Former Green Beret arrested for selling classified info to Russia

Image Credit: New York Daily News

Accused of selling national defense
secrets to Russian intelligence officers over several years, a former captain
in the U.S. Army Special Forces was recently arrested and charged with conspiring
for a foreign government.

According to the indictment,
Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins is a U.S. citizen and was born in Minnesota. His
mother was born in the former Soviet Union, and his wife was born in Russia
with her father working as an officer in the Russian military.

In 1996, Debbins traveled to Russia
and was recruited by an agent of the Russian intelligence service. After
returning to the U.S. with his Russian wife, Debbins began active duty service
in the U.S. Army in 1998.

Debbins was later selected for the
U.S. Special Forces and assigned as a captain to the 1st Battalion, 10th
Special Forces Group stationed in Germany. Between 1996 and 2010, he repeatedly
traveled to Russia and secretly met with Russian intelligence officers who
identified themselves as members of the GRU, Russia’s primary military
intelligence agency.

In addition to providing the names
and personal info of his former Special Forces team members, Debbins also
allegedly sold other classified intel to the Russian government, including
details of his military deployments, number of companies, missions, and
technological capabilities. According to court documents, Debbins was bribed
with payments of cash, a bottle of Cognac, and a Russian military uniform.

Debbins received an honorable
discharge
in November 2005 and served in the U.S. Army inactive reserve
until 2010. During that time, he worked for a Ukranian steel manufacturer in
Minnesota while allegedly continuing to provide sensitive material to the
Russian government.

On Friday, Debbins was arrested and
charged with conspiracy to gather or deliver defense information to aid a
foreign government.

“Two espionage arrests in the past
week — Ma in Hawaii and now Debbins in Virginia — demonstrate that we must
remain vigilant against espionage from our two most malicious adversaries —
Russia and China,” said John Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National
Security, referring to former CIA officer Alexander Yuk Ching Ma who was
arrested this month and charged with spying for Chinese
intelligence officials
. “Debbins violated his oath as a U.S. Army
officer, betrayed the Special Forces and endangered our country’s national
security by revealing classified information to Russian intelligence
officers, providing details of his unit, and identifying Special Forces team
members for Russian intelligence to try to recruit as a spy.”

“Our military is tasked with the
awesome responsibility of protecting our nation from its adversaries, and its
service members make incredible sacrifices in service of that duty,” noted G.
Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, in a
recent press
release
. “When service members collude to provide classified information to
our foreign adversaries, they betray the oaths they swore to their country and
their fellow service members.”

“According to the allegations, Mr.
Debbins knowingly provided information to self-proclaimed members of Russia’s
Intelligence Service, the GRU,” stated James Dawson, Acting Assistant Director
in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office. “As a member of the U.S. Armed
Forces, the American people and his fellow service men and women should have
been able to trust Debbins with secrets and information. Debbins allegedly fell
very short of that and exploited his role in the military and his fellow service
members to benefit one of our top adversaries for years.”

If convicted, Debbins faces a
maximum sentence of life in federal prison.

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