Accused Russian Spy Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins Evidently Beat the Polygraph to Penetrate INSCOM and the DIA

Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins

On Thursday, 20 August 2020, a grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia indicted former U.S. Army Special Forces officer Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins of Gainesville, Virginia on a single count of “Conspiracy to Gather or Deliver Defense Information to Aid a Foreign Government.” Debbins was arrested on Friday, 21 August 2020.

The indictment states that the 45-year-old Debbins graduated from the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program at the University of Minnesota in 1997 and served on active military duty from July 1998 until November 2005. During this time, Debbins served in the U.S. Army Chemical Corps in Korea and at Fort Polk, Louisiana, and with the 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group in Germany. Debbins was investigated for a security violation during a deployment to Azerbaijan in 2004, as a consequence of which he was relieved of command and his Top Secret/SCI security clearance was suspended. After leaving active duty, Debbins served in the inactive army reserve until 2010.

The indictment alleges that throughout his military service, indeed while still an ROTC cadet, Debbins was working on behalf of a Russian intelligence service. The indictment alleges, among other things, that during a meeting with two Russian intelligence officers in 2003, Debbins provided information about the 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group, noting at para. 46 that he was instructed not to take a polygraph “test’:

46. During the meeting, RIS 5 and RIS 6 instructed DEBBINS not to take a polygraph and offered to give him training on how to deceive polygraphs. They further encouraged DEBBINS to continue pursuing a career in the Special Forces.

It is not specified whether Debbins ever received such polygraph countermeasure training.

The indictment does go on to note:

60. In January 2010, an Adjudicator with the U.S. Army Central Personnel Security Clearance Facility sent DEBBINS a letter notifying him that he had been granted a TS/SCI security clearance….

The indictment does not state for what purpose Debbins was granted this security clearance, but in a profile of Debbins on the website of the Institute for World Politics he states:

I got a job working at Fort Meade as a Russian analyst and did that for three years. I then transitioned to working as a cyber instructor for CACI for another three years.

If the espionage allegations against Debbins are true—and they seem to be well-documented, including a signed confession—then Debbins necessarily beat the polygraph to work at Fort Meade.

902nd Military Intelligence Group Crest

Debbins’ LinkedIn profile indicates that from January 2011 to March 2014, he worked as a “senior research analyst” for Mission Essential Intelligence Solutions, a government contractor. Debbins’ resume, made public on 27 August 2020 (after this article was first published), shows that this contract work was for the 902nd Military Intelligence Group, a counterintelligence unit falling under the U.S. Army’s Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) and headquartered at Fort Meade, Maryland. This position, for which Debbins needed a TS/SCI clearance, would have required polygraph screening.

Thereafter, from April 2014 to December 2015, Debbins indicates that he was an associate with Booz Allen Hamilton, another government contractor that among other things provides services to the NSA. However, Debbins’ resume indicates that his work with Booz Allen Hamilton was as a “Russian cyber analyst” for the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Since 1 January 2017, the Defense Intelligence Agency has required that all contractors inside the continental United States with SCI access pass a polygraph “test.” This requirement was extended to contractors outside the continental United States as of 1 July 2017. Thus, it is possible that Debbins also beat the DIA polygraph, though it’s possible that a previously passed army polygraph might have obviated the need for a DIA polygraph.

After that, Debbins indicates that he worked as an instructor for military contractor CACI International, Inc. from January 2016 to September 2017. A statement by DIA Senior Expert for Counterintelligence David L. Tomlinson indicates that this work was with DIA’s Joint Counterintelligence Training Activity.

Accused spy Debbins at RAF Molesworth nuclear bunker, 30 January 2018

Debbins’ profiles on LinkedIn and the Institute for World Politics indicate that after leaving CACI International, he worked through contractor CoSolutions, Inc. as a Russian studies instructor from August 2017 to January 2020.

DIA Senior Expert for Counterintelligence David L. Tomlinson’s statement indicates that the specific organization for which Debbins worked was the DIA’s Regional Joint Intelligence Training Facility (RJITF) at RAF Molesworth. The RJITF is closely associated with the DIA-operated Joint Intelligence Operations Center Europe (JIOCEUR) Analytic Center.

In 2015, the U.S. Air Force’s 501st Combat Support Wing produced the following public relations video about the JIOCEUR Analytic Center, commonly called the Joint Analytic Center (JAC):

The DIA’s former top analyst for Cuban affairs, Ana Belen Montes, was a Cuban spy who received instruction in polygraph countermeasures from her handlers and beat at least one DIA polygraph while spying for Cuba. Ironically, in response to Montes having beaten the polygraph, the Department of Defense Inspector General recommended more polygraphs, and the DIA complied.

That spies and security violators are beating the polygraph is not surprising. Polygraphy has no scientific basis to begin with, and as explained in’s free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector, its methodology makes it vulnerable to simple, effective countermeasures that polygraph operators cannot detect.

Debbins’ arrest comes just a week after the espionage arrest in Honolulu of former CIA officer and FBI contract linguist Alexander Yuk Ching Ma, who evidently beat the polygraph to obtain employment with the FBI.

Note: The original version of this article incorrectly assumed that Debbins’ employment at Ft. Meade was with the NSA. This article was updated on 28 August 2020 to reflect new information made public in court filings associated with a detention hearing in this case.

“Russian Army Trained Lie Detector Operators”

The Russian News & Information Agency Novosti reports:

MOSCOW, March 11 (RIA Novosti) – Last month a team of 26 lie detector operators, certified psychologists trained under a three-week program, graduated from the Russian Military University, reports Nezavisimoye Voennoye Obozrenie, an independent Russian defense weekly.

In the U.S., lie detectors, or polygraphs, have proved an efficient means of criminal and intelligence investigation, and personnel selection, while its use in the Soviet Union was perceived as a means of “torture, pressure, and human rights abuse.” From this day on, a new team of “electronic investigation officers” will help the Russian military to solve crimes.

According to Professor Vladimir Kruk of the Military University, who is in charge with the psychological re-training department, this program is the second attempt to train lie detector operators in Russia. In the first one, Americans helped Russians to train specialists for transportation of nuclear materials.

Experts say lie detector operators will be needed as the Russian Armed Forces attract more volunteers. Lie detectors will help to discard candidates for voluntary service, who might try to conceal unfitness or play down negative stories they have been involved in.

Alexei Ladchenko, a certified polygraph operator with the Moscow City Police, said polygraph was in extensive use in criminal investigations. Some polygrams, that is, papers or files with lie detector results, have been used as evidence in courts. The expert argues lie detectors could also help fight corruption.

Russia: “Lie Detector, a Silent Talker”

Ilya Tarasov interviews reserve intelligence colonel Vladimir Galkin for Excerpt:

Would it make sense to take a decision to oblige Kremlin officials to undergo lie detector tests?

First of all, we must clearly understand what purpose we pursue by organizing such tests. As experience of American special services shows, lie detector tests are obligatory for executives in the CIA, the FBI, in the Foreign Ministry and other departments, in other words, for employees who are directly or indirectly connected with state secrets.

In these cases, lie detector tests are held with a view to reveal possible contacts of such employees with criminals and the possibility of their connection with espionage. Lie detectors are widely used in US’s private sector for employment. And this is not prohibited, as employment contracts contain an item saying that people employed for work must agree for a lie detector test.

All employees working at jeweller’s and at enterprises connected with production of precious goods undergo lie detector tests. This is done only with one purpose to find out whether people contacted with law enforcement authorities, no matter is the contacts were positive or negative. The very fact that people try to keep back their contacts with police is registered with the lie detector rather quickly; and this certainly influences decision of employers concerning employment of such people.

Did Ames undergo a lie detector test?

Yes, he underwent the test, but probably the operator was not experiences enough; what is more, as history reveals, Ames’ preliminary lie detector test was positive, but the operator was pressed to declare the test invalid. They considered that such a man like Ames couldn’t be connected with espionage. These facts arose later, after Ames was denounced for espionage in favor of the Soviet Union.

Do you think that Russian agents arriving from abroad must also undergo lie detector tests?

Yes, I think they should. What is more, some methods closely connected with the principles of lie detector tests are used for admission of students to the Foreign Intelligence Academy. This is done to find out professional qualifications of candidates for intelligence work.

“Making a Living Out of Finding Liars”

Moscow Times staff writer Valeria Korchagina reports on the lie detector business in Russia. Excerpt:

It’s no secret that hi-tech military plants in Russia have been forced to churn out pots and pans to make ends meet. But the connection between military and civilian technologies works both ways, and once-classified devices have found their way into the commercial sector.

One example is the ultimate spy-story phenomenon of the 20th century: the lie detector.

Although the use of lie detectors, or polygraphs, is mostly confined to law enforcement agencies, starting at about $100 a pop ordinary people with doubts about anyone from potential employees to antsy spouses can also take advantage of the device.

Civilian demand and a decade of drastic underfunding from the state have lured many experts from the KGB, now the Federal Security Service, out of their top-secret offices. Among their number is Vladimir Korovin, a 49-year-old human resources officer at a large production firm in Moscow, who spends his days truth-or-daring job applicants, as well as private clients.

Korovin left the FSB in 1995 to join the tax authorities, where he screened staff and would-be employees, weeding out those linked to the criminal world or other potential risk groups, like gamblers or drug addicts.

Three years later, Korovin was invited to join the infamous security service of Vladimir Gusinsky’s MOST Group, where he got the chance to apply his expertise on a vast scale.

“We had some 10 to 15 people going through our office every day. Altogether, I probably screened about 3,500 people,” Korovin said in a recent interview. As many as 25 percent of applicants proved to be hiding important information, he said — from lying about their education and the reasons for leaving previous jobs, to secretly working for competitors or having a criminal record.

Korovin first saw a lie detector in 1979. He was fresh out of medical college when the KGB recruited him for what it called “research and medicine-related work.” In fact, his job focused on studying bodily reactions to emotions, particularly those related to lying, and the role of polygraphs in this process.

“Back then, it was a top-secret topic,” Korovin says. “Official science denied the whole concept, but the KGB was interested in it because lie detectors were used by our opponents and could potentially help in counterintelligence.”