Five indicted, but HP's CEO seems safe.

Five indicted, but HP's CEO seems safe.

Five indicted, but HP's CEO seems safe.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Oct. 5 2006 6:11 AM

Hurd No Evil

The Los Angeles Times and New York Times lead with the indictment of five people, including Patricia Dunn, the former chairwoman of Hewlett-Packard, "for their roles in a clandestine probe  to root out the source of boardroom media leaks" that allegedly involved "illegally gathering phone records of board members, journalists and others." The Washington Postand USA Today both lead with the day's other big story: A former top aide to disgraced ex-Rep. Mark Foley announced that he informed House Speaker Dennis Hastert's office of Foley's "inappropriate behavior" around young male congressional pages in 2003 or earlier. The claim virtually assured another few days of uncomfortable questions for Hastert, whose hold on his job is growing "more tenuous," the Wall Street Journalreports atop its world-wide newsbox.

The Hewlett-Packard case, already "one of the nation's most embarrassing corporate scandals in years," writes the WSJ, is "likely to have implications that go far beyond the particulars of the case." To recap the story so far: Dunn was angry that someone was blabbing to news organizations—including the WSJ—about internal boardroom strife. She hired private investigators to conduct two separate investigations, which eventually led to the probable leaker, a board member. But another board member resigned in protest when he found out about the shady methods investigators had used to obtain his personal phone records. Whether those phone records were obtained illegally—and whether Dunn knew it—will be the central question in the criminal case. There are also allegations that Hewlett-Packard's former chief ethics lawyer (!), also indicted yesterday, had journalists and board members placed under various kinds of electronic and physical surveillance.

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The big news for investors, however, was that California's attorney general, who brought the charges, appeared to indicate that the company's respected chief executive, Mark Hurd, is legally in the clear. On that news, the company's share price rose to a six-year high, the LAT notes.

Dunn, who is not a lawyer, is expected to argue that she was just following a company attorney's advice when it came to the legality of the search. Several legal experts said that prosecutors might have a hard time proving she intended to break the law. Dunn's lawyer said: "These charges are being brought against the wrong person at the wrong time and for the wrong reasons." The papers all note that Dunn was recently diagnosed with a recurrence of ovarian cancer and begins chemotherapy at the end of the week. "Her illness has no impact on her culpability," said the attorney general, who just happens to be campaigning for a higher statewide office.

Meanwhile, in a nice piece of timing, the NYT reports that former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina has a new book out, in which she calls company board members "amateurish and immature."

Kirk Fordham, formerly a long-serving top aide to Foley, resigned from his current job as chief of staff to another top Republican congressman yesterday, saying he didn't want to hurt his boss in a tight re-election race. But on his way out the door, Fordham took a serious shot at Hastert, saying that he met with the speaker's powerful chief of staff, Scott Palmer, several years ago to ask him to rein in Foley's "way too friendly" behavior with pages. In a statement, Palmer said the meeting "did not happen." The WP's story details the many discrepancies between Hastert's version of events and nearly everyone else's.

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"The new disclosures rattled lawmakers," the NYT says, adding that many are taking a wait-and-see approach when it comes to Hastert's future. For the second straight day, however, the speaker was sharply criticized by a member of his own leadership, this time Majority Whip Roy Blunt—a possible aspirant for his job.

Hastert, in an interview with the Chicago Tribune last night, remained combative, questioning Fordham's truthfulness and saying that resigning would be "exactly what our opponents would like to have happen."

"When the base finds out who's feeding this monster, they're not going to be happy," Hastert told the paper. "The people who want to see this thing blow up are ABC News and a lot of Democratic operatives, people funded by George Soros."

Late editions of the WP carry a piece that includes what purport to be extensive excerpts of Foley's correspondence with two former pages. Most of the correspondence is with one of the teens, who appears to have turned 18 during the course of his encounters with Foley. The Post writes that it obtained "dozens" of messages "with the help of a former House page who served with the two male pages," adding that: "Attempts by The Post to contact the two former pages were unsuccessful." There's no comment from Foley, either. So, let's get this straight: The paper is reprinting these documents without confirmation of their authenticity from either one of the parties to the correspondence? As a matter of journalistic practice, that's very risky—just ask Dan Rather, if you can find his spiderhole.

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Meanwhile, even as the FBI revs up its investigation, the LAT and WSJrun pieces that question whether anything Foley did, however scummy, was illegal. "For the most part, the law is going to allow you to be a dirty old man," an expert tells the WSJ.

Elsewhere in the world, it was another bloody day in Iraq, as at least 59 people were killed in various incidents around the country. Nineteen American servicemen have been killed since Monday, the WP reports, the highest three-day total since the war began. The LAT fronts news—and everyone else mentions—that a 1,200-member Iraqi police brigade has been disbanded amid credible reports that it participated in a massacre of Sunnis on Sunday. The NYT, in an inside piece, says that such death-squad killings, sometimes perpetrated by the Iraqi security forces themselves, "are the main cause of Iraqi deaths now." Out front, the NYT reports on the U.S. Army's efforts to devise a strategy to fight counterinsurgency, which some might argue is a little late in coming.

The WP has a fascinating piece on an Algerian insurgent group that, while basically defeated in its civil war at home, is now expanding its terrorist operations in Europe, with the apparent support of al-Qaida. This is very bad news for France.

This year's Nobel Prize for Chemistry went to Stanford's Roger Kornberg, whose father Arthur, also won the award (for medicine) in 1959. Remarkably, they are the seventh parent-child set of Nobel winners, the LAT notes. Kornberg's field of study, appropriately, is genetics.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is predicting a "substantial correction" in home prices, which could lead to lower interest rates later this year, the WSJ reports.

And now, let us spill a sip of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 1982 on the loamy soil and commend the soul of Johnny Apple  to heaven.