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

New York governor asks Trump to mobilize army to prevent COVID-19 meltdown

Andrew CuomoThe governor of New York has asked United States President Donald Trump to mobilize the Army in order to avoid a healthcare meltdown that will be “worse […] than what we are seeing in Italy”. In an open letter published in the Sunday edition of The New York Times, Governor Andrew Cuomo warned that hospitals in the state of New York will soon reach the point of medical no-return if the federal government does not step in.

Governor Cuomo said that intensive care units in hospitals throughout the state of New York —one of America’s most populous, with 20 million residents— were already at an 80 percent capacity as of yesterday. He added that if a few hundred more New Yorkers were to require hospitalization from acute COVID-19 illness, the state’s healthcare system would lack the capacity to treat them. As things stood yesterday, said Governor Cuomo, New York was short of “thousands of ICU beds [and] thousands of ventilators”. This scarcity pointed to “a greater failing and a worse situation than what we are seeing in Italy, where lives ‎are being lost because the country doesn’t have the health care capacity” to accommodate the wave of patients caused by the pandemic, said the governor.

To address the problem, Governor Cuomo urged President Trump to take an unprecedented step, namely to mobilize the US Army Corps of Engineers in order to retrofit public buildings throughout the state into medical facilities. These would include schools, gyms and college dorms, said Cuomo, adding that the state lacked “the physical capacity” to construct new medical facilities or retrofit existing buildings into medical units on its own.

The New York governor went on to add that the new medical facilities would have to be ready to use within a matter of weeks, if the state’s healthcare system was to avoid the very real possibility of a full-blown medical disaster. As of last night it was not clear whether the White House would respond to Governor Cuomo’s request.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 16 March 2020 | Permalink

News you may have missed #776

Alexei NavalnyBy I. ALLEN and T.W. COLEMAN | intelNews.org |
►►US Army critiques its own intel collection system. An intelligence gathering system, known as the Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS), widely used by the US Army in Afghanistan to detect roadside bombs and predict insurgent activity, has severe limitations and is “not suitable”. This is according to a memo sent on August 1 by the Army’s senior equipment tester, General Genaro J. Dellarocco, to the Army’s chief of staff, General Raymond Odierno. The memo hammers the DCGS system for its “poor reliability” and “significant limitations” during operational testing and evaluation earlier this year.
►►Russian lawyer exposes wiretap find on Tweeter. Russian lawyer and political activist Alexei Navalny, who discovered a wiretapping device at his workplace, allegedly installed by the Russian government, has used YouTube and Tweeter to publicize his discovery. The wiretap was allegedly found attached to a set of wires hidden inside the wall molding of Navalny’s office at the Moscow-based organization Anti-Corruption Fund. It was reportedly discovered with the help of a bug detector. The same wires seem to also be attached to a hidden camera.
►►Volkswagen victim of Chinese industrial espionage? A recent article by Agence France Presse claims that German-based Volkswagen has become a victim of industrial espionage. While operating under a joint partnership agreement with the Chinese automobile company First Automobile Works, to build and manufacture cars for China’s burgeoning domestic market, designs and technical specifications for Volkswagen engines were apparently stolen. An unnamed Volkswagen manager stated that the loss was “quite simply a catastrophe”. It’s worth noting, however, that a similar accusation leveled against China in 2011 by French automaker Renault, turned out to be a criminal hoax.

United States urges Iran to release alleged CIA spy

Amir Mirzaei HekmatiBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The United States has called on Iran to release an American citizen of Iranian descent, who appeared on Iranian state TV last Sunday and acknowledged that he was an operative of the Central Intelligence Agency. In the pre-recorded interview, a man identifying himself as Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, from Arizona, said he was arrested by Iranian counterintelligence while on a CIA mission. Speaking calmly in Farsi and English and —as Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper put it— appearing to be “not under duress”, Hekmati said the joined the US Army in 2001 and served in Iraq. He also said that he was trained “in languages and espionage” while in the US Army, and eventually worked for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the US Pentagon’s research and development wing. In 2009, after nearly a decade of intelligence training, he said he was recruited by the CIA and was specifically prepared for what intelligence operatives sometimes refer to as a ‘dangling operation’ in Iran.  The aim of the mission, said Hekmati, was to travel to Tehran, contact Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and National Security, and pose as a genuine American defector wishing to supply the Iranians with inside information about American intelligence. His immediate task was to gain the trust of Iranian authorities by giving them some correct information, in order to set the stage for a longer campaign of disinformation aimed at undermining a host of Iranian intelligence operations. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #623

Erkki Tuomioja,

Erkki Tuomioja,

►►Finnish FM washes hands of CIA flights. Erkki Tuomioja, the Finnish foreign minister, said last week that Finnish officials had no means to investigate allegations that a number of CIA prisoner flights touched down in Finland during the so-called war on terrorism. Tuomioja urged human rights groups to take action instead.
►►Australian defense documents stolen by foreign intelligence. A report has revealed that secret documents of Major-General John Cantwell, Australia’s most senior commander in the Middle East, were stolen by a foreign intelligence service last year. The documents were apparently in an encrypted drive stored in an aide’s backpack –contrary to protocol– and was thought lost when a large amount of luggage went missing for several days from Islamabad airport.
►►US soldier arrested by FBI counterintelligence. William Colton Millay, of Owensboro, Ky., was arrested last week at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage in an investigation conducted by the US Army and FBI. For now, both agencies are withholding information about the spy case. But an Army spokesman said that Millay did not leak or send information using the Internet and did not harm US security.

News you may have missed #440 (USA edition)

News you may have missed #422 (suspicious deaths edition)

  • Self-described CIA assassin dies in gun accident. Roland W. Haas, a senior intelligence officer in the US Army Reserve who claimed in a 2007 memoir that he was a CIA assassin, died over the weekend when he accidentally shot himself, police in the US state of Georgia said.
  • Russian military intel chief in mystery death. General Yuri Ivanov, 52, deputy head of Russia’s powerful military intelligence agency, the GRU, died mysteriously in a swimming accident “several days ago”, Russian media has reported. No further details have been released on the circumstances or the location of Ivanov’s death.
  • David Kelly inquest calls ‘outrageous’, says friend. Professor Christian Seelos, was a UN weapons inspector in Iraq alongside British biological weapons expert Dr. David Kelly, who was found dead four days after appearing before a UK Parliament committee investigating claims about Iraq’s purported ‘weapons of mass destruction’. Seelos now says that calls for a fresh examination into Dr. Kelly’s death are “totally politically motivated”.

Largest leak in US military history reveals Afghan war details

WikiLeaks

WikiLeaks

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
American, British and German military planners are scrambling to contain the political impact of a massive cache of classified reports from Afghanistan, which has been leaked by an anti-secrecy activist group. It has now become known that, several weeks ago, the group Wikileaks.org handed over a total of 91,731 classified incident and intelligence reports from the US-led occupation force in Afghanistan to American newspaper The New York Times, British broadsheet The Guardian, and German newsmagazine Der Spiegel. All three outlets agreed to examine the material, abiding by Wikileaks’ condition that they would wait until Sunday, July 25, to release it. All three news media published news of the leak almost simultaneously on Sunday night, (see here, here and here), and posted several of the files, which provide an unprecedented six-year archive (from 2004 to 2009) of day-to-day US-led military operations in Afghanistan. This unprecedented disclosure is believed to represent the largest public leak of classified material in US military history. Read more of this post

US Army intel analyst arrested over Wikileaks probe

Bradley Manning

Bradley Manning

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Speaking last Thursday at the annual Personal Democracy Conference in New York, Daniel Ellsberg said he was amazed that the US National Security Agency “can’t crack” Wikileaks. The former Pentagon employee, who in 1971 leaked the Pentagon Papers, was referring to the activist website that anonymously publishes secret governmental and corporate documents from around the world. But Ellsberg may have been talking too soon. On Sunday, Wired magazine’s Threat Level blog revealed that a US Army intelligence analyst had been detained for allegedly giving Wikileaks secret video footage and “hundreds of thousands of classified State Department records”. Specialist Bradley Manning, 22, was reportedly detained two weeks ago by the US Army’s Criminal Investigation Division while stationed in Forward Operating Base Hammer, near Baghdad, Iraq. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #308

  • CIA boss warns of al-Qaeda changing tactics. CIA director Leon Panetta has said that the Agency’s counterterrorism operations are actively disrupting al-Qaeda’s command and control structures. But the group is now changing its tactics by deploying people inside the US who have no history of terrorist activity or documented connection to the organization, he told a conference.
  • New US TSA boss is a counter-intel specialist. Robert A. Harding, the fifth person in nine years to head the beleaguered US Transportation Security Administration, served 33 years as a counterintelligence specialist in the US Army. TSA has been operating under an acting administrator for months.

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News you may have missed #0169

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News you may have missed #0109

  • Somali pirates have spies in London shipbroking. A report compiled by European military intelligence agencies says that Somali pirates operating in the Gulf of Aden and more recently the Indian Ocean have well-placed informers in London, a world center for shipbroking and maritime insurance. They also regularly use satellite phones and GPS tracking systems to zero in on their targets.
  • Canada denies entry visa to Russian official due to KGB ties. Mikhail Margelov, who heads the foreign affairs committee of the Russian parliament, was invited to participate in the Inter-Parliamentary Forum of the Americas (FIPA) in Ottawa. But upon applying for an entry visa he was warned it could be denied because of his KGB ties. Observers say this episode may be indicative of a shift in Russo-Canadian relations.

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Did CIA engage in non-consensual human experimentation?

CIA HQ

CIA HQ

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Late last month, I warned that it would take several weeks before journalists, academics, historians, lawyers, and other interested parties comb through the recently declassified report on torture by the CIA inspector general, as well as several other newly available documents pertaining to the CIA’s interrogation program. The search continues. Meanwhile, several observers are focusing on the CIA’s Office of Medical Services, as well as on Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) a secretive US Army unit, whose work appears to have informed the CIA’s torture program. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0073

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News you may have missed #0052

  • Expert says US Army’s spying on activists was illegal. Eugene R. Fidell, a military law expert at Yale Law School, says the spying by the US Army against two activist groups in Washington state, which was revealed earlier this week, appears to violate the Posse Comitatus Act, a federal law that prohibits the use of the US Army for conventional law enforcement activities against civilians.
  • German court rules spy services withheld information –again. Germany’s highest court has concluded that the government illegally withheld information from investigators probing into alleged spying on parliamentarians by Germany’s intelligence services (BND). Last week the BND was found to have withheld information from a parliamentary inquiry into the BND’s role in the detention of two Muslims from Germany at a US prison in Afghanistan.
  • Nearly 2.5 million have US government security clearances. The US Government Accountability Office estimates that 2.4 persons currently hold security clearances for authorized access to classified information. This number does not include those “with clearances who work in areas of national intelligence”.

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