Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee provides updates on investigation into former intern accused of leaking info

HOUSTON – U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee said Jackson Cosko, 27, worked as an unpaid intern in her office for 38 days before his arrest. Cosko was arrested and charged with releasing the personal information of several Republican senators.

“I strongly condemn the individual's indefensible and criminal behavior,” said Lee.

Lee said Cosko answered phones and wrote letters during his internship with her office. She said she had little interaction with him.

“He answered the phones well,” she said.

Cosko is accused of posting the home addresses and other personal information of senators to Wikipedia. A bot designed to monitor edits to congressional pages first alerted investigators to the leaked information. Lee said her office is fully cooperating with Capitol police. 

“It was not found in my office. He had to go get it from somewhere else,” Lee said in response to questions regarding how Cosko obtained the personal information.

Investigators said Cosko used another person's credentials to log onto a government computer in a senator's office to post that information. He is charged with making public restricted personal Information, unauthorized access of a government computer, witness tampering, threats, burglary and unlawful entry.

Investigators said a senate staffer confronted Cosko when he was caught in their office. Court documents read that staffer received an email a short time later reading, "I own everything," and "If you tell anyone I will leak it all. Emails signals conversation gmails. Senators children’s health information and socials."

Capitol police said surveillance cameras captured Cosko entering and leaving the Dirksen Senator Office Building around the time the senate staffer reported seeing him in the office.

“This is someone who knew what he was doing, knew what he was doing was illegal and went ahead and did it anyway,” said Ken Magidson, retired U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas.

Magidson said the reason congressional leaders personal information is protected is to limit potential threats of violence.

“It could definitely affect the way our nation is governed and can make people fearful of even becoming a United States Senator,” said Magidson.

Director of the University of Houston’s Center for Information Security Research and Education Dr. Arthur Conklin said Cosko’s motivations will have little impact on court proceedings.

“There's so many aspects of this case where he did not think this through,” said Conklin. “These are very, very simple, obvious things that you know you shouldn't do.”

Cosko’s LinkedIn page listed staff positions with several other senate and congressional leaders prior to working in Lee’s office, as well as being a graduate student at George Washington University.

When asked about background checks of unpaid interns, Lee said each person is interviewed, submits a resume and verifies their enrollment in a university. Lee said each intern is given an ID and a unique password to log onto computer systems specifically used by interns.

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