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'I'm the CEO of HP, right?'

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Mark Hurd's latest contribution to the HP spy scandal has made three things clear. The CEO has a horrible memory, a tenuous grasp of the internet and a very measured approach to tackling ethics issues.

HP this week released a set of replies that Hurd provided in response to questions from Rep. Ed Whitfield, chairman of the House subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Whitfield looked to follow on some gaps from Hurd's Congressional testimony last month on the HP pretexting mess. And Hurd obliged with his best Ollie North impression.

"Not that I recall" appears about nine times in Hurd's answers to the 20 questions.

Most of the queries surround a July 22, 2005 meeting that HP held to discuss its spy probe. All the major probers were at the session, including Hurd. The HP CEO, however, can't remember how long he was at the meeting or what he said or heard. Perhaps he's not the detailed oriented chap that NCR and HP's PR machines have made him out to be?

[Cough - Ed.]

Showing his versatility, Hurd, like a Sadville pro, abandoned the Ollie North guise for a moment in order to take on former Chairman Patricia Dunn's form.

When asked who at the meeting "mentioned the issue of 'obtaining phone record information off the web,'" Hurd replied:

I cannot say who made the remark about obtaining phone record information off the web or when that remark was made without speculating. What I recall is that at some meeting someone mentioned getting phone record information off the web and thinking there must be a some sort of website with this information.

Dunn too thought that one simply needed to ring up a hotline and ask nicely for your neighbor's phone logs.

You'd expect that savvy types like Hurd and Dunn would have asked fellow board member and Verizon exec Larry Babbio about how accessible phone logs really are. But maybe Larry isn't all that chatty.

Lest you think Hurd is not as naive as he sounds, we take you to answer 10 a.

When the remark was made, I did not have any specific understanding of what type of "phone record information" could be obtained or what was meant by "off the web." I simply thought there must be some website containing publicly available information about phone records. I did not give any further thought to the issue and do not recall any other discussions about it.

And what web site would that be, Mark? Papacanyouhearme.com?

"I am not aware of any website where a person can obtain phone record information for someone other than himself or herself."

Oh.

Hurd's most curious answer of all, however, is 10 b.

I cannot say that as of the July 22, 2005 meeting I understood that "phone record information" was being obtained in connection with, or was assisting in the "Kona I" phase of the investigation. At some point, I did come to understand that telephone call information was being used as part of the leak investigation.

However, I do not recall when I became aware of that information or who made me aware of it, and I did not think that anything improper might have been done until after Tom Perkins resigned and subsequently contacted the company about the letter he received from AT&T suggesting that someone had accessed his phone records through the use of an e-mail account.

We know that Perkins, a venture capitalist and former board member, between June and August chatted with HP's legal team and directors about his concerns. And yet Hurd did not hire an outside law firm to investigate the spying operation until Sept. 8.

According to his own answer here, Hurd was well aware that something "improper" might have occurred weeks and maybe months before he acted on his fears.

Hardly the type of behavior deserving of a promotion. ®

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