Jackson Cosko, a Democratic party IT consultant who carried out the “largest data theft in Senate history” as part of an “extraordinary” and “vicious” plot to harm Republicans by ‘doxxing’ them, has been sentenced to four years in prison.
Cosko, former aide to Senator Maggie Hassan and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, committed “burglaries and sophisticated data theft offenses” over a period spanning several months, breaking into New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan’s office at night to steal data, mining the information for blackmail material and then maliciously publishing the home addresses and phone numbers of Republican senators Lindsay Graham, Orrin Hatch, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and Mitch McConnell during the 2018 hearings for now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Comedy of Errors
If Cosko’s actions weren’t shocking enough, the trial also revealed his activities were indirectly facilitated by a litany of failings by law enforcement and Democratic lawmakers.
For instance, when police executed a search warrant on his home they missed critical evidence because they didn’t check the oven.
“The Capitol Police, when they executed the search warrant on his home, missed what we consider the most significant tranche of data. We told [them] to go back and check the oven,” Cosko’s lawyer Brian Stolarz said.
Hassan and police knew Cosko had used his computer knowledge to steal data from the office, no thorough sweep of the office’s electronics was conducted, and the Senator continued to be surveilled even after his arrest as officials failed to check the USB ports of computers in her office, where keylogging devices beamed back every keystroke to him via WiFi. Again, the convict’s lawyer told the court “they’d still be there” if his client hadn’t informed investigators of their presence.
No matter political party, everyone should be troubled. Jackson Cosko worked for @BarbaraBoxer, @SenFeinstein, fired by @SenatorHassan then hired by @JacksonLeeTX18 even though he had a criminal background. Why were they willing to have a hacker on staff. Parents are rich donors— Bill Stamper (@stampjr) June 19, 2019
That Cosko was even hired by the Senator in the first place is somewhat puzzling - he’d had repeated run-ins with law related to drug possession when he applied to be Hassan’s computer systems administrator in early 2017. Coincidentally, at the same time a scandal relating to congressional IT aides abusing their positions was just breaking in the media.
He was fired in May 2018 for reasons undisclosed - Cosko then hatched his plan to steal the office’s data, initially in order to extort a positive employment reference from Hassan.
Despite his acrimonious departure, Democratic congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas then gave him an unpaid position. It was during this period Cosko put his plan into action - he was also so heavily addicted to drugs and alcohol “the probation office indicated they’re surprised he wasn’t dead,” Judge Thomas Hogan said, although his epic illicit substance intake somehow went unnoticed in Jackson Lee’s congressional office.
Another aide, Jackson Cosko, is in more trouble and awaits sentencing. He was the one who published home addresses and phone #'s numbers of Sens. McConnell, Paul, Graham, Hatch, and Lee. Also threatened to release health info of senators' kids.— Amanda Carpenter (@amandacarpenter) June 19, 2019
As he lacked physical access to Hassan’s computer systems, he bribed Hassan staffer Samantha DeForest-Davis in exchange for her key, DeForest-Davis allegedly being fully aware Cosko intended to use it for late-night break-ins to steal data.
During one such break-in on 2nd October 2018 Cosko was caught red-handed by another Hassan staffer and fled, later emailing the witness and saying he had private emails, texts, and even health information about Hassan’s children he would publish unless the witness kept quiet. He then asked Davis to go into the crime scene, wipe his fingerprints off the computers, and restart the computers to destroy evidence.
“So I was able to wipe down the keys and mouse but [a witness] was coming so I could [not] do the other thing … sorry I couldn’t do everything,” DeForest-Davis texted Cosko subsequently.
Cosko was nonetheless arrested the next day, lying to police in two interviews before eventually agreeing to cooperate and implicating Deforest-Davis. sHe was fired from the Senate 19th December 2018. Despite criminal charges being levelled at her, a mere eight days later congresswoman Abigail Spanberger - a former CIA operative - hired her, although her employment would end 11th February this year. While no longer working directly in government, she has nonetheless gained a position of significant trust anew, securing a teaching job at a Milwaukee Public School via the Teach for America program.