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Who Goes There?

6:00 PM -- Those of us who gather information for a living are always on guard. We're used to anonymous tipsters, furious vendors demanding our sources, and odd calls from self-proclaimed financial gurus. We don't leave our notes lying around or make strategic phone calls in the press room.

We know, as the poet said, that the "fields have eyes and the woods have ears."

Despite all this, the boardroom upheaval at HP still has power to shock. (See Hurd Apologizes, Probe 'Disturbing'.) As various board members and executives figuratively queue up outside the courthouse, subpoenas in hand, it's disquieting to think about other areas in which corporate spying might have played a role.

"If this kind of thing was going on at the top levels of HP, it makes you wonder about other areas of the company, or of any big company," says one analyst, who I shall not name. "I've gotten lots of calls from people I quickly realize aren't really even working for the vendors they ask me about. Kind of makes you wonder."

It's indeed intriguing to ponder, on the day when Bernie Ebbers starts his jail term, just how far professional adults, people supposedly at the top of the corporate game, are willing to go to preserve their interests. Apparently, common sense doesn't interfere with their thought processes. It doesn't dawn on them to think that if something may be questionable within their own circles, it's probably questionable outside them.

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