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9/8/2006
03:08 PM
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HP Claims Ignorance Of Leak Probe Methods

Under increasing fire for investigating board members and journalists in a media leak probe, HP officials are now claiming the company had no knowledge of the shady tactics used by hired investigators. Meanwhile, calls are growing for heads to roll.

An HP spokesperson said she was not sure if the company's media leak probe -- called illegal and stupid by California State Attorney General Bill Lockyer -- targeted anyone other than HP's board and nine journalists.

Emma Wischhusen, a public relations manager for HP, said the company had no prior knowledge that investigators hired on its behalf had misrepresented themselves to obtain reporters' phone records, whose employers include The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and CNET. Some of the publications involved have indicated they are exploring legal action. Wischhusen could not immediately say when or how HP learned its board president's investigation targeted anyone outside of HP.

"We're dismayed that the journalists' records were accessed without their knowledge, and we're fully cooperating with the attorney general's investigation," she said.

Wischhusen also said she could not confirm or deny news reports that Board President Patricia Dunn said she would step down if fellow board members asked her to leave.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Dunn, who holds a journalism degree from the University of California, Berkeley, said she was "appalled" to learn that reporters' and board members' records were uncovered under false pretenses. She also said that she was unaware of investigators' methods and is still in the dark about their identities because she was a potential target in the probe.

Several analysts and news outlets are calling for Dunn's resignation because she initiated an investigation that is now under the scrutiny of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Lockyer, the media, investors and analysts.

AT&T has filed a lawsuit to identify the person responsible for fraudulently obtaining some of the phone records. Lockyer has said Dunn's media leak investigation broke the law but he cannot know whom, if anyone, to prosecute until he learns more about who knew what and when. He has issued subpoenas in the case, but HP claimed that, as of Friday, recipients did not include the company or its officers.

HP has acknowledged that Dunn hired an outside firm, which in turn hired subcontractors to find out who leaked information from board meetings to the media. The company claimed it requested -- and received assurances -- that the investigators would comply with the law.

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