Tuesday, September 19, 2006, 9/19/2006 08:58:00 AM

HP Mess Keeps Getting Messier

From the New York Times, a report, under the headline "Hewlett Review is Said to Detail Deeper Spying," which fleshes out more of the story we've been following here. In short, it just keeps getting worse.

The Times reports that the company's investigation of boardroom leaks was initially supervised by HP's Chairwoman, its general counsel, and another company lawyer who was also, ironically, HP's chief ethics officer. Soon though, an outside investigative firm and its subcontractors took over.

Among the new problems reported are an attempt to place spyware on the computer of a reporter for CNET -- a likely violation of the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act, if true -- and tailing of other reporters. That surveillance, while not illegal, is not exactly going to endear HP to the press.

The Times also reports that a legal opinion purportedly blessing the investigation was not obtained from HP's regular lawyers but instead from a Boston law firm which shared office space with the firm of investigators. That firm, in turn, is reported to have had ties with HP's Boston-based manager of global investigators.

In addition to state and federal prosecutors, a House subcommittee is apparently getting into the act with a subpoena of its own.

Again, the case is becoming a textbook example of how to turn an annoyance into a legal and public relations disaster.

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