Daniela Greene returned to the US just a month after tying the knot with Denis Cupert; was immediately arrested and sentenced to two years in federal prison
In a stunning embarrassment for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, one of its employees with a top-secret security clearance travelled to Syria in 2014 and married a key Islamic State operative she had been assigned to investigate, according to a media report.
Rogue employee Daniela Greene married Denis Cuspert also known as Abu Talha al-Almani, a German rapper turned IS pitchman, whose growing influence as an online recruiter for violent jihadists had put him on the radar of counter-terrorism authorities on two continents, CNN reported.
Cuspert had 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.
Before travelling to Syria, 38-year-old woman translator lied to the FBI about where she was going and warned her new husband he was under investigation, according to federal court records.
Within weeks of marrying Cuspert, Greene seemed to realise 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 IS 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 IS 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 travelling abroad.
Greene, who was still married to her American husband at the time, characterised 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. Once there, according to the court records, she married him.
Shortly after, Greene sent e-mails from inside Syria to an unidentified person in the US showing she was having second thoughts and suggesting she knew she was breaking the law.
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.