The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) raided the home of fired Department of Health data analyst Rebekah Jones on Monday evening after she allegedly hacked into the health department’s emergency alert system and sent unauthorized messages about COVID-19.
The messages in question, obtained by the Tampa Bay Times, read: “Speak up before another 17,000 people are dead. You know this is wrong. You don’t have to be a part of this. Be a hero. Speak out before it’s too late.”
In a short video clip Jones posted Monday evening, three men from the law enforcement agency tell Jones to go outside when she opens up her front door, alerting her that they have a “search warrant.” They ask her who else is inside and direct that her two children and husband need to go outside, as well.
Jones was fired back in May from her job as a geographic information system manager for the health department’s Division of Disease Control and Health Protection over alleged insubordination. While the media breathlessly praised Jones as a brave “data scientist” speaking truth to power, Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told the press that Jones is not a scientist, but a woman with a degree in journalism, communication, and geography who was putting data on the state’s CVOID-19 portal “which the scientists didn’t believe was valid.”
Jones has filed a whistleblower complaint against the state and denied any role in the hacking.
“She’s not a data scientist. She’s somebody that’s got a degree in journalism, communication & geography,” DeSantis said of Jones. “She is not involved in collating any data; she does not have the expertise to do that. She is not an epidemiologist; she is not the chief architect of our web portal; that is another false statement, and what she was doing was she was putting data on the portal which the scientists didn’t believe was valid data. So she didn’t listen to the people who were her superiors; she had many people above her in the chain of command, and so then she was dismissed because of that and because of a bunch of different reasons about how she did.”
Jones, DeSantis continued, “[is] also under active criminal charges in the state of Florida; she is being charged with cyber-stalking and cyber-sexual harassment,” he said. “So I’ve asked the Department of Health to explain to me how someone would be allowed to be charged with that and continue on, because this was many months ago. I have a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment. So her supervisor dismissed her because of a lot of those reasons and it was a totally valid way, but she should have been dismissed long before that.”
At the time, DeSantis’ office released the following statement regarding Jones:
Rebekah Jones’ duties were to display data obtained by the Department’s epidemiological staff. The team that created the graphics on the dashboard, which was made up by multiple people, received data that was provided by subject matter experts, including Senior Epidemiologists, Surveillance Epidemiologists, and a Senior Database Analyst.
Rebekah Jones exhibited a repeated course of insubordination during her time with the Department, including her unilateral decisions to modify the Department’s COVID-19 dashboard without input or approval from the epidemiological team or her supervisors. The blatant disrespect for the professionals who were working around the clock to provide the important information for the COVID-19 website was harmful to the team.
Accuracy and transparency are always indispensable, especially during an unprecedented public health emergency such as COVID-19. Having someone disruptive cannot be tolerated during this public pandemic, which led the Department to determine that it was best to terminate her employment.
There will be no update today.
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.. pic.twitter.com/DE2QfOmtPU
— Rebekah Jones (@GeoRebekah) December 7, 2020