Justice Department says former Green Beret allegedly provided secrets to Russia

A former Army Green Beret has been charged with providing information about US national defenses to Russian agents, the Department of Justice announced on Friday. By Christina Carrega, CNN

(CNN) -- A former Army Green Beret has been charged with providing information about US national defenses to Russian agents, the Department of Justice announced on Friday.

Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins was arrested for allegedly releasing details to Russian intelligence operatives about the chemical and Special Forces unit he was a part of before and while serving in the US Army.

Prosecutors with the Eastern District of Virginia say Debbins met with Russian operatives on multiple occasions from 1996 to 2011 and was even assigned a code name, "Ikar Lesnikov," by Russian intel agents. Debbins is also accused of signing a statement allegedly affirming that he wanted to serve Russia.

The FBI alleges that "Mr. Debbins knowingly provided information to self-proclaimed members of Russia's Intelligence Service, the GRU," said James A. Dawson, acting assistant director in charge of the FBI Washington field office.

"As a member of the US Armed Forces, the American people and his fellow service men and women should have been able to trust Debbins with secrets and information," said Alan E. Kohler, FBI assistant director of the counterintelligence division, in a statement. "Debbins allegedly fell very short of that and exploited his role in the military and his fellow service members to benefit one of our top adversaries for years."

It was not immediately clear if Debbins had an attorney.

Debbins, 45, of Gainesville, Virginia, served as an active member of the US Army from 1998 until he was honorably discharged in 2005. During that time, he was granted secret security clearance and was granted top secret security clearance with Sensitive Compartmented Information access, according to the indictment.

Prosecutors say Debbins' contacts with Russia dates to 1996 when he participated in an independent study program and lived in Chelyabinsk, a city nearby the country's air force base. While there, Debbins allegedly met a Russian intelligence agent and discussed his participation in the ROTC program as well as his plans to join the military.

He also met his wife in Russia and his father-in-law was an officer in the Russian military, according to the indictment.

Debbins also allegedly attempted to conceal his relationship with Russian agents by failing to disclose his contacts with them on US government documents required for background checks, according to the indictment.

Debbins was charged with one count of conspiracy to gather or deliver defense information to aid a foreign government. If convicted, Debbins faces a maximum of life in prison.

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