E-mail Snooping Draws Fire in HP Hearing

The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s hearing on Hewlett-Packard’s boardroom mess this morning didn’t just focus on pretexting, the low-tech art of lying to people. Texas Rep. Michael Burgess got pretty worked up over a stealth technology that would’ve tracked a News.com reporter’s e-mail (if it had worked).

Burgess compared the e-mail bug to a wiretap on the phone in questioning Fred Adler, a former FBI agent who works in HP’s security unit. Adler disagreed.

“This was not a real-time interception that involves the reception of personal data,” he parsed.

“It’s like going through the mail in my mailbox,” Burgess replied, incredulous.

“I didn’t go through your mail,” Adler said flatly.

“It gives me the creeps that someone would do that,” Burgess said a few minutes later to former Chairwoman Patricia Dunn.

“It is surprising that it’s legal, isn’t it?” Dunn replied, unusually contentious after a morning of slightly befuddled testimony.

Dunn also fought hard when Florida Rep. Cliff Stearns tried explicitly to get her to accept some blame in the scandal. Dunn referred to her submitted testimony and squabbled with the congressman a bit before insisting, “I do not accept personal responsibility for what happened but I’m very sorry.”

Stearns suggested the scandal might’ve led her to consider resigning.

“I did resign,” Dunn said, brightly offering to do so again if it’d help.

Elaborating more soberly on why she quit if the scandal wasn’t her responsibility, she blamed the press coverage.

“I think finally the board decided I was a major distraction to the company getting over this problem. They asked me to resign,” she said.

Brian McDonough

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