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View all…In a new two-paragraph letter to state and local law enforcement partners, the FBI reiterated its commitment to helping those agencies unlock seized encrypted devices.
The letter was first reported Friday evening and published by BuzzFeedbefore being sent to Ars and presumably other media outlets.
Earlier this week, government prosecutors formally asked a federal judge in California to cancel her prior order that would have compelled Apple to assist efforts to unlock a seized iPhone linked to the San Bernardino attacks in late 2015. US Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym did so on March 29.
Apple had publicly said in court that it would resist all efforts to force its compliance. Last week, however, the hearing between prosecutors and Apple was postponed less than 24 hours before it was set to take place because the Department of Justice said it was evaluating a new method to access the phone’s data.
The government will disclose neither the specific technique that unlocked the phone nor what if any meaningful data was accessed. More than likely, Apple does not have a legal way to compel the government to disclose the iPhone’s vulnerability either.
The letter, in its entirely, follows as 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 US government continued to contact the US 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
FBI