FBI translator flees to Syria, marries ISIS terrorist she was assigned to investigate – Know what happened next
A Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) translator traveled to Syria three years ago and married a key Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) operative she had been tasked to investigate, a media report claimed on Tuesday.
The CNN report said that Daniela Greene married Denis Cuspert, a German rapper turned ISIS pitchman, in 2014.
Cuspert went by the rap name Deso Dogg in Germany; in Syria, he was known as Abu Talha al-Almani.
Cuspert was involved in recruiting violent jihadists online. This had put him on the radar of counter-terrorism authorities on two continents, CNN reported.
Also, Cuspert had hailed Osama bin Laden in a song, threatened former president Barack Obama with a throat-cutting gesture and appeared in propaganda videos, including one in which he was holding a freshly severed human head.
According to court documents seen on Tuesday, Greene, who had a "top secret" security clearance, told her colleagues at the Detroit office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation that she was heading to Germany to see her parents for a few weeks in June 2014.
Instead, the 38-year-old woman translator flew to Turkey and snuck across the border to meet up and marry an IS fighter.
It was not clear how Cuspert wooed her. Court testimony suggested they may have communicated privately via a Skype account he used that Greene did not report to her FBI colleagues. Greene, who was born in Czechoslovakia and married a US soldier, began work at the FBI in 2011, with no problems until her mysterious disappearance in June 2014.
Within weeks of marrying Cuspert, Greene seemed to realize she had made a terrible mistake. She fled back to the US, where she was immediately arrested and agreed to cooperate with authorities.
She pleaded guilty to making false statements involving international terrorism and was sentenced to two years in federal prison. She was released last summer.
"Greene's saga, which has never been publicised, exposes an embarrassing breach of national security at the FBI - an agency that has made its mission rooting out ISIS sympathisers across the country," the channel said.
It also raises questions about whether Greene received favourable treatment from Justice Department prosecutors who charged her with a relatively minor offence, it added.
"It's a stunning embarrassment for the FBI, no doubt about it," said John Kirby, a former State Department official.
Fluent in German, Greene went to work for the FBI as a contract linguist in 2011.
She was assigned to the bureau's Detroit office in January 2014 when she was put to work "in an investigative capacity" on the case of a German terrorist referred to in court records only as "Individual A" identified as Cuspert.
As part of the FBI's investigation into "Individual A," Greene identified several online accounts and phone numbers used by the terrorist, according to the court file. Among them were two Skype accounts. She maintained "sole access" to a third Skype account, the records state.
It was in April 2014, during Greene's work on the investigation, that Cuspert appeared in a video declaring his allegiance to ISIS and its leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.
On June 11, 2014, Greene filled out a Report of Foreign Travel form -- a document FBI employees and contractors with national security clearances are required to complete when traveling abroad.
Greene, who was still married to her American husband at the time, characterized her travel on the form as "Vacation/Personal," court records show.
"Want to see my family," she wrote. Specifically, Greene said, she was going to see her parents in Munich, Germany.
She boarded an international flight on June 23, 2014, and flew on a one-way ticket to Istanbul, Turkey. From there she travelled to Gaziantep city, close to the Syrian border.
She contacted "Individual A," the documents state, and with the assistance of a third party arranged by him, crossed the border into Syria. Immediately after her arrival in Syria she married Cuspert, on June 27, 2014, according to court documents recently unsealed. But within days Greene, now 38, began to seek a way out.
"I really made a mess of things this time," she told a friend in a July 2014 e-mail from IS territory.
"I don`t know how long I will last here, but it doesn`t matter, it`s all a little too late," she said in a subsequent e-mail. In another, she said she recognized she could be imprisoned for years if she returned.
On August 1, 2014, five weeks after she left for Syria, federal authorities secretly issued a warrant for her arrest.
After about a month in Syria, Greene somehow was able to leave the war-torn country and returned to the United States. She was arrested on August 8, 2014.
Ultimately she pleaded guilty to one charge of "making false statements involving international terrorism," based on what she originally told the FBI about her travel plans. She received a relatively light 24 month prison sentence, and was released last year.