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HP read instant messages of reporter

The New York Times is reporting today that Hewlett-Packard’s effort to plug news leaks included monitoring at least one employee’s instant-messaging exchanges with a reporter, according to documents provided to Congressional investigators. The Times story quotes a March 2 e-mail in which HP “ethics officer” Kevin T. Hunsaker asked HP security investigator Fred Adler to “do some monitoring on incoming and outgoing calls to Pui-Wing Tam,” a reporter at The Wall Street Journal’s San Francisco bureau, “and keep a really close eye on her I.M. traffic with (Michael) Moeller” of Hewlett-Packard’s media relations team.

An e-mail sent by Adler some two weeks earlier appears to celebrate what was a new investigative tool for the team. “New monitoring system that captures AOL Instant Messaging is now up and running and deployed on Moeller’s computer,” Adler wrote to Hunsaker and others on the investigative team. “It instantly began to pay results.”

THE BILL:The Times story also says that Hewlett-Packard was billed a total of $325,641.65 for various services related to the leak investigation from January to April. That included $83,597.42 for surveillance, which was described as “Multiple Surv. And Sting Activity Palo Alto, Piedmont, SF, LA, CA & Denver CO.”

A parenthetical note clarifies that the surveillance included “trash re-con of all areas.”

Background investigations on several board members and their relatives, as well as San Francisco-based reporters for The Wall Street Journal and the online service CNet, did not come cheap, the Times reported. The bill was $66,688.

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