September 20, 2006

as the stomach turns

Given the apparent depth of the mud piling up around the HP Board's long-running leak investigation/scandal, I'm not going to make any comments other than to say that news like this ("Extensive Spying Found at HP", WashPo 9/20/06) absolutely makes me ill.

The Feb. 10 report, obtained by The Washington Post, summarized in eight pages how investigators, to identify an internal leak of confidential HP information, surreptitiously followed HP board member George A. Keyworth II while he was giving a lecture at the University of Colorado. They watched his home in Piedmont, Calif. They used photographs of a reporter to see if the reporter met with him. And they tried to recover a laptop computer stolen from him in Italy so they could analyze its contents.

The report, prepared by a consulting firm in Needham, Mass., hired to investigate leaks to the media, was sent to four HP executives, including HP's ethics director. That suggests that senior HP employees were aware of the spying tactics used as early as February.

...The report described how investigators sent an e-mail to a reporter for the online technology publication that contained spyware software in an attached file. If opened, the attachment was designed to install itself on her computer and track every keystroke.

I feel betrayed.

Oh, and I just noticed the NY Times is reporting the following, based on emails it obtained from an unnamed source:

Concern over legality was reflected in an e-mail message sent on Jan. 30 by Mr. Hunsaker, the chief ethics officer, to Mr. Gentilucci, the manager of global investigations. Referring to a private detective in the Boston area, Ronald R. DeLia, whom the company had hired, he asked: “How does Ron get cell and home phone records? Is it all above board?”

Mr. Gentilucci responded that Mr. DeLia, the owner of Security Outsourcing Solutions, had investigators “call operators under some ruse.”

He also wrote: “I think it is on the edge, but above board. We use pretext interviews on a number of investigations to extract information and/or make covert purchases of stolen property, in a sense, all undercover operations.”

Mr. Hunsaker’s e-mail response, in its entirety, said: “I shouldn’t have asked....”

If true, then "I shouldn't have asked" doesn't begin to describe it, does it?

Posted by Gene at 9:33 AM | TrackBack

September 8, 2006

oh boy, here we go

From the AP, HP Chair: Board Members Want Her to Stay

Hewlett-Packard Co. Chairwoman Patricia Dunn said Friday that several of her fellow board members want to her remain on the job despite a criminal investigation into her efforts to plug a media leak -- a crusade that spawned a ruse to obtain the personal phone records of company directors and at least nine reporters.

"I serve at the pleasure of the board," Dunn told The Associated Press in an interview. "I totally trust their judgment. If they think it would be better for me to step aside, I would do that. But a number of directors have urged me to hang in there."

Batten down the hatches.

Update: The WSJ posted a pdf of a string of emails between Tom Perkins and Larry Sonsini (HP's outside counsel is WSGR). Elsewhere, Perkins has upped the ante by referring the matter to a federal prosecutor and regulators at the FCC and FTC.

I guess HP Way 2.0 is going to have to wait.

Posted by Gene at 12:43 PM | TrackBack

some reasonable questions to ask

I don't think it is unreasonable to ask:

If a company orders an investigation of certain reporters, can it then expect to ever have those reporters write about them again, under any positive circumstances?

If a news organization's reporters were targeted in such an investigation, how will they then treat that company in the future?

If a company is willing to investigate the personal communications of its own board members as well as outside parties, then under what circumstances would it behave similarly toward its employees?

Bad mojo, folks.

Posted by Gene at 9:24 AM | TrackBack

September 7, 2006

the damage is Dunn

Update 09/08/06: According to the WSJ ($), "H-P CHAIRMAN DUNN SAID she was "appalled" by the tactics used in the board's probe of media leaks. She has no plans to resign, but would step down if asked by the board."


I don't see how Patricia Dunn can avoid resigning from HP's board at this point. Regardless of the outcome of the California AG's investigation, Dunn's own integrity has been compromised, along with that of the rest of the board and increasingly the entire HP company. Public opinion in the press and blogs is running overwhelmingly against her, and is building to outrage with the latest disclosure that nine reporters' phone records were also targeted. Could she fight to keep her seat? Sure, and maybe she could even win that battle. But at what cost in reputation, and what impact on the brand, from a long and public boardroom storm? For the good of the company she serves, and as a good and principled leader in her own right, it is time for her to do the right thing.

This analysis on Groklaw makes me concerned about where else the trail will lead. Are other members of the Board similarly compromised? Personnel inside HP? It's all speculation at this point, but when you pull on loose threads things can unravel badly.

CNet has pdf copies of two additional email letters from Tom Perkins to Ann Baskins and the HP Board dated July 18th and 28th, which are further revealing of the backstory.

Ugh. I need to go wash my hands.

As always, these are my own opinions and not those of my employer.

Posted by Gene at 11:57 PM | TrackBack

September 5, 2006

wtf hp?

We've had some pretty amazing board-level dramas at my employer over the last several years, but this is baffling. Intrigue in High Places (Newsweek): "To catch a leaker, Hewlett-Packard's chairwoman spied on the home phone records of its board of directors".

The confrontation at Hewlett-Packard started innocently enough. Last January, the online technology site CNET published an article about the long-term strategy at HP, the company ranked No. 11 in the Fortune 500. While the piece was upbeat, it quoted an anonymous HP source and contained information that only could have come from a director. HP’s chairwoman, Patricia Dunn, told another director she wanted to know who it was; she was fed up with ongoing leaks to the media going back to CEO Carly Fiorina’s tumultuous tenure that ended in early 2005. According to an internal HP e-mail, Dunn then took the extraordinary step of authorizing a team of independent electronic-security experts to spy on the January 2006 communications of the other 10 directors-not the records of calls (or e-mails) from HP itself, but the records of phone calls made from personal accounts. That meant calls from the directors’ home and their private cell phones. (Link and emphasis added)

Wow. I guess our PR folks must be pulling an all-nighter in preparation for a lousy tomorrow. HP's going to be pilloried in the press and the blogs, that's for certain.

Update: The director who talked to CNet was George Keyworth, who has been on the HP board for the last 20 years.

More: From the SJ Merc article:

"Fundamentally, it is about accountabilty,'' said Ryan Donovan, a spokesman for the Palo Alto company. ``It doesn't matter whether you are a member of the board or a rank and file employee. We have standards of business conduct and if you violate those, there are consequences.''

Ironically, Donovan was speaking of Keyworth.

And yet more: The Smoking Gun has posted former director Thomas Perkins' letter to the board, and a letter from AT&T to Perkins detailing unauthorized accesses to his online billing records.

"I am hereby providing the Company notice that I consider the Company's Form 8-K filed on May 22, 2006, relating to my resignation to be defective because it did not describe my objection to and disagreement with the Company's operations, policies and practices as they relate to the chair's improper and likely unlawful investigation...

As the Company failed to make a full and accurate report (as required by federal law) and having given the Company several opportunities to correct the record, I am now legally obliged to disclose publicly the reasons for my resignation. This is a very sad duty. My history with the Hewlett-Packard Company is long and I have been privileged to count both founders as close friends. I consider HP to be an icon of Silicon Valley, and one of the great companies of the world. It now needs, urgently, to correct its course."

I find this situation extremely troubling. The very first paragraph of HP's Standards of Business Conduct states:

HP conducts its business with uncompromising integrity. Every member of the HP community—directors, executives, managers, employees and business partners—has a duty to comply with all applicable law and adhere to the highest standards of business ethics (emphasis added).

If Perkins' and Newsweek's allegations are true, then Patricia Dunn and any other members of the HP board or company that were responsible for these acts have done HP a grave disservice and they should stand down from the board. This is of course my own personal opinion and not that of HP. But I don't know how anyone could interpret this story as an example of "uncompromising integrity". Certainly, if I had done this to members of my team, there can be little doubt what the consequences would be.

Posted by Gene at 11:17 PM | TrackBack

May 4, 2006

torture is unamerican

Those card-carrying types at the ACLU have the nerve to suggest that "torture is un-American".

TO: Condoleezza Rice U.S. Secretary of State

Dear Madam Secretary:

Torture. Government kidnapping. Indefinite detention.

These are not ideas we associate with the United States of America. They do not represent who we are as Americans. By promoting and condoning these practices in our military and intelligence forces, your administration has broken faith with the American values of freedom and fairness.

Last week marked two years since the world first saw the terrible images from Abu Ghraib prison. As human rights experts from around the world gather in Geneva to condemn torture, the U.S. must stand by its own time-honored principles.

Widespread evidence, including over 100,000 government documents released to the ACLU under the Freedom of Information Act, shows a systemic pattern of torture and abuse of detainees in U.S. custody.

These acts go against our most cherished American ideals. When our leaders promote torture and fail to hold themselves accountable for illegal abuses, they no longer speak for me or for the America in which I believe.

We demand our country back.

If you agree with such blasphemy, I suggest you go sign their petition.

Posted by Gene at 7:27 AM

April 7, 2006

so close you can smell the stench of corruption

I'm in Washington DC this week, and given the news out of this place, it's oddly appropriate that I'm putting up at the Watergate Hotel. After the last few blustery days, today started out damp and blossomed into a ripe warm spring afternoon. The Mall was vibrant, dressed in fresh grass and cherry blossoms, and the White House shone radiant in the afternoon sun. But there is a deep-seated poison here, a miasma of corruption both willful and pervasive. You can almost see it, hear the bastards cackling with glee.

When you're this close, you can really feel the power and hubris of our so called leaders.

"A senior administration official, speaking on background because White House policy prohibits comment on an active investigation, said Bush sees a distinction between leaks and what he is alleged to have done. The official said Bush authorized the release of the classified information to assure the public of his rationale for war as it was coming under increasing scrutiny."
"Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales left open the possibility yesterday that President Bush could order warrantless wiretaps on telephone calls occurring solely within the United States — a move that would dramatically expand the reach of a controversial National Security Agency surveillance program."
"DeLay said Thursday that announcing his resignation has been liberating. Quoting Martin Luther King. Jr., DeLay said, 'Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, I'm free at last.'"

A leak is not a leak unless I say so. We won't spy on American citizens without a warrant, unless we decide that we want to. Tom DeLay cloaks himself in the words of Martin Luther King Jr.

The audacity of these people is beyond belief.

[Quotes from Washington Post, Washington Monthly, and the Hill newsletter, all via Talking Points Memo, the best political news site in the blogosphere.]

Posted by Gene at 4:44 PM | Comments (2)

March 29, 2006

there must be a word for this...

Speaking of the Family Research Council, can we just be clear about who these people are and what they believe in?

The Family Research Council (FRC) champions marriage and family as the foundation of civilization, the seedbed of virtue, and the wellspring of society. FRC shapes public debate and formulates public policy that values human life and upholds the institutions of marriage and the family. Believing that God is the author of life, liberty, and the family, FRC promotes the Judeo-Christian worldview as the basis for a just, free, and stable society.

Core Principles
* God exists and is sovereign over all creation. He created human beings in His image. Human life is, therefore, sacred and the right to life is the most fundamental of political rights.
* Life and love are inextricably linked and find their natural expression in the institutions of marriage and the family.
* Government has a duty to promote and protect marriage and family in law and public policy.
* The American system of law and justice was founded on the Judeo-Christian ethic.
* American democracy depends upon a vibrant civil society composed of families, churches, schools, and voluntary associations.

Wow. If you read the code here, you can see that what they are promoting is nothing less than a Christian religious theocracy:

* A Creationist view of the universe
* Abortion (and presumably murder) is against the will of God and should be outlawed with a constitutional amendment
* Marriage and family are between a man and a woman, gays need not apply
* Government must prevent same sex marriage and adoptions by same sex couples
* The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount are the basis of American law
* Political power in the American democracy is underpinned by evangelical Christianity

These guys are nothing if not clear on what they want. Don't be fooled.

So what do you call it, this phenomenon where people cloak themselves in some sound-bite friendly name, and behind the curtain they espouse a very different agenda? "Focus on the Family", "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth", that sort of thing. Is there a word for this?

Posted by Gene at 12:31 PM