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AP

Monday's craziest story comes from CNN: Daniela Greene, an FBI employee with top-secret clearance, traveled to Syria in 2014 to marry Denis Cuspert, a German rap wannabe-turned-ISIS lieutenant. She got cold feet and somehow made it back to the U.S., but was arrested upon her return.

Why it matters: Greene's case is a huge embarrassment for the FBI, as her entrance into ISIS-controlled Syria as an American woman must have required the approval of top leadership, leading many to question what secrets she put at risk. Moreover, she received a light sentence — only two years in prison for making false statements involving international terrorism — causing speculation that she received favorable treatment during her prosecution.

  • Cuspert, who once opened for rap legend DMX, filmed an ISIS propaganda video that featured him holding a severed human head.
  • Greene was investigating Cuspert as a part of her work as a German translator for the FBI and apparently used that information to get in touch with him via Skype.
  • In June 2014, Greene — still married to an American at the time — told the FBI she was going to visit her parents in Germany, but she actually traveled to Istanbul and then onto Syria to marry Cuspert.
  • While Greene was in Syria, Cuspert featured in an ISIS propaganda video in "a field covered with dead bodies."
  • Greene avoided harsher charges through "significant, long-running, and substantial" cooperation with authorities.
  • Cuspert was believed to have been killed in an October 2015 airstrike in Raqqa, but the U.S. government rescinded that claim in August 2016.

Go deeper

Dave Lawler, author of World
35 mins ago - World

China's Xi Jinping congratulates Biden on election win

Photo: Paul J. Richards/AFP via Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a message to President-elect Biden on Wednesday to congratulate him on his election victory, according to the Xinhua state news agency.

Why it matters: China's foreign ministry offered Biden a belated, and tentative, congratulations on Nov. 13, but Xi had not personally acknowledged Biden's win. The leaders of Brazil, Mexico and Russia are among the very few leaders still declining to congratulate Biden.

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
1 hour ago - Sports

College basketball is back

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A new season of college basketball begins Wednesday, and the goal is clear: March Madness must be played.

Why it matters: On March 12, 2020, the lights went out on college basketball, depriving teams like Baylor (who won our tournament simulation), Dayton, San Diego State and Florida State of perhaps their best chance to win a national championship.

2 hours ago - World

Scoop: Israeli military prepares for possibility Trump will strike Iran

Defense Minister Benny Gantz attends a cabinet meeting. Photo: Abir Sultan/POOL/AFP via Getty

The Israel Defense Forces have in recent weeks been instructed to prepare for the possibility that the U.S. will conduct a military strike against Iran before President Trump leaves office, senior Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: The Israeli government instructed the IDF to undertake the preparations not because of any intelligence or assessment that Trump will order such a strike, but because senior Israeli officials anticipate “a very sensitive period” ahead of Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20.