Nov. 19 (UPI) -- A former U.S. Army Green Beret has pleaded guilty to espionage charges for having spied on the United States for Russia for nearly two decades.
Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins, 45, of Gainesvilles, Va., pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiring with Russian intelligence agents to give them national defense information from 1996 to 2011.
"Debbins today acknowledged that he violated this country's highest trust by passing sensitive national security information to the Russians," John C. Demers, the assistant attorney general for National Security, said in a statement. "Debbins betrayed his oath, his country and his Special Forces team members with the intent to harm the United States and help Russia."
Debbins, whose mother was born in the former Soviet Union, was encouraged to join the U.S. Special Forces by Russian agents, which he did in 1998 and was granted top secret security clearance. He was honorably discharged in 2005.
According to prosecutors, Debbins gave information to Russian agents concerning his chemical and Special Forces units, and in 2008, after leaving active duty, he disclosed classified information, including the names of, and information about, his former team members so agents could evaluate whether to recruit them.
During the conspiracy, Debbins also visited Russia periodically to meet with Russian agents, the Justice Department said.
"Debbins betrayed this nation and his fellow servicemen, putting Americans and our national security at risk by providing national defense information to Russia's intelligence service," Steven M. D'Antuono, assistant director in charge of the FBI Washington Field Office, said in a statement. "Despite being entrusted to protect his colleagues and U.S. national security, he chose to abuse this trust by knowingly providing classified information to one of our most aggressive adversaries."
Debbins, who was arrested in August, faces life in prison and is scheduled for sentencing on Feb. 26.