US Army Special Forces soldier sentenced to 15 years for spying for Russia

Peter Debbins

A FORMER MEMBER OF the United States Army’s Special Forces has been sentenced for spying for Russia for 15 years, after he was reportedly groomed by Russian military intelligence at a young age. Peter Debbins, 46, born in the US to an American father and a Soviet-born mother, admitted in 2020 to spying for Russia for over 20 years.

Even though he had Russian background from his mother’s side of the family, he had never been to Russia until he traveled there in 1994. On that trip he met his Russian family members for the first time, as well as a young Russian woman who would eventually become his wife. In 1996 Debbins returned to Russia as an exchange student from the University of Minnesota, and reconnected with a Russian woman. She was from the city of Chelyabinsk, located near the Russian-Kazakh border. The woman’s father was reportedly a colonel in the Russian Air Force.

It was during that second trip, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, that he was spotted by the Main Directorate of the Russian Armed Forces’ General Staff, known commonly as GRU. By 1997, when Debbins returned to Russia to marry his girlfriend, he was already working for the GRU, according to US government prosecutors. It is stated in his indictment that he told his GRU handler he saw himself as a “son of Russia” and sought to limit America’s dominance in the world.

Between 1998 and 2005, Debbins served in the US Army, where he became a Green Beret. He was discharged and lost his security clearance after “violating protocols” while he was stationed in Azerbaijan. Throughout his time in the US Army, Debbins frequently traveled to Russia, where his wife was studying at the time. While there he met with his GRU handlers. The court heard that he gave the GRU information on a variety of classified subjects, as well as private information on other members of the Green Berets. This information was intended to be used to blackmail these soldiers to work for the GRU.

Following his stint in the US Army, Debbins worked as a contractor for the US military, on topics relating to Russian language translation, as well as counterintelligence. Throughout that time, he reportedly continued to apply for dozens of positions in the US intelligence community, but without success. He is believed to have stopped spying for Russia in 2011.

The judge who hand down Debbins’ sentence ordered that his incarceration should begin immediately. Debbins’ legal team has requested that he be incarcerated near the Washington Metropolitan Area, so that he can remain in contact with his wife and four daughters.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 17 May 2021 | Permalink

One Response to US Army Special Forces soldier sentenced to 15 years for spying for Russia

  1. Pete says:


    An excellent article. Some additional interesting details (and my assumptions) gleaned from the link you provided in the 3rd paragraph of your article, are:

    Debbins used his high security access (provided by sensitive jobs and a network of unconscious contacts in the US and UK) to pass the GRU intel on “signals intelligence, chemical and biological weapons, nuclear weapons, cybersecurity, and cyber operations, as well as spot, assess, and identify to the GRU individuals with access and vulnerabilities.”

    Debbins appeared to evade US military and civilian CI monitoring in his travels to/from Russia, and for covert comms with the GRU, by “using an alias, “Peter Alcuin.”” backed by genuine “photos” of himself [maybe in a false passport under the name “Peter Alcuin”?].

    [In 2014 Debbins] “makes an employment change to Booz Allen…[like Edward Snowden years before him, Debbins] “was assigned to a contract with the National Security Agency (NSA) where he was a contract Russian analyst. Especially noteworthy is that Debbins must have been able to pass through the background check and counterintelligence screening required of all who work within the NSA, to include a polygraph. The GRU’s training on dealing with the polygraph, an imprecise operational testing tool was put to good use.”

    A bit Off Topic: Was Mr Snowden also trained by the GRU to evade US security/intelligence polygraphs, before Snowden’s major (3 – 4 laptop) document dump to Russian intel – a dump which effectively “purchased” Snowden’s ongoing long term visa protection in Russia?

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