Today in a Federal court in Alexandria, VA, Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins pleaded guilty to one count “conspiracy to gather or deliver defense information to aid a foreign government – i.e., espionage – on behalf of the Russian Federation from December 1996 through January 2011.
The Department of Justice noted, as evidenced previously in court documents, that Debbins’s clandestine relationship was formalized in Samara, Russia when he “signed a statement attesting that he wanted to serve Russia.”
Debbins was arrested on August 21. ClearanceJobs previously covered the case in several pieces, including:
- The Russian Espionage Case – Exposing the Mole in the U.S. Special Forces, which covered the GRU’s spotting and assessing phase.
- Debbins Formalizes his Relationship with the GRU – It’s Now Espionage provided a deep dive into the formalization of the clandestine relationship with the GRU.
- Watch the Timeline of Events with Debbins and the GRU notes how Debbins expanded his reach into the U.S. Intelligence Community while establishing his relationship with Russia.
- Debbins’s Arraignment and CIPA Court Process uses the Debbins case as a backdrop for how cases involving classified information go through the court process.
What about after 2011?
There is no mention in the plea agreement of the period of time from January 2011 through his arrest on August 21, during which time he had unencumbered access to the U.S. intelligence and defense communities. There remains, however, the capability to take further judicial action if Debbins does not adhere to the terms of the plea agreement. These include the “unauthorized disclosing classified information, confidential information, and other information acquired as a part of the defendant’s performance of his official duties.”
Debbins has agreed to not meet with any representative of a foreign government (except with the express permission of the U.S. Department of Defense). Similarly, should media wish to meet with Debbins, the U.S. DoD will be present (at their option). Any manuscript/books which Debbins engages to tell his life story will be submitted for publication review and any proceeds resulting from publication will be forfeited to the U.S. Treasury.
Assistant Attorney General for National Security, John C. Demers commented, “Debbins betrayed his oath, his country, and his Special Forces team members with the intent to harm the United States and help Russia. Debbins’s guilty plea represents another success in the Department’s continuing effort to counter the national security threat posed by our nation’s adversaries, including Russia.”
There are two potential reasons for the DOJ to halt the indictment, court exhibits, and statement of facts at January 2011. The first is that there was sufficient information within Debbins’s handwritten confession. Second, while in this writer’s opinion, Debbins did not stop his cooperation and collaboration post-2011, there is no need to publicly display for the Russian Federation what Debbins shared and didn’t share concerning his defense and intelligence sector engagement.
To unnecessarily include the information in the public court proceedings serves to assist the GRU (Russian military intelligence) in their own damage assessment. While the GRU no doubt is making the correct assumption that Debbins is sharing the totality of their relationship, they are now relegated to reconstructing the activities based on their own files.
Here’s hoping that those files are incomplete.
What’s next for Debbins? He is looking at a life sentence for espionage and will be sentenced February 26.