The New Yorker looks into HPGate

Worth reading: James B. Stewart, most recently the author of DisneyWar, investigates HPGate, Hewlett-Packard's misguided pursuit of boardroom leakers, for the The New Yorker.

Worth reading: James B. Stewart, most recently the author of DisneyWar, investigates HPGate, Hewlett-Packard's misguided pursuit of boardroom leakers, for the The New Yorker. He doesn't shed much new light overall on HPGate in his article, to be published tomorrow, but provides some perspective and fresh details, such as on the relationship between alleged boardroom leaker Jay Keyworth and my colleague, CNET News.com reporter Dawn Kawamoto.

Along with Tom Krazit, Kawamoto wrote the story in January last year that motivated now former HP board member Patricia Dunn (caricature at left from The New Yorker article) to "break out the lie detectors" and spearhead the "Kona" investigation that included accessing phone records of reporters, board members and HP employees.

Stewart quotes Keyworth in the aftermath of the leak investigation led by Dunn, who now faces four felony counts as a result a reckless witch hunt: 

“I’ve had some tough criticism in my life,” he said, “but I’ve never been dragged in the mud like this before. I kept the nation’s atomic secrets! I’m on the board of General Atomics, which makes the Predator aircraft. I’m close to top people in the U.S. military. Now I’ve been branded a ‘leaker.’ ” Though readily acknowledging that he was a source for Kawamoto’s January 23rd article (a “puff piece,” as he calls it), he resents insinuations that he leaked any confidential Hewlett-Packard information.

According to Stewart's account, current Chairman and CEO Mark Hurd, who is credited with turning the $90 billion company around in the last two years, as well as Dunn and other executives were knowledgeable about the accessing of phone records:

At the first mention of getting access to directors’ and reporters’ personal phone records, she should have tried to stop the investigation. But the same could be said, even more emphatically,of others connected to the investigation: Hunsaker and Baskins, certainly—both of them lawyers—but also Mark Hurd, who as chief executive was privy to both Kona I and Kona II, attended an early meeting at which phone records were discussed, and was briefed on their progress.

“Mark got the same legal advice I did,” Dunn said. “He got the same memos. We were both victims.” But Hurd remains chairman of Hewlett-Packard, and Dunn faces four felony counts. Dunn worries that she won’t live long enough to defend herself in court. [Dunn has been diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer].

Hurd has described the situation as "isolated incidents of impropriety, and not an indication of how we conduct business at Hewlett-Packard." As I written before about this topic, HP's black bag operation is like a scene from "All the President’s Men" or "Keystone Cops," with bumbling, clueless, unethical, misguided, pernicious participants. It’s not that trying to find leakers is wrong, it’s the methods. As Stewart points out, the HP executives associated with the leak investigation could have prevented or stopped the pre-texting and other questionable activities.

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