Thursday, September 28, 2006
The first panel before the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee investigating "pretexting" by Hewlett-Packard has come and gone, and all of them asserted their Fifth Amendment privilege and refused to answer questions. Among those who asserted the Fifth were H-P's former general counsel, Ann Baskins, who announced her resignation shortly before the hearing, former chief ethics officer Kevin Hunsaker, and former security chief Anthony Gentilucci. In addition, all the private investigators who assisted in the pretexting for H-P asserted their self-incrimination privilege.
After the dismissal of the witnesses, Rep. Joe Barton, the chairman of the full committee, said that he had never seen an entire panel take the Fifth Amendment and lamented the inability of the Subcommittee to gather information. It is clear, however, that holding a hearing while there are ongoing federal and state criminal investigations, including an assertion by the California State Attorney General that crimes took place, is almost a guarantee that witnesses who were involved in the alleged misconduct will assert their constitutional privilege before knowing where the criminal investigations are going. It may be hard for Congress to hear this, but criminal liability is much more important to a witness than what a committee or subcommittee wants to hear. For those interested in listening to the hearing, it is available on the Subcommittee website (here). (ph)