How to Marry a Terrorist- FBI Contractor Who Married an ISIS Fighter a Different Kind of Insider Threat

Intelligence

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) linguistic contractor Daniela Greene recently concluded a two-year prison sentence. Her case has been resurrected and placed into the public eye following a recent expose by CNN: The FBI translator who went rogue and married an ISIS terrorist.

While the CNN piece focuses a good deal of attention on whether or not Greene received preferential treatment by the Department of Justice, we dug into the root court documents to understand how and why Greene broke trust with the FBI and by extension, the United States.

Falsifying Foreign Travel Intentions

Greene, a German-language expert, was a participant within the FBI’s investigation into German national Denis Cuspert, aka Deso Dogg (a gangsta rapper) aka Abu Talha Al-Almani (ISIS). Al-Almani’s function within the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is online recruitment.

In June 2014 Greene filed a foreign travel request via the FBI’s internal form, FD772. Greene annotated the form appropriately (albeit falsely), identifying her intent to travel to Germany to visit her parents. The trip was to commence on June 21, 2014 and conclude July 4, 2014.  All very routine for any government employee.  On June 18, 2014, the FD772 request was approved by the security officer of the Indianapolis Division of the FBI.

The FBI investigation into Greene revealed Greene did not travel to her parents.  In fact, beyond the FD772, Greene did not obscure her actual travel to Turkey.  She used her debit card to purchase a tickets. She first purchased tickets to travel to and from Gaziantep, Turkey and subsequently purchased a one-way ticket from Indianapolis, via Toronto, to Istanbul, Turkey. The first set of ticket’s travel dates were prior to her actual travel, on June 23, using the one-way ticket.

FBI forensics indicated that Greene used Al-Almani’s Skype account from within Syria between June 23 and July 11, 2014.

Marry the Target of Investigation

Greene found her way to the Syrian border with Turkey and her entry into Syria was facilitated by Al-Almani. On or about June 27, whether because of true love or a highly refined piece of social engineering, Greene married Al-Almani. The court documents indicate Greene identified her employment with the FBI to Al-Almani and the fact that he was a subject of an FBI investigation (though one would think such revelation would have been made prior to her travel and marriage to Al-Almani).

There was no doubt Greene knew she was in the deep end of the pool, with water over her head. In email correspondence to an unidentified contact within the United States, Greene is quoted as saying:

” I am gone and I can’t come back I am in Syria. Sometimes I wish I could just come back I  wouldn’t even know how to make it through, if I tried to come back I am in a very harsh environment and I don’t know how long I will last here, but it doesn’t matter.
It’s all a little too late “

and

“Not sure if they told you that I will probably go to prison for a long time if I come back, but that is life I wish I could turn back time some days God willing I can arrange things, but better to write my mother m my mother tongue only, few people can read that”

When Greene ultimately departed Syria and returned to the US on August 6, 2014 she was arrested. She plead guilty to the charge of making false statements to the FBI (via FD772).  The DOJ characterized Greene as being cooperative, in an attempt to right her wrongs, and requested a downward adjustment in sentencing (to two years).

The Insider

No doubt, additional information revealing the nature of the compromise of Greene exists within the sealed portions of the court documents.  Foreign travel notification and post-travel debriefings are key within every government contracting environment. As the case of Daniela Greene reveals, it was these documents which were the linchpin in the FBI’s follow-through on a contractor who had broken trust with their employer.

Christopher Burgess (@burgessct) is an author and speaker on the topic of security strategy. Christopher, served 30+ years within the Central Intelligence Agency. He lived and worked in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Central Europe, and Latin America. Upon his retirement, the CIA awarded him the Career Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the highest level of career recognition. Christopher co-authored the book, “Secrets Stolen, Fortunes Lost, Preventing Intellectual Property Theft and Economic Espionage in the 21st Century” (Syngress, March 2008).

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