1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

US ex-Green Beret charged with spying for Moscow

August 22, 2020

A former officer in the US Special Forces has been charged with spying for Moscow. Prosecutors allege that he considered himself a "son of Russia," and divulged military secrets to Moscow for over a decade.

The seal of the US Department of Justice
Image: Reuters/A. Kelly

A former officer in the US Special Forces Green Berets was arrested Friday and charged with spying for Russia, the Justice Department said. 

Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins, 45, is accused of sharing military secrets about his unit's activities in the former Soviet republics with Russian intelligence for more than a decade.  

According to an indictment released after his arrest, Debbins told Russian agents he considered himself a "son of Russia." 

Read moreWhy are Russia and the West allowed to spy on each other?

Finland: The Russians are coming

Born in the US, Debbins was recruited by Russian intelligence in 1996 before he joined the army, the department said. He had taken several trips to Russia, his mother's native home, and allegedly met with Russian agents in the city of Chelyabinsk while he was a university student there. 

Debbins married the daughter of a Russian military officer in 1997. 

Prosecutors said the espionage lasted till 2011. 

''Debbins thought that the United States was too dominant in the world and needed to be cut down to size,'' the prosecutors alleged. 

Debbins wanted to leave the military a few years after joining, but the Russians asked him to remain and join the Green Berets.  

He joined the US Special Forces in 2001 and was made a captain two years later. During his service, he was based in Germany and later in Azerbaijan with a high-level security clearance. Debbins left the Green Berets in 2005 but remained in touch with the Russian intelligence, prosecutors said.  

Read more

Russian in Germany charged with illegally exporting military tech

According to the indictment, Debbins' last contact with his Russian handlers was 2011. 

"The facts alleged in this case are a shocking betrayal by a former Army officer of his fellow soldiers and his country," FBI senior counterintelligence official Alan Kohler said in a statement. 

The indictment said Debbins was partly motivated to collaborate with Moscow because of bitterness over his Army career and a desire to establish business contacts in Russia. 

He has been charged under the Espionage Act and could face up to life in prison if found guilty. 

Earlier this week, a former US CIA official was also charged with spying for China.  

dvv/nm (AFP, AP)