WP: Hurd Authorized HP Investigation

While much of the blame in the HP press leak scandal has fallen primarily at the feet of chairwoman Patricia Dunn, for the first time documents have surfaced that finger CEO Mark Hurd as authorizing at least part of the investigation.

In a front-page story appearing in the Thursday edition of the Washington Post, the paper says e-mails obtained by the paper indicate Hurd approved an attempt to trick a reporter into revealing her sources. While none of the e-mails are either to or from Hurd himself, they do indicate the operation had his approval.

These revelations circle around a single reporter, Dawn Kawamoto of CNET News.com. In an attempt to trick her into revealing her sources following a January 23 story on a private meeting of the board. A fictitious persona named "Jacob" was created by HP senior counsel Kevin Hunsaker and his Boston colleagues, and would act as a fan of Kawamoto's work and a "disgruntled HP executive."

Hunsaker would then go on to attempt to send the reporter two e-mails. The first would contain a legitimate tip on HP's handheld plans. However, the message also included a Trojan horse which would trace Kawamoto's e-mails and then report back to HP who she was talking to.

The second faked tip would then be used to see if she forwarded the mail to the leaker, the plans dictated.

An e-mail from Dunn on February 9 gave the first indication that Hurd approved the tactic: "I spoke with Mark and he is on board with the plan to use the info on new handhelds ... he also agrees that we should consider doing something with" the data-farm tip, the WP quotes the e-mail as saying.

Hurd's knowledge of the plan would again be confirmed in a later e-mail, after Dunn expressed concern that the legitimate handheld news would make its way past Kawamoto and onto other reporters. A February 23 e-mail from Hunsaker to Dunn said: "FYI, I spoke to Mark a few minutes ago and he is fine with both the concept and the content."

HP is refusing to comment on the latest allegations, although the company sent a media alert Thursday morning that a press conference was scheduled at the company's Palo Alto, Calif. headquarters for Friday afternoon. It is not clear if the announcement was related to the new revelations, but the topic is sure to arise during the meeting.

As disturbing as the news may be, HP may have acted within the law, say legal experts. There are no laws against sending a file that would be used to track communications, unless the person is using it to view files. In the same token, 'pretexting' is essentially legal, but actually 'wiretapping' without a court order is not.

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