Fired COVID analyst Rebekah Jones asks court to order state to return seized computer gear

Ousted state data analyst Rebekah Jones's attorneys on Wednesday asked the court to order state police to return the computer equipment confiscated from her home, arguing that the state accused her of doing something that is not a crime.
Richard E. Johnson, the Tallahassee attorney representing Jones, filed the petition in the Leon County Circuit Court, attaching an affidavit from a data expert who concluded that the evidence used by state police was inconsistent with the Joneses Link the message she allegedly sent and instead "seems possibly consistent with [Jones'] claim that the attack was retaliation."
Last week, Jones sued FDLE on the grounds that a search of her home in Tallahassee on December 7th was "a sham" to punish her for speaking out against Governor Ron DeSantis for refusing To falsify statistics on a "dashboard" she had created for [the Ministry of Health]. "In May, DOH fired Jones for insubordination and then filed a whistleblower complaint against the state.
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“The basis for this motion is twofold: First, the act against the plaintiff is not even a theoretical crime and therefore could not support a search warrant against anyone. and second, no probable reason has been shown to be sufficient to link the plaintiff to the alleged broadcast, "the motion states.
It is asking the court to order the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to return Jones' computers, cell phones and flash drives.
According to FDLE Agent Noel Pratt's affidavit of the search warrant, the state likely had reason to believe that Jones was behind an anonymous message sent on Nov. 10 to Jones' former colleague in the Florida Department of Health that reported the ReadyOps System used for emergency operations.
The message read, "It's time to speak up before another 17,000 people are dead. You know, that's wrong. You don't have to be part of it. Be a hero. Speak before it's too late."
Jones refused to write the message, and evidence has surfaced since the robbery that the username and password for the private email system were published in at least seven PDF files that were available on the internet to anyone who had the address.
Tech expert testifies
The motion, filed on Wednesday, includes the affidavit from Bennett Cyphers, a technology expert with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that protects individuals and technology from what it believes to be abusive legal threats.
Cyphers concluded that the state's decision not to seize Jones' router while executing the search warrant was a "strange" omission and the state did not have "sufficient evidence" to link the IP address of the unauthorized message submitted to the house of Jones.
He said an IP address "cannot be used to identify a specific device or person" because IP addresses that would be used by one customer one week could "be used by another customer next week." He added, "It is common for a local area network to be shared not only by family members or friends, but also by complete strangers."
Password wasn't a secret
Following the raid, a report from a technology news site, Ars Technica, found that Reddit readers found that the Department of Health posted the email address and password on its private messaging system and circulated it widely in at least seven PDF files published on the internet became available to anyone who had the address.
Johnson argues that access to the website was not a crime and the search warrant was falsely issued because DOH has done nothing to restrict access to the website and is unable to create a policy indicating that access to the website is one Represents a violation.
"The username and password are the same for every single member of the site. If you want to join the site, just enter it," Johnson told Herald / Times. “How is that a crime? It is not a restricted website. "
Johnson said the warrant states that Pratts, a cybercrime investigator, concluded that they were "investigative resources," but did not quote what they were or refer to any attempt to obtain records from Comcast to summon. The search warrant also does not contain any state guidelines that appear to have been violated.
"What were these investigative resources?" Asked Johnson. "Were you a Ouija board?"
FDLE has not charged Jones with a crime. FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen said the investigation was still ongoing. He told reporters last week that the agency summoned Comcast and then linked Jones to the unauthorized message.
"If she suggests that she was somehow targeted in this investigation, it's impossible," he said. "Because nobody could have known who owned that IP address until we got the results of the subpoena back from Comcast."
Meanwhile, Jones has become something of a cable television celebrity, raising more than $ 500,000 from two GoFundMe accounts. Her attorney said she didn't plan to be in Florida much longer.
"She is very scared and concerned that they will come back to join her," said Johnson, adding that Jones has plans to move her family out of the state.
Mary Ellen Klas can be reached at meklas@miamiherald.com and @MaryEllenKlas
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Rebekah Jones

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