Former Army Special Forces Officer Charged in Russian Espionage Conspiracy

A Gainesville, Virginia, man was arrested on Friday for conspiring with Russian intelligence operatives to provide them with United States national defense information.


Former Green Beret Allegedly Conspired to Provide National Defense Information to Russian Intelligence

A Gainesville, Virginia, man was arrested on Friday for conspiring with Russian intelligence operatives to provide them with United States national defense information.

According to court documents, from December 1996 to January 2011, Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins, 45, a former member of the U.S. Army, allegedly conspired with agents of a Russian intelligence service.  During that time, Debbins periodically visited Russia and met with Russian intelligence agents.  In 1997, Debbins was assigned a code name by Russian intelligence agents and signed a statement attesting that he wanted to serve Russia.

“Two espionage arrests in the past week — Ma in Hawaii and now Debbins in Virginia — demonstrate that we must remain vigilant against espionage from our two most malicious adversaries — Russia and China,” said John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security.  “Debbins violated his oath as a U.S. Army officer, betrayed the Special Forces and endangered our country’s national security by revealing classified information to Russian intelligence officers, providing details of his unit, and identifying Special Forces team members for Russian intelligence to try to recruit as a spy.  Our country put its highest trust in this defendant, and he took that trust and weaponized it against the United States.”

“Our military is tasked with the awesome responsibility of protecting our nation from its adversaries, and its service members make incredible sacrifices in service of that duty,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.  “When service members collude to provide classified information to our foreign adversaries, they betray the oaths they swore to their country and their fellow service members.  As this indictment reflects, we will be steadfast and dogged in holding such individuals accountable.”

“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.  “Debbins is accused of giving Russian intelligence officers sensitive information about the units in which he once served and also providing the names of other service members so Russia could try to recruit them.  These actions cannot stand and the FBI will aggressively pursue such cases.”

“According to the allegations, 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 U.S. Armed Forces, the American people and his fellow service men and women should have been able to trust Debbins with secrets and information.  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. Today’s charges are another example of the dedicated and unrelenting efforts of the FBI and our partners, domestic and international, to aggressively pursue and bring to justice those who violate this sacred trust and place our national security at risk.”

Over the course of the conspiracy, Debbins allegedly provided the Russian intelligence agents with information that he obtained as a member of the U.S. Army, including information about his chemical and Special Forces units.  In 2008, after leaving active duty service, Debbins disclosed to the Russian intelligence agents classified information about his previous activities while deployed with the Special Forces.  Debbins also provided the Russian intelligence agents with the names of, and information about, his former Special Forces team members so that the agents could evaluate whether to approach the team members to see if they would cooperate with the Russian intelligence service.

Debbins is charged with conspiring to provide United States national defense information to agents of a foreign government.  If convicted, Debbins faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.  Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties.  A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security; G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; James A. Dawson, Acting Assistant Director of FBI Washington Field Office made the announcement.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas W. Traxler and James L. Trump, and Trial Attorney David Aaron of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section are prosecuting the case.

Assistant Attorney General Demers and U.S. Attorney Terwilliger greatly appreciate the assistance of the FBI’s Minneapolis Field Office, and Army Counterintelligence, along with the United Kingdom’s Metropolitan Police and MI5.

An indictment is merely an accusation.  The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Blogs to Follow:

Justice.gov (August 2020) Former Army Special Forces Officer Charged in Russian Espionage Conspiracy

Missile Agency Director Describes Threat, Countermeasures

In recent years, threats from new missile systems against the homeland, deployed forces and friends and allies have arisen from Russia, China, North Korea and Iran, the director of the Missile Defense Agency said.


In recent years, threats from new missile systems against the homeland, deployed forces and friends and allies have arisen from Russia, China, North Korea and Iran, the director of the Missile Defense Agency said.

Navy Vice Adm. Jon A. Hill spoke yesterday at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium in Washington.

“At one time, the MDA focused on the ballistic missile threat. However, adversaries have designed extremely fast and maneuverable advanced cruise missiles and hyper-sonic weapons that make for “a very tough environment for defense,” Hill said. “The Missile Defense Review addressed these new threats, laying out a path to follow in developing new offensive and defensive measures, he added.”

Though defense is a key part of deterrence, Hill said, “you can’t shoot what you don’t see.” Providing that sights are sensors and radars aboard ships, on the ground and in space.

Space-based sensors are the ultimate, Hill said, because they can provide global coverage. Space tracking and surveillance systems collect data, intelligence and real-world missile testing, he said, but that capability is nowhere near where it needs to be.

Sensors start the kill chain by sending out a warning, the admiral explained. Then, radars track the missile, and fire control launches a defensive projectile.

This projectile can come from a Patriot system or Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, all operated by the Army, or the Standard Missile 3 Block IIA or the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, both operated by the Navy. Besides those defenses, ground-based interceptors, operated by the Army, are deployed at Fort Greely, Alaska, and at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

The command and control and battle management system, fully protected with cybersecurity measures, ties these systems together with the operators.

Many missile defense components are in the research, science and technology and demonstration phase, Hill said. For example, work is being done on the next-generation interceptor and long-range discrimination radar, as well as space-based sensors.

“Where we live today is we don’t have everything we want deployed in space, nor do we have the terrestrial or mobile sea-based sensors where we want, where we need them at the right time,” the missile agency Director said.

Besides new, cutting-edge systems, Hill noted that current systems such as Aegis and command and control are receiving important upgrades as they become available.

MDA is working with the Army to integrate the THAAD and Patriot systems so operators can communicate with both and shoot with either, depending on the scenario, the admiral said.

Allies and partners are developing their own missile defense systems or buying them from the United States through the foreign military sales system, Hill said. These systems used by friends and partners furthers global security, he pointed out, and the Defense Department is working to better integrate those systems so they’re even more effective.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic has presented challenges, Hill said, that hasn’t affected MDA’s ability to perform its mission: “If you ask me where we took risk during the global pandemic, we never took any risk in supporting the warfighter,” he said. “We continue to deliver capability, we continue to support major movements around the globe.” Delivery of systems caused some delay, he acknowledged, because assembly lines require people in confined and enclosed places.

Hill termed his MDA team and those in the services as stellar, and he said there’s no nobler calling than defending America.

Blogs to Follow:

Defense.gov (August 2020) Missile Agency Director Describes Threat, Countermeasures

DOD Proposes Removing More than 11,000 Troops From Germany

The United States will bring some American service members home from their forward stationed assignments in Germany, while other service members will move to other locations in Europe to improve the commitment to NATO and the defense of Europe, Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper said, adding that the proposed changes are firmly in line with the National Defense Strategy.


The United States will bring some American service members home from their forward stationed assignments in Germany, while other service members will move to other locations in Europe to improve  the commitment to NATO and the defense of Europe, Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper said, adding that  the proposed changes are firmly in line with the National Defense Strategy.

The plan is for U.S. European Command to reposition 11,900 personnel who are currently stationed in Germany to other locations, Esper said during a news conference today at the Pentagon. The move will reduce the number of U.S. military personnel in Germany from about 36,000 to 24,000. Repositioning could begin in weeks, he said, adding that with 24,000 American service members, Germany would still host the highest number of U.S. troops of any nation in NATO.

About 5,600 service members being moved out of Germany will stay within Europe. They will be moved to other NATO nations, Esper said. An additional 6,400 personnel will return to the United States, though Esper said this will not mean less support of NATO allies, because instead of having permanently stationed forces in Germany, other military units will begin rotational deployments farther east on the continent in more strategic locations, such as near the Black Sea region.

”Our aim is to implement these moves as expeditiously as possible consistent with the principles I set forth from the beginning, particularly being fair to, and taking care of our service members and their families,” the secretary said. ”We could see some moves begin within weeks. Others will take longer. As anyone can see, the repositioning of our forces in Europe constitutes a major strategic and positive shift, wholly in line with the NDS and consistent with other adjustments the United States has made within NATO in previous times.”

Air Force Gen. Tod D. Wolters, commander of U.S. European Command and NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe, spelled out some of the specific movements planned for forces in Europe.

The Eucom headquarters and the associated U.S. Special Operations Command-Europe headquarters, for example, would move from Germany to Mons, Belgium, where they would be located with Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe.

”This will improve the speed and clarity of our decision-making and promote greater operational alignment,” Wolters said, adding that a similar relocation could happen for U.S. Africa Command headquarters and the associated U.S. Special Operations Command-Africa, though no new location has been determined.

Wolters also said Eucom intends to reposition three brigade-sized headquarters, an air defense artillery battalion, and an engineering battalion to Belgium from Germany, as well as move two smaller support and contracting organizations to Italy. He said the 52nd Civil Engineering Squadron, an Air Force unit, could be one of the first to move. The plan is to put that unit in Italy.

Eucom also proposes relocating an F-16 fighter squadron and elements of a fighter wing to Italy. Esper said the move will put those units closer to the Black Sea region, better enabling them to support NATO in the southeast.

”The proposal to reposition forces back to [the United States], … with respect to the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, will allow those units to regain maximum U.S. at-home-station readiness and more effectively support global contingencies while still maintaining a keen focus on Europe,” Wolters said.

There are also plans to rotate forward the lead element of the Army’s 5th Corps headquarters to Poland, Esper said, contingent on Warsaw signing a defense cooperation agreement. There may also be other opportunities to move additional forces into Poland and the Baltics, the general said.

”This rebalance, consistent with the NDS, will align NATO and Eucom capabilities, better distribute forces across Europe and increase the use of rotational forces, thus bolstering our commitment to Europe,” said Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. ”It enhances deterrence and improves operational flexibility. Repositioning our forces and making consolidations will provide General Wolters, as the commander, increased ability to dynamically employ his force. This effort will increase opportunities to partner with and strengthen our bond with allies and partners in the region. It will also require additional planning and consultation with our allies.”

Blogs to Follow:

CBP.gov (July 2020) DOD Proposes Removing More than 11,000 Troops From Germany

Bucks County Man Pleads Guilty to Faking a Military Career as a Navy SEAL, Stealing from the Government, and Straw Purchasing Firearms

United States Attorney William M. McSwain announced that Richard Meleski, 58, of Chalfont, PA, pleaded guilty to multiple charges, including healthcare fraud, mail fraud, stolen valor, and aiding and abetting straw purchases of firearms.


United States Attorney William M. McSwain announced that Richard Meleski, 58, of Chalfont, PA, pleaded guilty to multiple charges, including healthcare fraud, mail fraud, stolen valor, and aiding and abetting straw purchases of firearms.

In November 2019, Meleski was charged by Indictment for his scheme to defraud the government of hundreds of thousands of dollars in benefits.

To perpetrate the scheme, Meleski faked serving in the U.S. military, specifically the Navy SEALs, and falsely represented that he had been a Prisoner of War, in order to secure healthcare benefits from the Veterans Administration (VA) worth over $300,000.

Due to his false representation as a POW, the defendant received healthcare from the VA in Priority Group 3, effectively receiving healthcare before other deserving military service members.


Richard Meleski, 58, of Chalfont, PA

In reality, Meleski never served a single day in the United States military.

Meleski also filed for monetary compensation from the VA for PTSD he supposedly suffered during an armed conflict in Beirut in which he rescued injured service members. In his application for disability benefits for PTSD, Meleski falsely represented that he had been awarded the Silver Star for heroic actions during his time as a Navy SEAL.

Again, Meleski never served a single day in the United States military and of course was never awarded any service medals. Meleski also submitted another application to the VA for monetary compensation in which he included obituaries of actual Navy SEALs alongside whom he had supposedly served.

In short, he traded on the actions of true heroes in an attempt to bolster his false application for monetary benefits.

The defendant also filed for disability benefits from the United States Social Security Administration (SSA) for injuries he claimed to have received during his time in the service.

Meleski falsely testified under oath in connection with an SSA Disability proceeding.

After being arrested for fraud, it was discovered that the defendant had also engaged in aiding and abetting the straw purchase of two separate firearms; he also pleaded guilty to this conduct.

“Meleski faked a record as a decorated U.S. Navy SEAL in order to steal numerous forms of compensation,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “Everything about this case is profoundly offensive. Our veterans fought for the freedoms we hold dear, and we owe them a debt that we can never fully repay. But holding individuals like Meleski accountable for their crimes is one small way that we can honor our veterans’ service.”

The case was investigated by Department of Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General, Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. It is being prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Megan Curran.

Blogs to Follow:

Justice.gov (July 2020) Bucks County Man Pleads Guilty to Faking a Military Career as a Navy SEAL, Stealing from the Government, and Straw Purchasing Firearms

Legionnaire on Vanessa Guillén: ‘Enough is enough’

On Wednesday, the American Legion and U.S. Army veteran and Legionnaire Jay Gonzales, responded concerning the murder of Army Spc. Vanessa Guillén, and the alleged events leading up to it, sparked a national movement of sexual trauma survivors to share their stories publicly, including via social media platforms using the hashtag #IAmVanessaGuillén.


On Wednesday, the American Legion and U.S. Army veteran and Legionnaire Jay Gonzales, responded concerning the murder of Army Spc. Vanessa Guillén, and the alleged events leading up to it, sparked a national movement of sexual trauma survivors to share their stories publicly, including via social media platforms using the hashtag #IAmVanessaGuillén.

U.S. Army veteran and Legionnaire Jay Gonzales didn’t use social media to share her story. But she nevertheless has made it public. And it’s a story of being fed up with what she says is a problem that has gone on for decades.

Gonzales – vice commander of American Legion Post 213 in Buda, Texas, and the post’s American Legion Riders director – recently joined other Texas American Legion Riders and hundreds of others in an #IAmVanessaGuillén convoy in San Antonio that drew what some estimate to be more than 1,000 vehicles.

There she was interviewed by Spectrum News about why she chose to ride for Guillén and then amplified her thoughts while speaking with The American Legion. Gonzales served in the U.S. Army in the late 1970s, where she was sexually assaulted.

Memorial parade for SPC Vanessa Guillen in San Antonio – 11 July 2020

Taking part in the ride was an easy decision for Gonzales.

“I think enough is enough, and something needs to be done,” Gonzales said. “Women have gone through this for so many years. The fact that everybody was saying (Guillén) was AWOL and what have you, and then come to find out she was murdered … for people like myself with a lot of terrible memories, it was just the right thing to do to be there to support her family and what they’re going through.”

Guillén went missing April 22 from Fort Hood; her remains were found around 20 miles from Fort Hood and identified over the July 4 weekend. Army Spc. Aaron Robinson allegedly told Cecily Aguilar – a civilian – that he killed Guillén “by striking her in the head with a hammer” while on base April 22, then smuggled her body to a remote site in Bell County, according to a July 2 criminal complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas.

Aguilar allegedly helped Robinson mutilate and dispose of Guillén’s body, according to the complaint. Robinson took his own life on June 30 during an attempt by police to apprehend him.

An attorney representing Guillén’s family alleged that Robinson sexually harassed Guillén before he murdered her.

Fort Hood and Army Criminal Investigation Command officials maintain that there is no credible evidence that Guillén was the victim of sexual harassment. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy announced on July 10 that he has ordered an independent review of command climate and culture at Fort Hood.

The assault on Gonzales left her pregnant, and her Catholic faith convinced her to keep the child. “I chose to keep that child because I wasn’t going to take a life,” she said. “For me it was an everyday reminder, but I don’t look at it that way anymore. Once I got past it … I love my child. It’s a gift from God to me.”

Being around other veterans has helped Gonzales continue to heal while giving her a chance to continue to serve. She has filled a large role in Post 213’s efforts during the coronavirus pandemic.

As a part of the Buda Veterans Alliance, Post 213 American Legion Family members have helped produce more than 11,000 face masks for people in 22 states, 58,000 surgical mask ear relief straps for staff at more than 50 medical facilities, and delivered $800 in food vouchers to 16 families.

“For me, it’s finished what I started years ago: serving my country,” Gonzales said. “Being around other veterans and doing what we know is in our heart to do. That’s why I joined The American Legion. It gave me a chance to be around other veterans and do for other veterans.”

Legion 213 Commander and Air Force veteran Cassaundra Melgar C’De Baca also spoke with Spectrum News. A victim of both sexual harassment and sexual assault while in the military, Melgar C’De Baca said the Guillén case may actually lead to changes, but those changes have come with a steep price. “I feel horrible that a human being actually has to die for us to make changes,” she said. “At least now … the community, the military are saying it’s not OK. I would to see the military make changes when people make the (sexual harassment and assault) claims. I think that’s still a long road ahead.”

Across the nation, American Legion Post 18 in Weehawken, N.J., staged a candlelight vigil to honor Guillén. On its Facebook page, the post wrote “To all our neighbors, please continue to support our sister-in-arms’ loved ones and join us in the work to ensure no military family ever again endures such horror.”

Blogs to Follow:

Legion.org (July 2020) Legionnaire on Vanessa Guillén: ‘Enough is enough’