FBI to local law enforcement: 'We are in this together'

FBI to local law enforcement: 'We are in this together'
Brittney Mills (Source: Facebook)
Brittney Mills (Source: Facebook)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The FBI's quest to unlock a terror suspect's iPhone turned into a national debate over privacy versus security after Apple refused to help. However, the FBI found a way around the tech giant, getting help from an unnamed third party to access the device.

In the days since, the agency has been flooded with requests to share that technology. The FBI sent a letter out to local law enforcement everywhere.

WAFB obtained a copy of the letter which read:

"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."

The letter brings cautious optimism to Baton Rouge officials who are desperate to access a homicide victim's phone.

"It's potentially good news. We've been waiting for a year and fighting for a year to see if we'd ever get to the point where somebody would have the technology to get inside the phone," said District Attorney Hillar Moore.

The phone to which Moore refers belonged to Brittney Mills. The expecting mother was shot and killed in her doorway nearly a year ago. The case has since gone cold, but investigators believe clues to the shooter's identity may lie inside her locked iPhone.

The DA says he reached out to the FBI immediately after the agency began asking Apple with help in their case. He believes if the FBI can share its techniques, Baton Rouge may be first in line.

However, there are still a lot of details to sort out. Despite the Fed's commitment to help, Moore says it's not clear yet if the FBI can even share its new technology locally. The DA adds the technology may classified, which would create problems if and when a case heads to court.

Moore says they've waited a long time to find justice for Mills, but will lean on patience to ensure the case proceeds correctly.

"I'm anxious to get it done. I'm anxious know what it is and hopefully we'll have some answers in the near future," said Moore.

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