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Fear and Loathing Grip H-P Boardroom

On Thursday, H-P said that the phone records of nine journalists were secretly obtained by private investigators hired by H-P in an effort to determine who was leaking information to the media.

That's in addition to the unauthorized access of the phone records of former board member Perkins, who has alleged that his private phone conversations and emails were secretly recorded.

In an extraordinary Securities and Exchange Commission filing earlier this week, H-P said that no eavesdropping or secret recording occurred, but acknowledged that some form of "pretexting" was used to obtain phone record information.

The filing defined pretexting as a technique used by investigators to obtain individuals' personal information by disguising their identity.

H-P said that although pretexting was not "generally unlawful" at the time, it could not confirm that the investigator and parties subcontracted by it "complied in all respects with applicable law."

California Attorney General Bill Lockyer is conducting an active criminal investigation into the incidents, which would seem to violate two state statutes regarding identity theft and unauthorized computer access.

The attorney general's office has obtained a warrant to gather information from Cox Communications, the Internet service provider where the IP address of the suspected pretexter has been traced to.

The warrant requires Cox to disclose the identity of the subscriber whose computer was assigned the IP address, the subscriber's connection logs, as well as all stored electronic communications, including email and buddy lists.

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