TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Department of Regulation Enforcement on Monday raided the dwelling of a former Office of Wellness information analyst who has been running an alternate internet site to the state’s coronavirus dashboard, alleging that she might have broken into a point out electronic mail procedure and sent an unauthorized information to staff.
But Rebekah Jones, who was was fired from her job in Might as the geographic facts system manager for wellbeing department’s Division of Condition Command and Health and fitness Protection and who has considering the fact that submitted a whistleblower criticism from the state, denied acquiring any position in the alleged intrusion into the condition web web page and as a substitute mentioned she thinks Monday’s motion was intended to silence her.
Jones mentioned condition police arrived into her household at 8:30 a.m., at gunpoint and, around the study course of 3 hours, swept her dwelling and took her mobile cellphone and a number of laptops that contained COVID-19 facts that she has amassed in excess of numerous months.
“This was a threat,” Jones stated in an interview with the Instances/Herald at her household Monday night. “It is a single thing to level a gun 6 inches away from my experience and threaten me. It is one more to position it at my 2-year-old’s facial area.”
Her lawyer, Lawrence Walters, termed the state’s assert that she accessed the condition electronic mail technique “baseless.” He said the raid “could be retaliation” for Jones’ community defiance in opposition to her previous employer and said the state’s seizure of her computer systems could be an endeavor to undermine her lawsuit.
“Access to our private and privileged data shouldn’t be used by our adversaries in a litigation,’’ he stated. “It’s extremely unusual. It’s near to unparalleled, and it’s dangerous for the judicial method.”
Allegation of manipulated info
Jones was fired in May well soon after she complained in an e mail to users of a point out knowledge portal that the point out was manipulating data. She announced that she experienced been eradicated from overseeing the dashboard and hinted that she had been stripped of the accountability as a end result of boosting fears about the state’s dedication to transparency.
The FDLE mentioned in a statement late Monday that it issued the research warrant following suspecting Jones of remaining responsible for sending an unauthorized concept to associates of the Point out Emergency Response Crew billed with coordinating the public wellbeing and medical response.
The Nov. 10 information, attained by the Tampa Bay Periods, urged recipients to “speak up before another 17,000 people are lifeless. You know this is incorrect. You really do not have to be a portion of this. Be a hero. Speak out right before it is way too late.” At the time of the information, Florida experienced claimed 17,460 coronavirus-linked deaths amid Florida inhabitants and non-people.
The FDLE mentioned in its assertion that the research warrant was issued for Jones’ Tallahassee dwelling and it commenced an investigation “after obtaining a grievance from the Section of Wellbeing relating to unauthorized accessibility to a Department of Wellness messaging method which is component of an unexpected emergency warn system, to be utilised for emergencies only. Brokers believe that another person at the residence on Centerville Court illegally accessed the technique.”
Jones denied any involvement in the hack.
“Hacking is not some thing I at any time considered they would accuse me of since I have in no way shown any ability of doing that,” she mentioned. “I’ve by no means taken any personal computer courses or anything at all like that. I do data in a computer software software designed fundamentally to do all that stuff for you by clicking things.”
In an affidavit signed by FDLE investigator Noel Pratt on Dec. 3, he concluded the email message was sent to approximately 1,750 accounts before it was learned. Pratt claimed in the affidavit that he tracked down the IP address of the laptop associated with the e mail and it directed him to Jones’ property tackle, which he said was possible lead to to conduct a research of her residence and seize her computer systems.
Jones stated FDLE agents instructed her the Section of Health’s inspector general’s office gave them her IP handle. “I guess they just signed off on that and confirmed up at my residence with guns,’’ she stated.
Serving the research warrant
The FDLE explained that when agents arrived at Jones’ house, “they knocked on the doorway and identified as Ms. Jones in an endeavor to limit disruption to the relatives.
“Ms. Jones refused to come to the door for 20 minutes and hung up on agent,’’ the statement mentioned. “After various makes an attempt and verbal notifications that regulation enforcement officers were being there to serve a authorized look for warrant, Ms. Jones ultimately arrived to the doorway and allowed agents to enter.”
In accordance to the video clip from within Jones’ household, which she explained she took using a digicam on a bookshelf, law enforcement pointed guns at her and requested her spouse to seem. “Come outside the house the household,’’ they commanded, inquiring who else was in the property. She replied it was her two kids and spouse.
“Come down the stairs, now,’’ police shouted. “Police! Come down now.”
Jones yelled: “They just pointed a gun at my children” and that is the place the video finished.
Jones mentioned it was not true that she refused to open up the door. She instructed the Situations/Herald that the delay in opening the door has to do with her having the time to get dressed becau
se she feared she was going to be arrested.
She also reported that if she experienced been equipped to hack into the electronic mail she would have utilised a distinct quantity of coronavirus fatalities.
“If I was truly that experienced that I could hack a system, and I was heading to make persons experience poor about this, I at least would have the range of fatalities ideal, because it didn’t consist of any of the non-people.”
She mentioned that in May, “DeSantis publicly stated I’m not a facts scientist, I’m not a laptop or computer scientist and I wouldn’t even know what to do if I noticed a databases, and now he’s accusing me of hacking a single,’’ she claimed. “It’s a actual 180 there. I’m not a hacker. I never hack. I really don’t know s— about personal computers. I know how to do studies.”
The simple fact that the state is now in possession of her laptops and cell telephone will expose her resources, Jones stated.
“The most damning stuff that they are likely to get from that gear is the data about all of the personnel from the state who have talked to me more than the last 6 months,” Jones stated. “And, the reality that I promised them I would never explain to anybody who they were, or where they labored and I have unsuccessful to guard them, actually f—–g pissed me off.”
Praise for Florida’s dashboard
Jones had attracted nationwide awareness for her perform making the dashboard, which had been singled out for praise final spring by Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White Residence coronavirus activity pressure. Immediately after she was taken off for what the governor’s workplace identified as “insubordination,’’ Jones designed a competing dashboard. Her edition attracts upon condition facts but provides an expanded menu of metrics, which includes knowledge the state was not generating public at the time — these as healthcare facility mattress availability by facility, a important number, in particular now as the range of verified situations soars.
She also designed the COVID check, a dashboard to report nationwide coronavirus instances by faculty, information which Florida officers obtain but for months refused to make publicly obtainable.
In July, she submitted a private whistle-blower criticism with the Florida Commission on Human Relations, which she explained is predicted to launch its results shortly. She also wrote in an op-ed in the Miami Herald in July that other point out staff were being being silenced for expressing their concerns about the state’s handling of the coronavirus and its information selection.
On Twitter Monday, she accused DeSantis of orchestrating the raid.
“They took my cellphone and the computer system I use every working day to write-up the situation figures in Florida, and university conditions for the complete state,’’ she claimed. “They took proof of corruption at the point out degree. T
hey claimed it was about a safety breach. This was DeSantis. He despatched the gestapo.”
She additional: “This is what occurs to researchers who do their occupation truthfully. This is what transpires to folks who discuss real truth to energy.”
Jones claimed the raid will not quit her from continuing her work.
“I’m heading to invest in yet another pc tomorrow and go back to perform,’’ she said, incorporating that she was happy of her skill to construct her personal world-wide-web web-site and “hadn’t skipped a solitary day.”
The governor’s business did not respond to requests for remark.
State Rep. Anna Eskamani, an Orlando Democrat, retweeted Jones’ authentic Twitter submit and additional the remark: “Horrifying. Why are guns remaining drawn out for a “data breach?”
Miami Herald reporter Nicholas Nehamas contributed to this report. Mary Ellen Klas can be attained at [email protected] and @MaryEllenKlas
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