A Democrat U.S. Senate staffer who doxxed Republican senators during the nasty confirmation battle over Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, committing what prosecutors called “the largest data breach in Senate history,” was sentenced to four years imprisonment.
“Doxxing,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice, “is the act of gathering, by licit and illicit means, and posting on the Internet personal identifying information … and other sensitive information about an individual.”
In left-wing activist circles doxxing is emerging as an increasingly popular means of waging war on conservatives and Republicans.
Elon University computer science professor Megan Squire doxxes those associated with groups the Antifa movement deems enemies. Antifa supporter and academic Sam Lavigne participated in the publishing of the names and personal information of almost 1,600 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.
On June 19, Judge Thomas F. Hogan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, gave the custodial sentence to Jackson A. Cosko, 27, of Washington, D.C., for stealing Senate information and posting restricted information about five U.S. senators on Wikipedia, the open-source online encyclopedia. Cosko had been a computer systems administrator for U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) before the went on his computer crime spree.
“It was a rather vicious offense,” Judge Hogan told Cosko at the sentencing hearing.
“You were upset politically, perhaps you thought in today’s world it’s okay to lash out because of that but it’s not. There needs to be a deterrent … You put those people in harm’s way in a polarized society. You can’t pass this off as simple political extremity that is okay to do.”
The same day prosecutors charged another Hassan staff member and alleged Cosko accomplice, Samantha Deforest Davis, with computer fraud and tampering with evidence. Davis is alleged to have given Cosko a key to enter a Senate office and to have wiped his fingerprints off computers. Davis also reportedly worked at one point for Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.).
Cosko pled guilty April 5 to five federal offenses: two counts of making public personal information; one count of computer fraud; one count of witness tampering, and one count of obstruction of justice. As part of his plea agreement, Cosko had to forfeit computers, cellphones, and other equipment used in the crimes. Cosko also previously worked for former Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas).
Cosko admitted he publicly released home addresses and phone numbers of Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), and Mike Lee (R-Utah) on Wikipedia and Twitter. (Hatch has since retired from the Senate.) After the initial round of doxxing garnered media attention, Cosko released more information, this time concerning Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul, both Kentucky Republicans.
Paul said in a statement that Cosko’s actions “caused distress to have his wife upset, when he’d already been attacked” physically outside his home in a separate incident, Hogan said. In November 2017 registered Democrat Rene Albert Boucher, Paul’s next door neighbor, ambushed the senator, crushing his ribs while the senator was performing yard work.
Hogan also recalled how Republican lawmakers, including Paul, were assaulted by a gun-toting Bernie Sanders-supporting Democrat, James T. Hodgkinson, during a baseball game in Arlington, Va., in 2017. Several individuals were shot, including Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), who nearly died from his wounds. A local prosecutor determined that the shooter committed an “act of terrorism” that was “fueled by rage against Republican legislators.”
“In today’s political world, Republicans at the baseball game in Virginia were shot at,” the judge said. “It hurts the respect for the law when people do things like this.”
Prosecutor Demian S. Ahn added, “The political and social environment we’re in, people think it’s justified to lash out because you disagree politically. … He doxxes senators, laughs, then doxxes more, all because they have different political opinions.”
Cosko acknowledged he was angry about how Republicans handled the confirmation of Kavanaugh, who was sworn in as associate justice of the Supreme Court on Oct. 6 last year, and about being fired from his Senate job in May 2018.
From July 2018 to October 2018, Cosko “engaged in an extensive computer fraud and data theft scheme … on at least four occasions and accessing Senate-owned computers for the express purpose of stealing proprietary electronic information, including the personal contact information for numerous other Senators.” He then published the contact information of the GOP senators online “with the intent to threaten and intimidate these five Senators and their families.”
The obstruction of justice charge arose because Cosko “attempted to silence a witness by threatening to release the private health information of a Senator’s children, because he corrupted another person and persuaded her to attempt to ‘wipe down’ the scene of his burglaries, and because he attempted to destroy evidence in his own apartment,” according to the government sentencing memorandum dated June 11.
“The defendant’s crimes spanned several months and reflected a deliberate malice and self-righteous entitlement that distinguishes his offense conduct from purely impulsive, one-time mistakes, and from offenses driven solely by intoxication or addition [sic].”
“The defendant’s burglary and computer hacking campaign imposed significant harm on the office of Senator Hassan and on the United States Senate as an institution – it represented the single largest known theft of electronic data from the Senate[.]”
“The defendant’s doxxing conduct also prompted unidentified third parties to direct retaliatory abuse and racial harassment at another staffer in the House of Representatives – someone who was entirely innocent, but because the defendant used a shared IP address to conduct his doxxing, and because he hid his true identity (leading to speculation about the identity of the perpetrator), third parties wrongly blamed the other staffer for the defendant’s conduct. They then subjected her to voluminous online harassment, causing her to temporarily leave her house for safety reasons – the very same type of harm that the defendant inflicted on his own targets.”
Cosko also “copied dozens of gigabytes of data from computers in Senator Hassan’s Office, including dozens of usernames and passwords belonging to Senate employees, credit card information belonging to Senate employees, social security numbers belonging to Senate employees, personally identifying information … belonging to hundreds of other persons, and tens of thousands of e-mails and internal documents belonging to Senator Hassan’s Office.”
There is evidence, according to the memorandum, that Cosko “considered various ways of using the stolen data to extort Senator Hassan’s office, in exchange for a positive employment reference.”
The evidence demonstrated Cosko “knew that his conduct caused harm to others, and that he derived satisfaction from media and other reports that his doxxing offense had caused emotional distress.” Cosko wrote a friend bragging that he had ruined the birthday of a senator’s wife and said “the fact that his doxxing offenses caused distress among the victims was ‘really funny.’”
Cosko “operated under the belief that he was entitled to inflict emotional distress upon United States Senators and their families, simply because they disagreed with the defendant and had different political views.”
In other words, Cosko is a typical left-wing activist.
Being convicted of multiple felonies is not an obstacle in his world so Cosko’s future in the Democratic Party remains bright.