Private Investigators to Testify Before Congress on Hewlett-Packard Scandal

Five private investigators who allegedly served as the foot soldiers in Hewlett-Packard Co.'s efforts to identify the source of a boardroom leak have been ordered to testify at Thursday's congressional hearing on the affair.

The subpoenas, announced Wednesday, were the second batch issued by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The private eyes are believed to have masqueraded as journalists, HP directors and employees to obtain their phone records. Last weekend, two HP employees and the operator of a detective firm were ordered to appear.

The House committee will be exploring a scandal has roiled Silicon Valley's largest and oldest technology company, brought federal and state criminal probes, and claimed the company's chairwoman, two directors and two high-level employees. California's attorney general has said he has enough evidence to indict HP insiders and contractors.

Now-deposed Chairwoman Patricia Dunn, in a determined effort to keep board discussions secret, authorized the company leak investigation but has insisted she wasn't aware of the extreme tactics used. Dunn, HP CEO Mark Hurd — who succeeded her as chairman on Friday — and General Counsel Ann Baskins also have agreed to appear at the hearing.

"I'm deeply concerned about corporations, in this case HP, using private detectives and information brokers to obtain illicit access to telephone records and other personal information," Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., a senior member of the House panel, said in a statement Wednesday. "We need to know how this happened, why HP and others thought this was legal, and how widespread (is) this practice of spying on employees, directors or the corporate competition."

The five private eyes summoned to appear are believed to have acted as "pretexters" who got phone records under false pretenses. They are Bryan Wagner of Littleton, Colo.; Charles Kelly of CAS Agency in Villa Rica, Ga.; Cassandra Selvage of Eye in the Sky Investigations, Dade City, Fla.; Darren Brost of Austin, Texas, and Valerie Preston of InSearchOf Inc., Cooper City, Fla.

Wagner told an investigator that he had destroyed his computer with a hammer, The Wall Street Journal reported in Wednesday's editions, citing an anonymous person familiar with a probe of the HP case.

Documents have shown that investigators working for HP intruded into the personal lives of seven HP directors, two employees, nine reporters and family members of the targeted individuals. In addition to impersonating those targeted to procure phone records, they also spied on an HP director and his wife, sifted through their garbage, and concocted an e-mail sting to dupe reporter Dawn Kawamoto of CNet Networks Inc.'s technology news site.