Credit where credit is due: CNN just broke a massive national security scandal wide open. There’s just no other way of putting it. An FBI translator working on ISIS cases at the Bureau ended up fleeing the United States to marry a member of the very terrorist group she was supposed to be investigating — a vicious terrorist group that has carried out countless bombings, advertised beheadings, resurrected crucifixions, enslaved women, attempted genocide, established a would-be caliphate, and killed Americans. Backed up by unsealed court records, this doesn’t look like “Fake News” but rather like a fairly damning story of deceit, intrigue, and perhaps even downright treachery by a member of our intelligence community with top secret security clearance. In a post-9/11 world, the egregiousness of a member of the intelligence community joining the jihad cannot be ignored. And it’s a scandal that was hidden from the American people by the Obama administration for years.
Strange Bedfellows: The Basics of the Case
The short story is this: the Czech-born, Germany-raised, American-military-wife-turned-FBI-linguist Daniela Greene was in secret contact with ISIS terrorists, passed along classified information to the terrorist group, traveled to ISIS-controlled Syria, married a notorious butcher terrorist named Abu Talha al-Almani, apparently got cold feet, fled Syria, and made her way back to the United States. Her only punishment was a slap on the wrist and a sentence of less than two years. Again, it bears repeating – she was given only a two-year absurdly lenient sentence for going over to the side of the Islamic State, becoming a terrorist’s bride, and participating in a bit of regrettable treachery that seems to go beyond what even deserter Bowe Bergdahl did (who is currently awaiting trial on charges that could give him life in prison for wandering off base and into the hands of the Taliban). And the seeming cover-up by those involved in the Obama administration’s Justice Department is itself staggering, involving concealing this information from the public and possibly even leaking false stories to create a misleading narrative. All of that will be explained. A summary of the excellent CNN piece is excerpted below:
“An FBI translator with a top-secret security clearance traveled to Syria in 2014 and married a key ISIS operative she had been assigned to investigate, CNN has learned. The rogue employee, Daniela Greene, lied to the FBI about where she was going and warned her new husband he was under investigation, according to federal court records. Greene’s saga, which has never been publicized, exposes an embarrassing breach of national security at the FBI – an agency that has made its mission rooting out ISIS sympathizers across the country. It also raises questions about whether Greene received favorable treatment from Justice Department prosecutors who charged her with a relatively minor offense, then asked a judge to give her a reduced sentence in exchange for her cooperation, the details of which remain shrouded in court-ordered secrecy. 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.”
So What Makes Abu Talha al-Almani So Bad, Anyway?
Before he was ever Abu Talha al-Almani he was rapper Deso Dogg, and before he was rapper Deso Dogg he was just plain Denis Cuspert. Born in Germany, his Ghanian father would abandon his German mother, and his younger years would be marked by hardship and crime. He’d eventually transform from Denis Cuspert to aspiring rapper Deso Dogg, and he would have a bit of success in that realm, even touring with DMX back in 2006. But he’d eventually convert to Islam, abandon his Berlin rap career, and join the Islamic State as it attempted to build its caliphate in Iraq and Syria, adopting the name Abu Talha al-Almani. The Middle East Media Research Institute would put together a very detailed article on Abu Talha back in 2015, dubbing him “ISIS’s Celebrity Cheerleader” and explaining his integral role in helping promote ISIS’s brutal crimes through social media (again, read the whole thing, but a very relevant excerpt is below):
“Talha now embarked on an odd trajectory, seemingly as a jihadi ‘everyman,’ appearing in or near every ISIS battlefield in Syria. A July 2014 video July 2014 showed glimpses of him in the bloody aftermath of the ISIS takeover of the Al-Sha’er gas fields in Homs. In a field covered with dead bodies, Abu Talha is seen for several seconds beating a corpse with a sandal. Still another video, released in November 2014, dates from the savage ISIS suppression of the Sunni Arab Shaitat tribe in August 2014 in Deir Al-Zor. While Abu Talha is not actually seen killing anyone, he is deep in the gore of freshly spilled human blood, and holding up a just-severed human head. In yet another, short video, he is shown discussing loot taken from Kurds and Yazidis near the town of Kobane … Despite his extensive extolling of his thirst for martyrdom in December 2013, Abu Talha must either live a charmed battlefield life or, more likely, is considered too valuable as a poster child for German jihadi or mixed-race Europeans, or as a media advisor and morale booster. As such, he is likely to continue for a while as a high-profile, if marginal, visual presence. Leaving aside the special case of ISIS’s ‘West African Province’ (Boko Haram), Abu Talha is the most prominent person of color within the ranks of ISIS in Syria and Iraq.”
The Al Hayat Media Center was ISIS’s innovative propaganda arm, formed around 2014 during the height of the now-crumbling caliphate’s power. According to a Vice News article, “In addition to being one of the most brutal militant groups currently fighting in the Middle East, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) might also have the most elaborate public relations strategy.” This extremist outreach effort consisted of slick videos, social media engagement, online English-language magazines named Dabiq & Rumiyah (The Clarion Project has some examples here), and period reports called “Insight into the Islamic State” (MEMRI has some examples here). The goal for all of these varied efforts was to shape false narratives, to recruit new members, and to spread jihad – and by most accounts they were very successful. Indeed, according to one study out of Northwestern University & Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the number of foreign ISIS recruits numbered in the many tens of thousands from all over the globe: “About 30,000 fighters from at least 85 countries have joined the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as of December 2015. Although the great majority of ISIS recruits come from the Middle East and the Arab world, many foreign fighters also come from Western nations, including most members of the European Union, as well as the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Thousands of fighters from Russia and hundreds from Indonesia and Tajikistan have also joined ISIS. The recruitment of foreign fighters to join ISIS is a global phenomenon.” (And these stats are backed up by The Soufan Group & other expert groups as well). So, who was the mastermind behind much of the work of the Al Hayat Media Center, this online cesspool of well-crafted terrorist propaganda, this ISIS effort at the center of their recruitment efforts? None other than rapper-turned-terrorist Abu Talha al-Almani — butcher, jihadist, propagandist, and soon-to-be husband. His recruitment skills wouldn’t be limited just to winning over young frustrated Muslim men yearning to join the battlefield, though, because he’d apparently also manage to sway a 38-year-old already-married American FBI linguist over to his side too.
Timeline of the Scandal, Concealment, & Possible Cover-Up
Borrowing some from the CNN article and from numerous other researched sources that are available on the web, a rough timeline of the incredibly strange string of events can now be patched together, all seeming to lead towards suggestions of a woefully lenient sentence for Daniela Greene as well as a possible cover-up (or at the very least a willful concealment) involving the intelligence community and the Department of Justice:
2011: Daniela Greene becomes a translator with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
January 2014: Daniela Greene begins investigating ISIS with a specific focus on Abu Talha himself because of her knowledge of the German language.
Between January 2014 & June 2014: Daniela Greene and Abu Talha begin communicating via a secret Skype connection and work out a plan for her to come to Syria.
June 2014: Daniela Greene deceives the FBI by telling them that she is going to visit family overseas, makes her way into Syria via Turkey, reveals key classified information to members of ISIS about the FBI’s ongoing investigations, and marries terrorist Abu Talha.
August 2014: Daniela Greene gets cold feet, escapes from Syria (somehow), makes her way back to America, and is arrested by the authorities. The arrest is not publicized whatsoever and the American people are not informed that an American intelligence officer that had gone over to the side of the Islamic State has been recovered.
December 2014: Daniela Greene pleads guilty to terrorism-related charges and goes to prison after cooperating with investigators and providing them with relevant information. She will be locked up for just two years. The conviction & sentencing are not publicized whatsoever, the court records are sealed, and the American people are not informed that an American intelligence officer who had gone over to the side of the Islamic State will only be serving out a puny sentence.
January 9, 2015: Secretary of State John Kerry enters the following official statement into the Federal Register: “I hereby determine that the individual known as Denis Cuspert, also known as Denis Mamadou Cuspert … also known as Abu Taha al Almani, committed, or poses a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism that threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States.” [Nothing in the statement mentions anything about a possible American traitor, of course.]
February 9, 2015: The State Department designates Denis Cuspert a.k.a. Abu Talha as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, stating, in part: “As a result of the designation … U.S. persons are prohibited from engaging in transactions with him or to his benefit. Denis Cuspert is a foreign terrorist fighter and operative for ISIL, a designated foreign terrorist organization. Cuspert joined ISIL in 2012 and has appeared in numerous videos on its behalf, the most recent dating from early November, in which he appears holding a severed head he claims belongs to a man executed for opposing ISIL … Now calling himself Abu Talha al-Almani, Cuspert has pledged an oath of loyalty to ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and appears to serve as an ISIL recruiter with special emphasis on recruiting German speakers to ISIL. Cuspert is emblematic of the type of foreign recruit ISIL seeks for its ranks … Cuspert has been a willing pitchman for ISIL atrocities. Cuspert is also wanted by the German government on suspicion of involvement in terrorist activities in his home country.” [Nothing in the statement mentions anything about a possible American traitor, of course.]
February 9, 2015 to February 15, 2015: According to at least one newspaper, US intelligence officials apparently begin leaking the false claim that Abu Talha had married an American spy unbeknownst to him, rather than the exact opposite story (and actually true story) of her running over to the side of ISIS. [Nothing in the leaks mentions anything about a possible American traitor, of course.]
February 15, 2015: The German newspaper Bild publishes the (presumably unbeknownst to them) false story that Abu Talha had himself been duped by U.S. intelligence into marrying a woman that he didn’t know was a spy. Bild cites numerous intelligence officials and provides fairly breathless coverage of the (falsely reported) salacious incident. The original CNN article did not include any link to the original false story (or even provide the name of the German paper where the story first appeared) but I was able to track it down. The original German version is here, a rough English translation can be found here, and some key roughly translated excerpts are as follows (grammatical mistakes are included from the translation):
“What the ex-rapper with the battle name ‘Abu Talha al-Almani’ does not suspect: He is tapped into a love trap of the US federal police FBI! The spectacular secret service operation, confirmed by the German and American security circles against BILD am SONNTAG, sounds like the screenplay to an espionage thriller. The FBI hired an undercover agent into the Islamic terror scene in Syria. Their mission is to build a close relationship with an ISIS leader, and thus provide important information about the terrestrial group … The agent met Denis Cuspert and made him a target … The “Romeo and Juliet Action” was successful: the German ISIS terrorist fell in love with the US agent. He married her according to the Islamic rite. The honey trap snapped: The top spy, who had been prepared for the delicate operation every month, learned more and more from the inner life of ISIS. On secret channels the agent reported regularly during her undercover assignment with her US leadership officers. But suddenly the contact with her broke. The operation and especially the life of the FBI woman seemed to be in danger. This concern was justified: for the agent seemed to be afraid. A ‘concrete threat situation’ is mentioned. ISIS is immediately killed by traitors. While it is speculated in German intelligence circles that the woman actually fell in love with the ex-rapper, the Americans point this back … The agent succeeds in escaping from the ISIS camp. She crosses the border into Turkey. There she is arrested by the Turkish police, the FBI is informed immediately. The US federal police bring the woman to safety, she flies into the home. There, she reports in detail about all that she has experienced and experienced in the months before. It is important information about the organization and communication of ISIS terrorists – and, of course, about Denis Cuspert. To the native of Berlin the Americans have so much incriminating material that they could now put it on their international terrorist list.”
Based on the court records that have been revealed and based on the story broken by CNN, the German story is entirely false, appearing to be a fabricated account planted by American intelligence (if the paper is to be believed on its sourcing). It’s worth noting that the German intelligence officials cited in the article claim that they are (rightly) suspicious that the female spy might’ve actually been the one who had fallen in love with the terrorist, but those reservations are pushed aside by the American intelligence sources that are quoted. A number of other German newspapers like Sächsische Zeitung (English version here & German version here) also run the story (dropping any reference to the doubts that German intelligence has) and then it starts to spread internationally.
February 16, 2015 and onward: A bunch of major news sites worldwide (including Fox News, the Daily Mail, the Express Tribune, and Al-Arabiya) all fall for the narrative provided by Bild and run stories reporting the false allegations of the original German newspaper, such that it becomes the accepted narrative. Of the major outlets that I could find, all of them also stunningly drop the warning from the original story in Bild about the doubts that German intelligence had about the narrative that was being pushed.
October 30, 2015: Pentagon spokeswoman Elissa Smith states that the United States has killed Abu Talha, saying, ““I can confirm that an Oct. 16 airstrike near Raqqah killed Denis Cuspert … [He] was a foreign terrorist fighter and operative for ISIL who used social media to take advantage of disaffected youth and potential Western recruits … [He] threatened the president of the United States and German citizens … His death contributes to our efforts to stop foreign fighter recruitment.”
August 3, 2016: The Pentagon reveals that Denis Cuspert a.k.a. Abu Talha was not killed after all.
August 4, 2016: Daniela Greene is released after serving just two years in prison.
So What Does All Of This Mean?
If CNN’s reporting is accurate and if the German newspaper Bild‘s reporting was a factual representation of what American & German intelligence sources were telling them, then the following can be deduced. FBI linguist Daniela Greene betrayed her oath of office as a member of the FBI, joining the terrorist group that she had been tasked with investigating and marrying Abu Talha one of its top propagandists. At some point while in Syria she decided that it was a terrible place to be (shocking) and she somehow made her escape out of the country. Once back in the United States, Daniela Greene would be arrested on terrorism-related charges to absolute no fanfare whatsoever and would serve just two years in prison, a drastically shorter period of time than in typical terrorism-related cases, especially ones where charges could’ve credibly included collusion with the enemy and treason. Secretary John Kerry and the State Department would then label Abu Talha as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. Some members of the American intelligence community would then soon leak a false narrative to the aforementioned German newspaper, Bild, claiming that Abu Talha had actually been conned by Daniela Greene rather than the true story about an FBI translator joining up with ISIS. German intelligence officials would cast doubts on that when speaking with Bild themselves, informing the paper that they actually thought that the American spy was the one who’d fallen in love with the terrorist (the truth) instead of the other way around. The story would then jump around in German newspapers before going worldwide in very short order. And in a stunning example of shoddy journalism, almost all (if not all) other news outlets around the world would drop the doubts that German intelligence had from their stories when reporting it (possibly because that got in the way of the straightforward narrative). The Pentagon would incorrectly report that Abu Talha was killed, would be forced to retract the statement roughly a year later, and perhaps just by terrible coincidence Daniela Greene would be released from prison just one day later. All of this done secretly. All of this done without informing the American public of the threats being posed by ISIS’s propaganda machine. All of this done without informing the American public of the vulnerabilities inside its own trusted intelligence agencies. And all of this done with a dose of misdirection (like the apparent misleading leaks that would help shape a #FakeNews narrative worldwide).
The following questions now need to be answered for the American people:
What steps has the intelligence community taken to ensure this never happens again?
Did the American intelligence community purposefully leak false information regarding this case?
And, if they did willfully leak misleading information, on whose orders was it done?
How can something as insignificant as a two-year lenient sentence be justified in a case such as this?
Were larger terrorism charges or charges approaching treason ever considered by DOJ? If not, why not?
If there was purposeful concealment, who in the Obama administration knew about it & who ordered it?
What was the motivation for keeping all of this secret from the American public?
Was the motivation just the utter embarrassment over an FBI translator get beguiled by an ISIS terrorist?
Or was the motivation a desire to hide the fact that the “JV Team” was flipping U.S. agents on their watch?