Former Hassan aide charged with posting personal data on GOP senators online 

  • Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., arrives for a vote on Gina Haspel to be CIA director, on Capitol Hill, Thursday, May 17, 2018 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) Alex Brandon

Washington Post
Published: 10/4/2018 1:35:59 PM

U.S. Capitol Police arrested a former staffer of U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, accusing him of posting private information about Republican senators on the Wikipedia internet website.

Jackson Cosko, 27, of Washington, D.C., faces five federal counts including making public restricted personal information, making threats in interstate communications, identity theft, witness tampering and unauthorized access of a government computer, U.S. Capitol Police announced Wednesday. Those alleged threats were made against one of Hassan’s present staffers, according to charging documents in the case.

“Senator Hassan strongly denounces the alleged actions,” a spokesman for the senator, Aaron Jacobs, said Thursday. He declined to elaborate further, citing “an ongoing law enforcement matter.”

Cosko also faces District charges of second-degree burglary and unlawful entry, after an incident late Tuesday evening in which he broke into Hassan’s office and unlawfully logged into a staffer’s laptop, according to charging documents released Thursday. He was a member of Hassan’s staff from January 2017 to May 2018 until he was “asked to resign,” according to the office.

He was set to appear before U.S. Magistrate Deborah Robinson of the District of Columbia on Thursday afternoon, the U.S. attorney’s office for the District, said.

“The investigation will continue and additional charges may be forthcoming,” Capitol Police spokeswoman Eva Malecki said.

Cosko could not immediately be reached for comment.

The arrest represents the second high-profile incident involving a former staff person for Hassan. In June, the Senator suspended an intern, Caitlin Marriott, for one week after yelling “Mr. President, f you!” last week as President Trump and a team of aides crossed the Capitol rotunda.

Marriott, a senior at Keene State, had her congressional intern ID badge revoked, but she was not fired for the behavior.

A U.S. official said Cosko arrest was tied to the investigation into the posting of personal information about Republican senators on the Wikipedia site as they held a hearing Sept. 27 on sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

At the time, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., rejected accusations that a member of her staff was responsible, calling them “lies, lies, and more despicable lies.”

The information posted purportedly included phone numbers and home addresses for three Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the hearing: Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah.

They were doxed – or had private or identifying information made public on the internet – when an anonymous Wikipedia user edited their pages. The information was quickly removed after the doxing was discovered and aides contacted authorities.

Edits to the online encyclopedia were traced to IP addresses of computer devices assigned to the U.S. Capitol. Waters in her statement last week said Capitol Police and internal computer specialists determined that an IP address cited online did not belong to her office or anyone on her staff.

In an affidavit released Thursday, U.S. Capitol Police Captain Jason Bell said a staffer in Hassan’s office called the department to report that Cosko had broken into the office without permission Tuesday night shortly before 10:30 p.m.

The staffer, identified as “Witness 2” in the affidavit, said they had seen Cosko using the government-owned computer of another staffer – Witness 3 – who wasn’t present.

According to surveillance video reviewed later, Cosko had entered the office building at 10:10 p.m. with a black backpack, police said. The staffer caught him and told him he was not authorized to be there, according to affidavit. Cosko left the office; surveillance video indicates he left the building at 10:21.

When the staffer observed the computer, it appeared to be logged in, and a web application was open. The owner of the laptop said they hadn’t seen it before.

“Witness 3 stated that it did not believe that it had ever used that particular application,” Bell wrote in the affidavit. “Witness 3 further reported that it did not give COSKO permission to use its computer or login credentials.”

At 10:25, the staffer who caught Cosko – Witness 2 – received an email from an address labeled “livefreeorpwn@gmail.com” with a series of threats apparently intended to stop the staffer from reporting the intrusion, according to the affidavit. “I own EVERYTHING” the email stated in its subject line. “If you tell anyone I will leak it all.”

He threatened to release personal communications from the Hassan office including: “Emails signal conversations gmails. Senators children’s health information and socials (sic),” the affidavit stated.

Signal is a popular messaging application to send encrypted, private messages to others. “Socials” appears to refer to social security numbers, Bell wrote.

Witness 2 called the Capitol Police two minutes later to report the intrusion, the affidavit said.

According to the Legistorm website of congressional disclosures, Cosko was employed as a low-level aide from January 2017 to May 2018 with in Hassan’s office, and earlier with former Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.

Cosko was paid $23,000 over six months ending March 31, according to Legistorm.

A LinkedIn website to a Jackson Cosko lists work from January 2016 to May 2018 as an intern, press assistant and legislative correspondent/systems administrator assisting senior Senate staff on matters before the commerce and homeland security committees, including cyber security issues.

It could not be immediately determined if Cosko had any past connection to Waters’ office. The office did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Wednesday.

(Monitor staffer Ethan DeWitt contributed to this report.)


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