US Makes Second Espionage Arrest in a Week

The United States has arrested a former US Army Special Forces officer for allegedly passing national defense information to Russian intelligence operatives. 

Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins was arrested on Friday and charged with conspiring to provide United States national defense information to agents of a foreign government. 

Debbins’ arrest comes a week after Hawaii resident and former Central Intelligence Agency officer Alexander Yuk Ching Ma was charged with selling secrets to the People’s Republic of China over the course of a decade.

It is alleged that Debbins conspired with Russian spies for an even longer period, from December 1996 to January 2011. Court documents state that the 45-year-old resident of Gainesville, Virginia, was assigned a code name by Russian intelligence officials in 1997 after he signed a statement saying that he wanted to serve Russia.

According to the allegations, Debbins provided the Russian intelligence service GRU with information about his chemical and Special Forces units. After leaving active duty service in 2008, Debbins passed on classified information about his previous deployments. 

Debbins is further accused of helping Russian intelligence agents in their efforts to recruit other spies within the United States Army. He allegedly provided agents with the names of, and information about, his former Special Forces team members. 

This information was used by agents when deciding who to approach regarding cooperating with the Russian intelligence service.

“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 C. Demers, assistant attorney general for national security.  

“Debbins violated his oath as a US 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.”

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

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