The FBI translator who ran away to Syria and married an ISIS terrorist
An Arabic translator for the FBI with a top security clearance was assigned to investigate a prominent ISIS terrorist and ended up running away to Syria to marry him.
Soon after her arrival in Syria, Daniela Greene had second thoughts and returned to the U.S., lying to the FBI about where she went and what she did. Eventually, the FBI arrested her.
But curiously, the federal prosecutor in the case gave Greene a reduced sentence for her cooperation. She is now free from prison and living a normal life.
Is this a case where the FBI was so embarrassed by this breach of national security that it tried to sweep the case under the rug?
The man Greene married was no ordinary terrorist.
He was Denis Cuspert, a German rapper turned ISIS pitchman, whose growing influence as an online recruiter for violent jihadists had put him on the radar of counter-terrorism authorities on two continents.
In Germany, Cuspert went by the rap name Deso Dogg. In Syria, he was known as Abu Talha al-Almani. He praised 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.
Within weeks of marrying Cuspert, Greene, 38, 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.
The FBI, in a statement to CNN, said as a result of Greene's case it "took several steps in a variety of areas to identify and reduce security vulnerabilities. The FBI continues to strengthen protective measures in carrying out its vital work."
The FBI did not identify what steps were taken and declined further comment.
"It's a stunning embarrassment for the FBI, no doubt about it," said John Kirby, a former State Department official. He said he suspects Greene's entry into Syria required the approval of top ISIS leaders.
Most outsiders trying to get into an ISIS region in Syria risk "getting their heads cut off," said Kirby, now a CNN commentator on national security matters. "So for her to be able to get in as an American, as a woman, as an FBI employee, and to be able to take up residence with a known ISIS leader, that all had to be coordinated."
In court papers filed in US District Court in Washington D.C., prosecutors characterized Greene's conduct as "egregious," deserving of "severe punishment."
Assistant US Attorney Thomas Gillice said Greene had "violated the public trust, the trust of the officials who granted her security clearance, and the trust of those with whom she worked and, in doing so, endangered our nation's security."
Even though Greene's "conduct skirted a line dangerously close to other more serious charges," the prosecutor argued she should receive a lighter sentence because of her cooperation.
Did Greene really have "second thoughts"? Or did she see how the U.S. was targeting individual terrorists – including Cuspert – and fear for her life?
The FBI has had issues with translators since 9/11. In the immediate aftermath of the terror attack, the Bureau's translator unit lacked a sufficient number of Arabic speakers to handle the load of classified intercepts and documents. The revelation involving Ms. Greene – just coming to light after two years – makes you wonder if they had other "loyalty issues" with translators who may not have been vetted properly. It's possible the FBI is sitting on those cases as well.
The Bureau may claim that the reduced sentence for Greene was given not to avoid the embarrassing revelation that one of its own defected to ISIS to marry a prominent terrorist. But that's not how the game is played in Washington. For bureaucrats, whether at the FBI or anywhere else, the primary motivation in dealing with all such scandals is CYA. No one wants to be stuck on the floor when the music stops playing, and it appears that higher-ups in the Bureau may have engineered the resolution of this case so that blame would not fall on them.
BTW, Cuspert is still alive and still producing propaganda videos for ISIS.