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Karen Neoh/Flickr (CC-BY)
Jackson Cosko, a former employee of Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), pleaded guilty to five federal offenses on Friday, including “two counts of making public restricted personal information; one count of computer fraud; one count of witness tampering, and one count of obstruction of justice,” according to a press release from the Department of Justice.
Cosko, 27, admitted to posting contact information for Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) to their Wikipedia pages last September.
Cosko was fired from his job in Sen. Hassan’s office in May 2018, which made him “angry” and “concerned” about his “prospects for future employment,” according to a plea agreement. The agreement states that Cosko obtained a key to Hassan’s offices from another employee. Cosko admitted to breaking into Hassan’s offices at least four times between July and October of 2018.
The plea agreement also states that Cosko installed keylogger devices on at least six computers in Hassan’s offices to obtain logins and download sensitive data—including senators’ personal information.
Cosko then deployed the data on Sept. 27, 2018, during Senate proceedings related to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination. Sept. 27 was the date of Kavanaugh’s and Christine Blasey Ford’s testimonies regarding allegations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh.
Cosko also posted the personal information of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Wikipedia on Oct. 1, after Paul called for an investigation into Cosko’s previous disclosures.
Cosko was caught in Hassan’s offices on Oct. 2, 2018, by an employee, to whom Cosko later sent an email threatening to release internal emails and the health and Social Security information of senators’ children. Cosko was arrested on Oct. 3, 2018.
The Daily Dot reached out to Sen. Hassan and Rep. Jackson Lee for comment but did not receive a response by press time. Sen. Hassan told the Verge, “I am grateful to Capitol Police for all that they do every day to keep us safe, and I thank Capitol Police and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their work to bring this individual to justice.”
Cosko’s attorney, Brian W. Stolarz, said in a statement, “Mr. Cosko takes full responsibility for his actions and is sincerely remorseful. Sadly, Mr. Cosko’s ongoing struggle with drugs contributed to a regrettable course of conduct. He is committed to rehabilitating his life, his reputation, and addressing his addiction,” according to the Washington Post.
Cosko’s sentencing is set for June 13, 2019. He could face up to 57 months in prison.
H/T The Verge
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Ellen Ioanes is the FOIA reporter at the Daily Dot, where she covers U.S. politics. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School, and her work has appeared in the Guardian, the Center for Public Integrity, HuffPost India, and more.