Investigation over a hack into emergency alert system, FDLE says
The home of former Florida Department of Health data scientist Rebekah Jones was raided Monday, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement confirmed after Jones posted video of the encounter with police on social media.
Jones, who has been critical of the state’s handling of COVID-19 since her dismissal months ago, posted a tweet that read: “At 8:30 am this morning, state police came into my house and took all my hardware and tech. They were serving a warrant on my computer after DOH filed a complaint. They pointed a gun in my face. They pointed guns at my kids.”
Jones’ tweet included video that shows agents coming into her Tallahassee home.
FDLE confirmed that it served a search warrant on Jones’ home in connection with an investigation that began last month, but FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen said in a statement that weapons weren’t pointed at anyone there.
Swearingen said the investigation followed a complaint that someone illegally hacked into the state’s emergency alert system.
“Our investigation began last month following a complaint by Florida Department of Health that a person illegally hacked into their emergency alert system. As part of our investigation, FDLE agents served a search warrant this morning at the Centerville Court residence where Ms. Jones lives after determining the home was the location that the unauthorized message was sent from.
“Agents knocked and called Ms. Jones both announcing the search warrant and encouraging her to cooperate. Ms. Jones refused to come to the door for 20 minutes and hung-up on agents.
“After several attempts, Ms. Jones allowed agents inside. Agents entered the home in accordance with normal protocols and seized several devices that will be forensically analyzed. At no time were weapons pointed at anyone in the home. Any evidence will be referred to the State Attorney for prosecution as appropriate.”
Jones had said she was fired by the state this spring for refusing to manipulate coronavirus data.
A spokeswoman for Gov. Ron DeSantis told reporters at the time that Jones had been let go because she “exhibited a repeated course of insubordination” and made “unilateral decisions … without input or approval from the epidemiological team or her supervisors.”
Jones went on to create her own COVID-19 dashboard.
She wrote Monday on Twitter that she believed the execution of the search warrant was politically motivated, and expanded on her thoughts while appearing on CNN later that evening.
I haven’t had access to any systems at DOH in over six months. I’m not a hacker,” she said during an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo. “This is just a very thinly veiled attempt of the governor to intimidate scientists and get back at me while trying to get to my sources.
“DeSantis to worry less about what I’m writing about and more about the people who are sick and dying in his state. Doing this to me will not stop me from reporting the data. Ever.”
Jones said she plans to purchase a new computer Tuesday and get right back to work.