'Shocking betrayal:' Former Green Beret charged with spying for Russia over 15 years

Alleged crimes 'a shocking betrayal by a former Army officer'

Published: August 21, 2020 5:31pm

Updated: August 21, 2020 6:26pm

Days after a major China espionage case, a former Army Special Forces officer was charged Friday with conspiring with Russian intelligence officials to leak U.S. military secrets over a 15-year period that began under President Bill Clinton and ended under President Barack Obama.

Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins, a retired Green Beret, "allegedly conspired with agents of a Russian intelligence service" from December 1996 to January 2011, the Justice Department announced in a late Friday news release. 

"During that time, Debbins periodically visited Russia and met with Russian intelligence agents," the DOJ said. Debbins reportedly received a codename from the Russian government and even "signed a statement attesting that he wanted to serve Russia," the department said. 

The announcement comes just a few days after DOJ announced the arrest of former CIA officer Alexander Yuk Ching Ma in Hawaii on charges of spying for China. 

"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,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said Friday.

"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," Demers continued. "Our country put its highest trust in this defendant, and he took that trust and weaponized it against the United States.”

FBI Assistant Director of the Counterintelligence Division Alan Kohler, meanwhile, called Debbins's alleged crimes "a shocking betrayal by a former Army officer of his fellow soldiers and his country."

Debbins could face life in prison if convicted of conspiring to provide United States national defense information to agents of a foreign government.

Debbins was accused of providing Russian intelligence agents 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 names and details about his former Special Forces team members so that Moscow could evaluate whether to approach the team members to see if they would cooperate with the Russian intelligence service.

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