Minnesota native, ex-Green Beret accused of spying for Russia

Peter Debbins was indicted by the federal government on Friday.
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A Minnesota-born U.S. Army veteran is accused of working as a Russian intelligence asset for more than a decade.

Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins, 45, was charged Friday with providing national defense information to Russian spies, and is now facing life in prison.

A news release from the U.S. Justice Department says Debbins, a former Green Beret, provided intelligence agents detailed information about his Army units as well as the names of other American service members in the hopes the Russians might recruit them, too.

"The facts alleged in this case are a shocking betrayal by a former Army officer of his fellow soldiers and his country," said Alan E. Kohler, Jr., FBI Assistant Director of the Counterintelligence Division.

The men Debbins allegedly provided the information to were "self-proclaimed members of Russia's Intelligence Service, the GRU," the release notes.

According to the indictment, Debbins's mother was born in the former Soviet Union, and that he "developed an interest in the Russian Federation" partly because of his mother's heritage. 

Prosecutors say he took several trips to the country in his youth, meeting his future wife there on one such trip; her father was a Russian military officer. 

In his early meetings with the Russian agents, Debbins told them he was a "Son of Russia," and displayed "pro-Russian and anti-American" political views. 

During his military service, Debbins was given top-secret security clearance by the U.S. government, prosecutors noted.

He's accused of conspiring with the foreign agents from December 1996 to January 2011. 

FOX 9 reports that Debbins was raised in Minnesota and graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1997 with a degree in International Relations.

The station says "he has fashioned himself as an expert in cyber security" recently, while his now-deleted LinkedIn profile indicated he "spent the last decade working as a consultant, instructor, and lecturer on all things Russian."

Debbins, who is now a resident of Gainesville, Virginia, is scheduled to appear in federal court in Alexandria, Va., on Monday, the New York Times notes. 

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