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FBI to consider breaking into encrypted devices for local and state law authorities

The FBI have announced in a letter to local authorities that they will help to unlock encrypted devices involved in investigations as soon as they are allowed by law and policy.

Following their successful hack of San Bernardino gunman Syed Farook's iPhone with an unnamed third-party last week the Federal Bureau of Investigation stated that they understand the challenges that local and state law authorities face, and that they acknowledge that such officials lack the tools to monitor and investigate the encrypted communications of potential terror suspects.

FBI seal

A copy of the letter has been included below:

Since recovering an iPhone from one of the San Bernardino shooters on December 3, 2015, the FBI sought methods to gain access to the data stored on it. As the FBI continued to conduct its own research, and as a result of the worldwide publicity and attention generated by the litigation with Apple, others outside the U.S. government continued to contact the U.S. government offering avenues of possible research. In mid-March, an outside party demonstrated to the FBI a possible method for unlocking the iPhone. That method for unlocking that specific iPhone proved successful.

We know that the absence of lawful, critical investigative tools due to the "Going Dark" problem is a substantial state and local law enforcement challenge that you face daily. As has been our longstanding policy, the FBI will of course consider any tool that might be helpful to our partners. Please know that we will continue to do everything we can to help you consistent with our legal and policy constraints. You have our commitment that we will maintain an open dialogue with you. We are in this together.

Kerry Sleeper
Assistant Director
Office of Partner Engagement