilucci, former HP senior counsel Kevin Hunsaker, and several private investigators, including one woman hiding behind sunglasses for the short time she was at the witness table. Members of Congress clearly weren't happy with that turn of events. Veteran Rep. Joe Barton of Texas said he'd never before been at a hearing where everyone took the Fifth.

Fireworks did start in force as Dunn, HP's outside counsel Larry Sonsini, and HP security investigator Fred Adler took the stand and decided to talk. Bad choice. What follows is an actual and typical exchange:

Barton: If I came to you and asked for six months of your phone records, would you give them to me? Dunn: In your position, I would give you my phone records. Barton: Well, praise the lord. I wouldn't give you mine. Dunn: I hope that doesn't mean that you have something to hide.

Note that the word of the day is "burn," as in scolding. Dunn, who was forced out last week, said her understanding, before and during the investigation, had been that personal phone records were in general available to the public. In response, Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., scoffed. "You really believe that?" he asked. "You believed that I could call your carrier and say, 'I want Mrs. Dunn's phone records'? You're serious, you honestly believe it was that simple?" He quickly stifled a laugh from the assembled crowd. "I'm not laughing here. This is a serious matter."

Of course, HP CEO Mark Hurd is on next. We'll have to see how he holds up, seeing as how he drank a bottle of water in the hearing room despite signs outside letting him know not to drink in there.

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