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Feds: Former Army Green Beret confessed to contact with Russian intelligence

Over the course of the conspiracy, Debbins allegedly provided the Russian intelligence agents with information that he obtained as a member of the U.S. Army.

WASHINGTON — A Gainesville, Virginia man was arrested for conspiring with Russian intelligence operatives to provide them with United States national defense information.

According to court documents from December 1996 to January 2011, 45-year-old Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins, a former member of the U.S. Army, allegedly conspired with agents of a Russian intelligence service. During that time, Debbins periodically visited Russia and met with Russian intelligence agents. In 1997, Debbins was assigned a code name by Russian intelligence agents and signed a statement attesting that he wanted to serve Russia.

“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,” John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security said. “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 country put its highest trust in this defendant, and he took that trust and weaponized it against the United States.”

Over the course of the conspiracy, Debbins allegedly provided the Russian intelligence agents with information that he obtained as a member of the U.S. Army, including information about his chemical and Special Forces units. 

In 2008, after leaving active duty service, Debbins disclosed to the Russian intelligence agents classified information about his previous activities while deployed with the Special Forces. 

Debbins also provided the Russian intelligence agents with the names of, and information about, his former Special Forces team members so that the agents could evaluate whether to approach the team members to see if they would cooperate with the Russian intelligence service.

“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,” G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia said. “As this indictment reflects, we will be steadfast and dogged in holding such individuals accountable.”

Debbins is charged with conspiring to provide United States national defense information to agents of a foreign government. If convicted, Debbins faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties.  

A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

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