A former U.S. soldier is facing criminal allegations that he acted as a spy on behalf of Russian agents.
As confirmed in a statement this week from the U.S. Department of Justice, 45-year-old Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins was arrested on Friday on suspicion of conspiring with Russia over a period of about 15 years.
“Obtained as a member of the U.S. Army”
Authorities say he is accused of providing “Russian intelligence operatives” with unspecified “United States national defense information.”
According to court documents, Debbins allegedly worked with the foreign spies from December 1996 to January 2011.
At one point during that period, he is believed to have signed a statement expressing a willingness to serve Russia — and was even given a code name by the foreign agents.
“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,” the Justice Department’s Public Affairs department reported.
Following the completion of his active-duty career in 2008, the suspect is accused of delivering classified intelligence information to Russian operatives.
“We will be steadfast and dogged”
Debbins also allegedly provided the foreign agents with identifying information about his former Special Forces team members so the Russians could determine whether any of them might also be willing to cooperate.
“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,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers.
U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia asserted that “we will be steadfast and dogged in holding such individuals accountable.”
If convicted, Debbins could face life behind bars. The Justice Department noted, however, that the “actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties” and the final decision will be left to a federal district court judge.
While the criminal process in this case is still underway, the news signals a continued federal focus on rooting out threats to the nation’s security.