Were FL police right to raid fired COVID scientist home?


Fact Box

  • As of January 20, 2021, there have been 1.5 million coronavirus cases in Florida, with 24,436 reported deaths. 
  • Rebekah Jones is a Florida geographic data analyst, with degrees in geography and political journalism, fired from her job in May as a geographic information systems manager over “alleged insubordination.” 
  • On December 7th, 2020, the police executed a lawful search warrant based on a month-long investigation into an illegal hack into the state’s health department’s emergency alert system to send unauthorized messages regarding COVID-19.
  • FL Gov. Ron DeSantis made recent remarks on the FDLE/Jones interaction, saying, “[The police] did their jobs. They’ve been smeared as the Gestapo for doing their jobs. [...] It was not a raid. They were serving a valid process in accordance with the laws and the Constitution of the United States and the state of Florida. They did it with integrity. They did it with honor. And to say it was a raid is disinformation.”
  • On Sunday, January 17, 2021, Jones was charged with a felony that could result in a 5-year prison sentence if convicted.

Mandy (Yes)

Rebekah Jones is not a COVID scientist; she is a data-entry-curator who is a politically-motivated activist, fired for disagreeing with duly elected officials, and now a suspect in a hacking scandal. Instead of presenting all positive test rates, Florida began 'showing the rate of new positive tests [only] — filtering out people who previously tested positive.' Employers often require multiple tests on a single individual. Each COVID-positive individual should count as a single case, not an additional case with every new test taken. Even though she disagreed, this is useful in tracking new cases accurately. It was not her place to continually undermine her bosses and even elected officials' directions. 

The FDLE 'launched an investigation in early November after receiving a complaint from the DOH that someone at Jones' residence illegally accessed a state emergency-alert messaging system.' They tracked her IP to her home. Bodycam footage shows she lied on Twitter. There weren't any guns pointed at her face or her children. The Police repeatedly announced, 'Police! Search Warrant! Open the Door!' for over 15 minutes. When she opens, no guns were drawn. Only when they enter the unknown house of this noncompliant family, do they draw guns. Minute 16, the officer calmly explains the guns are not pointed at her children and that since she has been noncompliant, they are taking every precaution.  

Jones is not a victim of the state, but of her own political leanings, and has not suffered financially since her firing, having 'received more than $450,000 in donations.' Her actions are not that of a whistleblower but a self-serving unelected activist. 

Kevin (No)

Rebekah Jones was reportedly fired for refusing to manipulate data on Florida's public 'COVID-19 dashboard.' In an email to a local news outlet, she said she was asked to 'manually change data to drum up support for the plan to reopen.' A video released by Jones shows the police entering her home and pointing guns at other members of her family, which seems excessive for the situation at hand, especially considering Jones herself appears to be cooperating. FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen said in a statement that there had been indications that 'someone at her residence had hacked into the state's emergency alert system,' but in a thread on her Twitter page, Jones suggests this isn't true and accuses Florida Governor Ron DeSantis of sending 'the Gestapo.'

A report in the Tampa Bay Times reveals that Jones did use 'old login credentials' to send a message to her former coworkers, encouraging them to also 'speak up.' However, as former general counsel for the NSA Stewart Baker says in the article, logging in with old information isn't really 'hacking,' any more than 'using an expired ID to get back into the place where you used to work is breaking in.' The report also points out that the messaging platform used in Florida's system is 'so insecure' that all employees log in with 'the same username and password.'

While Jones may have broken the 'letter of the law,' whistleblowers are protected for a good reason, and this is clearly such a case.

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