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Congress Asks HP for Information 106

An anonymous reader writes "Yahoo! is reporting that HP has been asked by Congress to turn over records related to the internal investigation of possible illegal media leaks. This request came as a part of the continuing look by the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee into 'pretexting.' From the article: 'The Federal Communications Commission has also taken interest in HP, asking AT&T Inc. last week how the company's private investigators managed to obtain the private phone records of board members and journalists. Following the investigation, board member George Keyworth II was identified as the source of the leak, and HP responded by barring him from seeking re-election.'"
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Congress Asks HP for Information

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  • by novus ordo ( 843883 ) on Monday September 11, 2006 @11:51PM (#16086505) Journal
    ...how they can be so effective in catching leakers. Thank you, thank you I will be here all week.
    • I don't know about catching them, but stopping them once you've found them is easy. A bit of Silicone [wikipedia.org] works wonders for stopping leaks!
    • by reporter ( 666905 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @01:09AM (#16086714) Homepage
      In an ideal society, crimes committed by very powerful people should result in very severe penalties. Crimes committed by less powerful people should result in less severe penalties. Here, one form of power is money.

      I am not suggesting that we should have 2 standards of punishment: one for powerful (usually quite rich) people and one for less powerful (usually less rich) people. Rather, I am suggesting that whenever the law grants a judge or a prosecutor wide discretion in meting a punishment, they should aggressively pursue and severely punish powerful people.

      The rationale is that the crimes of powerful people are much more likely to hurt -- or even kill -- people. If a messed-up dude from the ghetto steals a high-end Acura that is worth 3x of his annual salary, then he is injuring principally the owner of the car. On the other hand, if a conniving money manager steals 3x of his annual salary ($300,000) from a mutual fund that he is managing, then he is hurting a large number of people on a large scale ($900,000). We are talking abou completely different orders of magnitude.

      Sometimes, the justice system works in the way that I have suggested. For example, a special government-appointed prosecutor filed charges against both Scooter Libby and Bill Clinton for merely lying. The prosecutor acted appropriately.

      However, usually, the justice system fails. It often severely punishes (by assigning prison time) the hapless criminal from the ghetto but barely slaps the wrist of the conniving money manager. We know the "deal". Most money managers who have been caught stealing from investors typically settle for both a relatively (i.e., relative to the manager's net worth) small financial penalty and signed statement that explicitly does not admit wrongdoing. The statement typically has the clause, "neither admitting nor denying wrongdoing".

      The big question in the HP scandal is whether the justice system will slap Patricia Dunn (the chairperson of the HP board) on the wrist. Is there any chance that the justice system will actually punish her at the level of severity often meted to hapless criminals caught in the ghetto?

      • by Pantero Blanco ( 792776 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @01:48AM (#16086827)
        I am not suggesting that we should have 2 standards of punishment: one for powerful (usually quite rich) people and one for less powerful (usually less rich) people. Rather, I am suggesting that whenever the law grants a judge or a prosecutor wide discretion in meting a punishment, they should aggressively pursue and severely punish powerful people."


        That sounds like two standards to me...
        • That sounds like two standards to me...

          In Scandinavia (for sure in Finland, I think so in Sweden) fines are set according to your income.

          Remember that high level Nokia manager who was fined 10s thousands of Euros for speeding? I don't really think that there's a double standard here, but in the case that actual jail terms differ between rich and not so rich there is, of course.

          • It may make sense that fines relate to the criminal's income. But that doesn't mean in case of more severe criminal acts twice as rich people should be locked up twice as long for the same crime, does it?
        • by lawpoop ( 604919 )
          It's actually not two standards' the grandparent is poorly worded. Really , the standard is this:

          The punishment should fit the [severity of] the crime.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by klui ( 457783 )
        Since the wronged party is also rich and powerful, I can take a guess that she will receive much more than a slap on the wrist.
        • So the CNet reporters were righ and powerful? I'm sure that they would be very happy to know that.
      • Yep! (Score:4, Funny)

        by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @01:54AM (#16086846) Homepage Journal
        That's why My regime would require Samurai honor code for public servants and top level corporate executives. If you screw up in a big way and bring dishonor to your office you'd have to commit seppuku. [wikipedia.org] Steal billions of dollars, forcing employees of your company to work as Wal-Mart greeters until they die? Seppuku. Screw up the evacuation of a major city after a major disaster? Seppuku. Get caught funding an undeclared war in South America? Seppuku. And don't think MY regime wouldn't catch people, either! My regime would have informants EVERYWHERE!
        • so in other words, you're saying that after every setback for your adminstration, you would find some midlevel scapegoat and force them to commit seppuku to appease the masses? Good plan! that would definitely increase accountability.
          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward
            Make sarcastic comments about the administation? Seppuku!
        • by mrsev ( 664367 )
          Sounds like a great place to live. Remind me to vote for you. After all look at all the great happy democratic leaders that had such systems in place. Hitler, Stalin, Hirohito.
          .
          . .(By mentioning Godwin's Law I hope to aviod it!)
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Greyfox ( 87712 )
            I believe that it's been proven that a benevolent dictatorship really is the best form of government, as long as it stays benevolent. The problem with dictatorships is that even if they start with good intentions corruption inevitably spreads as the dictator puts all his friends and family members in positions of power. My regime will take a dim view of corruption and if they get caught at it... seppuku...

            My regime would be mostly benevolent. I would be harsher on crime across the board, but there'd be a

            • by mrsev ( 664367 )
              Well I thought I smelt a discordian.

              Anyway your offer of a cabinet position resolves all my moral objections to you benelovent and merciful rule. I accept.
      • Yes, that is why China kills its most corrupt mayors. Unfortunately people are people. And due to the Peter Principle [wikipedia.org] (and other principles on that page) it is likely that incompetent people will rise to a managerial role, which means that a screw-up is a screw-up regardless of how much money he is screwing up. Beyond a certain amount it's just numbers anyway. If you want to punish someone who is incompetent, punish the guy who hired them.

        White collar crime however stems from imperfect people, full of char
        • Well there is a difference between incompetence and corruption. Incompetence, particularly those that involve large losses should be caught quickly and the punishment is simple: firing or demotion--that's it. That's all that incompetence deserves. But corruption, thievery (particularly the type that requires a CEO to accomplish), and so on deserves swift, painful punishment. Forced repayment of entire wealth if necessary, large fines, long jail terms, and execution if deaths were involved.

          As far as t

          • here's an example to put things in perspective:

            let's say you knew a guy was committing murder. Him and a buddy all but told you so, but the police couldn't find the "smoking guy". You overhear they are going to a lake 100 miles away and can infer they are going to dump the evidence in their car there never to be found. You go to the lot, pop the tires and break the window to find a paper bag containing the gun and other evidence inside on the front seat. You now go to the rest of your friends, school, an

      • In an ideal society, crimes committed by very powerful people should result in very severe penalties. Crimes committed by less powerful people should result in less severe penalties. Here, one form of power is money.

        This is in effect in context of traffic violations in Finland: Getting a 100000 euro ticket for speeding is possible if you happen to have sky high income... It's absurd, but on the other hand the way foreign diplomats park and drive all around the world proves that people just don't respect

      • by monsted ( 6709 )
        Why does it matter if people are rich and powerful? Shouldn't the distinction be if they stole a lot or stole a little?

        I am a member of the "quite wealthy" demographic and certainly wouldn't think it fair to be given a 2x jail sentence for stealing that high-end Acura.

        (Could i steal an Aston Martin DB9 instead, please?)
      • That's a good point. Although I find it ironic that a government that has been, a pretty much admitted to, conducting the same behavior that they are accusing HP of doing.

        Ain't that pot calling the kettle black, eh?
      • The rationale is that the crimes of powerful people are much more likely to hurt -- or even kill -- people. If a messed-up dude from the ghetto steals a high-end Acura that is worth 3x of his annual salary, then he is injuring principally the owner of the car. On the other hand, if a conniving money manager steals 3x of his annual salary ($300,000) from a mutual fund that he is managing, then he is hurting a large number of people on a large scale ($900,000). We are talking abou completely different orders

      • "The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread."
        -Anatole France
      • by drew ( 2081 )

        The rationale is that the crimes of powerful people are much more likely to hurt -- or even kill -- people. If a messed-up dude from the ghetto steals a high-end Acura that is worth 3x of his annual salary, then he is injuring principally the owner of the car. On the other hand, if a conniving money manager steals 3x of his annual salary ($300,000) from a mutual fund that he is managing, then he is hurting a large number of people on a large scale ($900,000). We are talking abou completely different orders

      • In an ideal society, crimes committed by very powerful people should result in very severe penalties. Crimes committed by less powerful people should result in less severe penalties.

        No no no. There should not be unequal penalities based on how powerful a person is. If a powerful person shoplifts they should get the same punishment as the less powerful person. If they both steal millions of dollars then they should both get the same punishment. The same goes if they kill or rape someone.

        Your exampl

      • I am not suggesting that we should have 2 standards of punishment..

        Yet, since we already have two systems of punishment -- one system for the plutocrats and another for the working class (those of us still lucky enough to work), poor and politically-unconnected (Martha Stewart - although a plutocrat, falls into this second group as she served time, but the Harvard fund-raiser who was politically-connected and gave her the insider info., didn't) -- your suggestion means nothing (sorry about that chief!).

    • The real questions Congress should be asking:

      Regarding the leaking of the identity of a covert CIA agent and the entire front company that she worked for. Their area of expertise was of course weapons of mass destruction.

      IIRC disclosure of the identity of covert agents is a federal felony.

      Congress should demand to see the after action reports on how many assets were comprised (people killed) as a direct result of this.
  • by Desolator144 ( 999643 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @12:00AM (#16086535)
    "Congress Asks HP for Information"...but, we can't forget the lesser part of the story. They also asked: "Our printer lights are flashing and the motor is whirring and it won't take in any paper, what do we do?"
  • Anyone else looking forward to seeing what kind of monstrous legislation we get in answer to this problem? Whatever it is, I sure hope it includes funding for an escalator to nowhere.
    • Eh... no. With things like the patriot act passing, I'm willing to bet this "monstrous legislation" won't make this illegal for companies while quietly passing through a clause to finally clarify in legal terms the government's right to do so. Mean while 99% of Americans will go by happily applauding the talking heads for working together to fix these kinds of corporate scandals.
      • I agree, I was being sarcastic. Although you forgot some important things... Not only will the coming 500 page law not exactly make it illegal for a company to do it and make it legal for a government to do it, but, it will also include financing for pork projects around the country(like 2.3m dollars for fuzzy navel research in Florida), and it will be called the "Save the Children Act".

        I'm of course assuming the past is an indicator of the future.
    • by ClamIAm ( 926466 )
      an escalator to nowhere

      Um, right.

      I like an escalator because an escalator can never break. It can only become stairs. You would never see an "Escalator temporarily out-of-order" sign. Just "Escalator temporarily stairs. Sorry for the convenience. We apologize for the fact that you can still get up there." --Mitch Hedberg
  • White house (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    It would be nice if congress would go after the white house. I find it amazing that they would get involved with a private business, but allow a president to ignore our rights.
    • Kick up a big dust storm to get eyes off political issues that matter.
    • Re:White house (Score:4, Informative)

      by Wavicle ( 181176 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @01:35AM (#16086795)
      I find it amazing that they would get involved with a private business, but allow a president to ignore our rights.

      We have a republican president and a republican-controlled congress. Don't think for a moment that if we had a democrat president and democrat-controlled congress we wouldn't have the exact same problem. Partisan politics means protecting your party even in cases of egregious wrong. American politics needs a serious dose of proportional representation. But that would require democrat and republican politicians to agree to change the system. Somehow, I don't think that's gonna happen. They both play the gerrymandering game - they're both fairly corrupt.
    • It would be nice if congress would go after the white house. I find it amazing that they would get involved with a private business, but allow a president to ignore our rights.

      Even more galling is that there hasn't yet been any federal investigation of Diebold and its AccuVote system despite the many documented cases of suspicious activity and incorrect poll tallies. This is a classic example of a bought-and-paid-for Congress looking the other way to maintain the status quo. All this, and yet they have the
  • When congress "asks" individuals or business for anything--records, testimony, etc, is it compulsory? In other words, are you mandated by law to obey them as though it were a court order?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by antonlacon ( 821983 )
      If it's a formal asking, yes. They're called Congressional subpoenas. Failure to due so can result in contempt of Congress.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contempt_of_Congress [wikipedia.org]
      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Failure to due so can result in contempt of Congress.

        What if we already have contempt for Congress?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by NMerriam ( 15122 )
      No, but Congress does have subpeona power, which WOULD be compulsory and be a bad way to start the meeting. So usually folks go along with requests from Congress and use relationships with friendly congressmen to try and limit topics covered or questions away from the more embarrassing stuff.
      • Of course any "request" from Congress to a large company includes the phrase "... and if you don't maybe we'll have your taxes investigated, sic the Anti-Trust boys on you and/or reregulate your industry to cripple you." usaully not written down, but it's there.
  • The Federal Communications Commission has also taken interest in HP, asking AT&T Inc. last week how the company's private investigators managed to obtain the private phone records of board members and journalists.

    Well, a likely candidate is something like Jigsaw [release1-0.com]. Capitalism at its finest.
  • by cryfreedomlove ( 929828 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @12:13AM (#16086581)
    Why is congress getting involved? Isn't this area sufficiently covered by state and federal law that they can leave it up to an Attorney General somewhere?

    I suspect grandstanding. Get the parade grounds ready because the marching band is coming!
    • by Brett Buck ( 811747 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @01:10AM (#16086719)
      > Why is congress getting involved? Isn't this area sufficiently covered
      > by state and federal law that they can leave it up to an Attorney General somewhere?
      > I suspect grandstanding.

              A chance to grill one of the those terrible corporate executive fat cats, possibly on TV? Two months before a mid-term election? I just can't see the connection...

                Brett
    • Why is congress getting involved? Isn't this area sufficiently covered by state and federal law that they can leave it up to an Attorney General somewhere?

      It's may not be, the HP thing has been big news lately because there's debate as to wether it is covered by law, it's not clear if pretexting phone records is illegal since it's "non-financial" information.

    • by Himring ( 646324 )
      Why is congress getting involved? Isn't this area sufficiently covered by state and federal law that they can leave it up to an Attorney General somewhere?

      Congress is federal.

      Also, and I've only read the blurbs, if it is true that HP attained private phone records that's fairly huge and well-worthy of the biggest attention. It's one thing when the government does it -- which rightly always a topic on /., but now your boss? What's next? Getting paid with factory notes like they did circa early 20th
  • Competition (Score:5, Funny)

    by AuMatar ( 183847 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @12:21AM (#16086597)
    The government doesn't like competition- its the NSAs job to illegally spy on people!
    • I can see you're trying to be funny, but you don't understand a few things about the US government. Congress and the NSA are in two separate and idependent branches of govenment. The Congress is part of the Legislative Branch, and the NSA is an Executive Branch organization. The NSA may have been spying, but Congress is looking at that, as well as HP's actions. So, the Government may have been illegally spying on people, but because of the way that the government is structured, Congress is not being hyp
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Congress is looking at that, .... at the other way.

        Iam waiting for Nov elections so that the new Dems Congress and Senate can impeach the prez. and indict him for war crimes.

        Yesterday he publicly acknowledges that Saddam had nothing to do with 9-11, which is what CIA had been saying all along.

        He went to war based on his, cheney's and Rice's shoutings that Saddam's link with Qaeda were so strong....and his WMD arsenal... All of which have been proven wrong and even acknowledged by His Majesty himself.

        And

        • by Phroggy ( 441 ) *
          Iam waiting for Nov elections so that the new Dems Congress and Senate can impeach the prez. and indict him for war crimes.

          Don't hold your breath.

          Why don;t all the parents/spouses of all the fine Soldiers he got killed sue the Prez in a Civil Action. Its easier to get a judgement that way.

          Four of the nine justices currently on the Supreme Court were appointed by either GW Bush or his father. Three were appointed by other Republican presidents.
  • by smilindog2000 ( 907665 ) <bill@billrocks.org> on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @12:25AM (#16086605) Homepage
    I worked at HP in 1988-1989. I wont bother to look up his name, but some business-school schmuck was ruining the "HP Way". No more weekly donuts. No more team-spirit.

    David Packard apparently was very concerned. He came out of retirement for a while to run the company. Everything got good again, fast.

    Some other examples: Bill Gates, Sony's dead founder/CEO, Walt Disney, and Steve Jobs. Like them or hate them, they leave a mark. Once their gone, multi-billion-dollar corporations can fade into irrelevance. We simply haven't found a way to identify these guys and put them in the top jobs. Unless they build the company themselves, they never get there.
    • P.S. I'm one of those guys, but no-one believes me! :-O
    • There is a relatively well known subconcious perseption from people in general that only tall and good looking are capable of running companies well. So when the appointment comes from a board of directors in a public company, the choices are subconciously limited to those who fit the ideal look. So, generally the only way you will find it to be otherwise, is when the short and ugly found their own company and become successful on their own.
    • by kfg ( 145172 ) * on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @03:04AM (#16086985)
      We simply haven't found a way to identify these guys and put them in the top jobs. Unless they build the company themselves, they never get there.

      My own experience as a director is that these people, for the most part, are quite easily identified by boards and rejected, often quite adamantly, by them.

      Big business now runs on the concept of replacable mediocrity, extending right up to the level of the company president. A good, strong leader is hard to replace and thus leaves a hole behind when he/she leaves (noticable publicly by the dramatic dip in the stock price). They create a corporate culture that is very much centered around their personality (see Microsoft) so that even the public views the leader and the company as one and the same.

      This is anethma to the corporate board. What they're looking for is the effective dullard. The sort of person who can work the system well enough to get a degree in history from an Ivy League school, but remain ignorant of history in practice, because they never actually understood the material they were studying. The sort of person with strong, but simple ideas who will be intellectually content with just keeping the gears of the system turning smoothly.

      The schools currently pump this sort of person out by the container full, so if you lose one you can just go grab yourself another and the boat (and the stock prices) doesn't rock much in the process.

      I haven't sat on a board for years now and the last time I was effectively ousted, from a company I cofounded (to continue a preexisting sole proprietorship in corporate clothing whose orginal founder had died). I rocked the boat. I made public statements that the majority of the board didn't like ( I never "leaked." I always talked directly to the press for attribution). I created discord without anything productive coming out of it because I was out of line with the majority view.

      And in a sense the board was right to get rid of me, I didn't belong there. The company has grown smoothly and continues to thrive and grow under distinctly mediocre, largely invisible, but nominally effective, leadership, which has changed hands a few times without much of anyone even noticing that it was going on.

      Shooting stars need not apply.

      KFG
      • by msouth ( 10321 )
        Go public, be run by the public. You don't get all that money for free. Companies that go public should understand that they are selling their souls to the same people that brought us our current gov't, laws, etc. Once you get big, the large majority of people involved want stability, and having an innovator at the top doesn't give them that.
        • by kfg ( 145172 ) *
          Companies that go public should understand that they are selling their souls to the same people that brought us our current gov't, laws, etc.

          Which is why that is one of the major issues I opposed. We could have remained closely held and earned our own way, but the lure of "free" money was too much for most of the rest of the board (especially for the FDR, Red Diaper Babies our board got packed with. Go figure).

          KFG
          • by msouth ( 10321 )
            Just wanted to share a humorous tidbit with you. When I got notification via email that you had responded, this was the in-email ad:

            Ever wonder why HP has seven consecutive years of Linux market share
            leadership? Maybe it's our portfolio of best-of-breed partner products, or
            HP value-add in management, high availability, and virtualization. Maybe
            it's the integrated, consolidated infrastructure of HP BladeSystem,
            single-source accountability and solution support from HP Services in 160
            countries, or just our un

            • by kfg ( 145172 ) *
              I wasn't trying to attack you or your role. . .

              No problemo.

              . . .the pop business book "Built to Last" . . .

              Might pop that one on the To Read list, but admit I'll give Cicero preference.

              Do you have it blogged/described in more detail anywhere?

              People keep asking me to. I keep saying no. I post on Slashdot. Very low pundit factor that way. I like that.

              KFG
    • by houghi ( 78078 )
      We simply haven't found a way to identify these guys and put them in the top jobs. Unless they build the company themselves, they never get there.


      If they don't start their own company, they are not one of 'these guys'. So I would say it is faily easy to identify them. Start with the fortunate 500 or however large a number you want. Look how many of these companies are ran by the person who started it ad you have found 'them'.
    • I'm thinking your timeline might be a little messed up. Dave Packard was still chairman until 1993, at which point he was succeeded by Lew Platt, who was an old-school engineer who worked his way up through the ranks. Carly was the first hired gun, in '99. But it's hard to say: there are CEOs and CFOs and Presidents and Chairmen, and you might be speaking of someone totally different. The late '80's was about when people I know stopped enjoying HP. My dad stuck it out for another 8 years, I left, my th
      • My memory is infamous for errors. I was at Hewlett Packard in 1988 and 1989. I found this:

        John A. Young was president of Hewlett-Packard Company from 1977 to 1992, and chief executive officer from 1978 to 1992.

        Bill and David were getting old, and letting Young run the place. I don't see specific events in the history, but Young was replaced in 1992, and David took a stronger hand in the company. Things didn't improve until then, after I'd left.
        • I'd totally forgotten about John Young. I thought he was a sales/marketing guy who'd worked his way up, but I can't remember. But your memory sounds pretty good in this case. I remembered Dave "coming back" but I couldn't remember how or in what capacity.
  • I hope they used HP's chat because it's impossible to understand what they say via telephone.

    Hooray for outsourcing!

  • by theodp ( 442580 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @12:47AM (#16086652)
    The House Committee's Letter to HP [com.com] (PDF).
  • Some nerve (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Guppy06 ( 410832 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @12:53AM (#16086665)
    "The Federal Communications Commission has also taken interest in HP, asking AT&T Inc. last week how the company's private investigators managed to obtain the private phone records of board members and journalists."

    Isn't this the same AT&T that's all too willing to sell the government private phone records without anything as silly as a warrant?

    How are they going to answer? "Why, the same way you did, of course."
    • I think it has something to do with some Congressional sub-committee's investigation into such controversial practices as pretexting, which was allegedly used in by private investigators hired by HP to find the leakers.
      I saw some hearing on one of the CSPAN channels a couple of months ago about that kind of thing.
      Sorry that I can't post any links or anything, but I'm too tired to go searching for it. Would anybody be so obliging?
  • I note with some amusement that the Yahoo story says "possibly illegal probe of media leaks" and the Slashdot story emphasizes "internal investigation of possible illegal media leaks". Is there a hidden agenda here?

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